When I got my first job out of law school in 1980, I went to work at a very good law firm in Amarillo. We had the latest technology - xerox copy machines, dictaphones, our secretaries used IBM typewriters (they weighed about 50 lbs.) and mag card cabinets, and fax machines. Cell phones hadn't been invented or if they had, were not available on the civilian market. No one advertised - the ethics codes forbade it.
Lawyers were more genteel, and didn't stab each other in the back to steal clients or get the upper hand in deals or lawsuits. There was no such thing as a Rule 11 letter agreement, because your word was your bond. We hadn't invented the words "Rambo lawyer" yet.
There were 542,000 lawyer in the whole country, one for every 418 people (see the table below from Fordham Law Review). Now there are 1,143,358 lawyers, and it's projected that we'll have 1.5 million in ten years.
"In America today there is one lawyer for every 200 adults. And if you live in Austin, Texas it is about 1 out of 100.Jim Barlow, a former columnist of the Houston Chronicle states the problem of the number of lawyers in a nutshell: "I subscribe to the locust theory. The locust is a fairly benign form of grasshopper until we get too many of them. Then they swarm, eating their weight every day and devouring the countryside.."
1,143,358 lawyers. And our nation's 192 accredited and often subsidized law schools are graduating 40,000 new lawyers each year as they have consistently for the last 20 years. In a decade we will have 1,500,000 lawyers. A 50% increase.
Legal Reform Now
Fordham Law Review
U.S.Population Lawyers P/L Ratio
1960 179,323,000 285,933 627/1
1970 203,302,000 355,242 572/1
1980 226,546,000 542,205 418/1
1988 245,100,000 723,189 339/1
Now lawyers will cheat, lie and steal to get and keep clients, and to get an edge in deals and lawsuits. Too many lawyers act like - and are - jerks. When I was younger I sometimes got carried away, and now I think karma or the fates are paying me back with some of the creeps I have to deal with.
I wouldn't advise any young person to go into law now. Especially those who got liberal arts degrees and are having trouble finding jobs. I'd advise young people to take as much math and science as they could, and learn practical skills like Quickbooks and Excel. If you like working with your hands and things, learn skills you can use in the oil industry, which is in the biggest boom of my lifetime, and probably since Spindletop.
I didn't follow my own advice when I was young. I barely got through high school algebra and avoided science classes. One of my hobbies now is studying the math and science I should have learned on my own. I buy the programs from The Teaching Company, which I cannot say enough good things about.
My final thoughts on this topic - don't go to law school to get rich, or because your daddy is a lawyer and wants you to follow in his steps, or because it's too hard to find a job, or you think it will be exciting like on L.A. or Boston Law or whatever the latest lawyer show is. It ain't like that at all.