Barely Legally

Confessions of a Moot Court Bailiff

No New Record is Good News

Yesterday, the results for the 2011 New York State Bar Exam were published. I thought this was kind of interesting, from the New York Law Journal:

Of the candidates who took the test for the first time and graduated from American Bar Association-accredited schools, 86.1 percent passed, an increase of 0.5 percent for the same group last year. The passing rate for first-time test takers who graduated from New York law schools, however, was 86.3 percent.

Of all the 11,182 candidates who took the July exam, 69.2 percent passed. Last year, 70 percent of the record-breaking 11,557 test takers passed, compared with 72 percent in 2009 and 74.7 percent in 2008.

The legal industry is undergoing a slight correction like a guy with a blood clot in his carotid is about to undergo a slight headache. There’s not as much legal work to do as during the hilariously bubblicious economy from 2003-2007; worse yet, computers can do the legal work better, faster, and cheaper than human lawyers. Even if the work stayed steady, we wouldn’t need so many lawyers. But of course it didn’t.

Over the summer, Economix, a New York Times blog, published a state-by-state look at the surplus of the American lawyer. It was pretty disheartening for us New York lawyers. In substantive part, Catherine Rampell wrote:

In 2009, 9,787 people passed the bar exam in New York. The analysts estimated, though, that New York would need only 2,100 new lawyers each year through 2015. That means that if New York keeps minting new lawyers apace, it will continue having an annual surplus of 7,687 lawyers.

Note that that annual surplus of Empire State esquires is the largest in the nation; it’s more than the next three states combined. Now, this year, only 9,600 folks passed the bar exam. See? We’re cutting down that surplus at the blistering pace of 78 lawyers a year. At this rate, we’ll be lawyer-neutral by the year 2108, or just in time for Slumdog Millionaire to hit public domain.

Which is worse? The inelasticity for the demand of a legal education in relation to the demand for lawyers’ services, or the obscene length of copyright?