Chances are, at some point in our lives, every one of us will need legal representation or at least legal advice. The landscape of the professional legal field in the United States is ever-evolving and is affected by societal change. There is a steady increase in the number of women practicing law, while the number of college students enrolling in law school is declining. Understanding some of the demographics of legal practice in the U.S. could help you in choosing the right attorney for you.
As of 2016, there were 1,315,516 licensed attorneys practicing in the United States, and at 167,690, California has the second highest amount of attorneys of all 50 States (New York has the most). That’s 43 lawyers for every 10,000 residents. There are 13,581 attorneys practicing law in San Diego.
Lack of Diversity in Practicing Law
The professional field of law has improved slightly in regard to minorities but still lacks diversity. The vast majority of attorneys in the United States are white males. Would our diverse population be better served by having more diversity in its body of legal professionals?
- For the past 10 years, 88% of U.S. attorneys have been caucasian.
- Only 4% are African-American.
- 7% of lawyers are Hispanic.
- Asian-Pacific Americans make up 3.4% lawyers.
- 28% of attorneys are between the ages of 45 and 54.
- 25 years ago, 21% were 30-35 years old.
Women in the Legal Field
While those practicing law are predominantly male, the number of female attorneys is on the rise. In 1980, 72% of all attorneys were male, 28% female. That number changed by about 1-2% every five years, and by 2016 64% were male, and 36% female. This increase is small, but the number of female attorneys is expected to continue increasing.
- 67% of all criminal cases are represented by men.
- Men appear as lead counsel in 67% of cases.
- 79% of all trial attorneys are men.
- Women drop from handling 33% of criminal cases as lead counsel to only 21% as trial attorneys.
The Cost of Law School
The price tag on college tuition is rising everywhere, and law school is no exception. Declining law school enrollment is due in part to the rising cost of tuition.
- The average yearly tuition for law school is $34,000 per year.
- Tuition in one of the nation’s top 10 law schools jumps to over $43,000 per year.
- Law school enrollment is down as compared to previous years. Possibly due to the rising cost of already high law school tuition. Law student enrollment has dropped by 10% in the last five years.
- The declining number of young attorneys correlates with declining law school enrollment.
75% of all lawyers work in private practice and 49% of those private practitioners work alone. 14% work at practices with 2-5 lawyers and the remaining 25% work in government, private industry, judiciary, education.
1% of all attorneys in the United States work as legal aid or public defenders, and they typically have a heavier workload and less time to complete their duties than private practice attorneys.
Wages as A Lawyer
- The average yearly salary for an attorney in the United States is $133,000.
- The highest average income for an attorney in the U.S. is with those who represent physicians or medical practices—about $110 per hour.
- The lowest overall wage for a lawyer in the United States is in Montana where the average is just over $35 per hour.
- Some successful lawyers who happen to take a high-profile case can have very high earnings—up to $2,400 per hour, or $5 million per year.
Attorneys of all kinds are necessary for our American society. Legal specialties include business, family, criminal, commercial, medical, government, trial, etc. All Americans need representation, and in order to improve the diversity of American lawyers, law schools would do well to aim their marketing and recruiting efforts toward women and minorities.
In Southern California, there are many San Diego criminal defense attorneys that if the time ever comes that you need legal representation, finding the one that’s right for your case will just be a quick internet search away.