The American Bar Association released its fifth annual Profile of the Legal Profession on Nov. 30, with a new chapter showing wide disparities in the availability of paid civil legal aid services across the United States.
The 2023 ABA Profile of the Legal Profession, a 140-page compilation of statistics and trends about lawyers, judges and law students, reflects data from within the ABA, the federal government and nonprofit organizations. The report includes 10 sections on demographics, wages, law schools, judges, pro bono work, women in the profession, legal technology, lawyer well-being, lawyer discipline and legal aid.
Consistent with past years, the report includes new research on a particular topic, drawing this year upon a new nationwide survey conducted by the ABA coupled with several other sources to present a comprehensive look at where paid civil legal aid attorneys are and are not in the U.S.
“The 2023 Profile marks both significant strides and challenges in diversity and the path forward for the legal community,” ABA President Mary Smith said. “This year, for the first time, it emphasizes the essential yet often hidden contributions of legal aid lawyers in addressing the needs of the underserved. Their work is crucial in handling the civil legal requirements of low-income Americans — a service that is as noble as it is necessary. By presenting these insights, the report acts as both a mirror and a map, reflecting our profession’s present and directing us towards a more just future in the legal field.”
Among the statistics on civil legal aid attorneys in the 2023 Profile of the Legal Profession:
- There are more than 10,000 paid civil legal aid lawyers across the country, but significant differences exist among states and even within states.
- Even accounting for differences in population and poverty rates, some states have many legal aid lawyers per 10,000 residents in poverty (for example, New York, Minnesota and Maine) and some have few (for example, Mississippi, Arizona and Georgia).
- New York City alone has more than 1,000 paid legal aid lawyers — roughly one-tenth of the nation’s total, even though it has less than 3% of the nation’s population.
- Rural towns and counties have roughly half the number of legal aid lawyers per capita than urbanized cities.
- 2023 Profile of the Legal Profession
- Prior ABA Profile of the Legal Profession reports:
- Legal Services Corporation: “The Justice Gap: The Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans”
- ABArray: National Legal Aid Funding Data
- ABA Journal coverage of past ABA Profile of the Legal Profession reports