August 08, 2019

Annual 2019: ABA releases new report on legal profession statistics, trends

To say the legal profession was overwhelmingly male in 1981, when Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, would be a great understatement.

Back then, 92% of all lawyers were men. That same year when O’Connor was nominated, the U.S. Senate confirmed 38 federal judges. All but two were men.

Times have changed – albeit slowly. Today, the Supreme Court has three female justices. More than half of all U.S. law students are female, as are one out of every three U.S. lawyers (38%), and one out of every four federal judges (27%).

As these and several other distinct trends in the legal profession have emerged, data compiled over the years by the American Bar Association provides statistical insight on the changes.

To highlight these trends, the association’s Communications and Media Relations Division has developed a new report, “A Profile of the Legal Profession,” which brings together statistics in nine categories, including lawyer demographics, salaries, legal education, federal judges, pro bono work, women attorneys, legal technology and lawyer well-being.

“This report is an important reference for anyone who wants to understand where the legal profession came from and where it stands today,” ABA President Bob Carlson said.

The new resource assembles statistics from several authoritative sources, mostly within the ABA, but also from the federal government and nonprofit groups.

The 100-page report will be released during the program, “Beyond the Numbers: Sidebar on the 2019 ABA Profile of the Legal Profession,” on Aug. 10, at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. A reception begins at 2 p.m. and a panel discussion will immediately follow at 2:30 p.m. at the Marriott Marquis, 2nd level, Foothill C.

Panelists include Reid Trautz, co-chair, ABA Law Practice Division Futures Initiative; Patricia Lee, chair, ABA Diversity and Inclusion Center; Roberta Liebenberg, former chair, ABA Commission on Women in the Profession; Daniel Rodriguez, chair, ABA Center for Innovation and former dean of Northwestern Law School; and Karol Corbin Walker, chair of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, who will serve as panel moderator. 

The panel will examine several highlights from the report, including:

·       There are 1.3 million lawyers in the United States, and one in four are in just two states (New York and California).

·       Nearly half of all law school graduates take jobs at law firms, but 12% go to work for the government and 1% start a solo practice.

·       There are more than 100,000 law school students. Half of these students are women.

·       The average lawyer wage in the U.S. is $144,000. The highest pay is in San Jose and San Francisco, California, and the lowest is in Arecibo and Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

·       76% of law firms are on social media. 63% of law firms are on Facebook and 14% of law firms are on Twitter.

The ABA Profile of the Legal Profession will be updated annually.