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June 20, 2022 Demographics

ABA survey finds 1.3M lawyers in the U.S.

There are more than 1.3 million lawyers in the United States, and that number has barely changed in the past decade, according to the 2022 ABA National Lawyer Population Survey.

The legal profession grew slowly in recent years, increasing just 6.6% in the past decade.

The legal profession grew slowly in recent years, increasing just 6.6% in the past decade.

Getty Images / Caroline Purser

The survey also found growing numbers of women, Asian Americans, Hispanics and mixed-race lawyers in the legal profession. The number of Black lawyers remained nearly constant over the past decade.

The annual survey of state bars and licensing agencies includes a national count of lawyers going back to 1878; the number of active resident lawyers in each state for the past decade; and the percentage of lawyers by gender, race and ethnicity from 2012 to 2022. Among the survey’s findings:

Slower growth: The legal profession grew slowly in recent years. During the past decade, the number of lawyers nationwide rose just 6.6% -- from 1,245,205 in 2012 to 1,327,010 in 2022.

The profession grew faster in the 20th century – from 114,000 lawyers in 1900 to just over 1 million in 2000. That’s nearly a nine-fold increase over the century. The number of lawyers exploded in the 1970s, when it ballooned from 326,000 lawyers in 1970 to 574,000 in 1980.

States: One in four lawyers live in just two states – New York (187,246 lawyers) and California (170,306 lawyers). Combined, they have 27% of the nation’s lawyers. The state with the fewest lawyers? North Dakota with 1,685. Ten states lost lawyers over the past decade, led by Alabama (-15%), Alaska (-12%) and Ohio (-8%).

Gender: More than a third of all lawyers are women, and that number is growing. Ten years ago, 33% of all lawyers were female. Today, it is 38%. In other words, the percentage of women in the profession is growing at roughly one-half of 1% per year. A small number of lawyers (0.2%) said they are neither male nor female.

Race and ethnicity: The share of Asian American lawyers in the profession is now almost the same as the share of Asians in the U.S. population. The survey found 5.5% of all lawyers are Asian American. The U.S. population is 5.9% Asian.

Hispanics, however, are still very underrepresented in the legal profession. The survey found 5.8% of all lawyers are Hispanic. The U.S. population is 18.5% Hispanic.

The percentage of Black lawyers is nearly unchanged over the past decade. In 2012, the survey found 4.7% of all lawyers were Black. Today, the number is 4.5%. That’s far less than the share of Black people in the U.S. population (13.4%).

Native Americans are the smallest racial or ethnic group among U.S. lawyers. One-half of 1% of all lawyers (0.5%) are Native American – nearly unchanged from 0.6% a decade earlier. The U.S. population is 1.3% Native American.

The number of mixed-race lawyers is growing – as is the number of mixed-race individuals in the population at large. The survey found 1.2% of lawyers were of mixed race in 2016. Today, that number has more than doubled to 2.7% of all lawyers. That’s almost identical to the share of mixed-race people in the U.S. population (2.8%).

The overwhelming majority of lawyers are still white: 81%, according to the survey. Non-Hispanic whites are 60% of the national population.

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