Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Dr. Steve McGee, a professor of finance at U. of Texas (Ph.D., M.I.T.), writes that the U.S. has more lawyers per capita than almost every other country on earth and that 1/3 of those lawyers have a negative effect on the economy. The remaining 2/3 contribute to economic growth. From the "Academic Minute" column courtesy of Inside Higher Ed:
The Dean of the Harvard Law School once joked that by the year 2023 there would be more lawyers in the United States than people.
The truth is that the US does have too many lawyers: out of 50 countries only Uruguay has more lawyers per capita than the US. Why so many? Lawyers have always lobbied Congress and state legislatures to artificially increase the demand for lawyers and to permit frivolous lawsuits. We know that lawyers have excessive political influence: 41% of the US Congress are lawyers, the 2nd highest percentage in the world, which is eight times greater than the lawyer percentage of the US professional labor force.
Unfortunately, there are negative economic consequences of having too many lawyers. My research shows that there is an economic optimum ratio of lawyers to population. That research across 27 countries and over a 40 year time period shows that the US has 1/3 too many lawyers. As a result, spurious lawsuits and excessive litigation, subtracts 7 percent a year from US national income, which is $1 trillion a year from our $15 trillion economy.
In contrast, 2/3 of US lawyers add positively to our economy by protecting property, facilitating transactions and reducing crime. This 2/3 of American lawyers adds 36% a year to our economy, Which is $5 trillion a year in a $15 trillion economy.
W.C. Fields once joked that some lawyers are good and some lawyers are bad but we don't need any of them. Well, he was wrong: two-thirds of American lawyers are a positive force in the US economy.
You can listen to a podcast of the column here.