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Which States Have the Largest Glut of Lawyers?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

If you're an attorney who has been searching for a job - or know of an attorney who's been searching for job (and let's face it, who hasn't in this economy), the term "lawyer surplus" is something you've probably thought about.

And, a new study has quantified said surplus. The results are a bit frightening.

It's one thing to mentally know that there are a lot of lawyers out there vying for the same exact position you are aiming for.

It's another thing to know just how screwed you really are.

In New York, there's an estimated 2,100 annual openings for lawyers, and about 9,787 bar passers in 2009. In California, a similarly dire situation with 3,307 estimated annual openings for lawyers and 6,258 bar passers. New Jersey rounded out the top 3 surplus-filled states at 844 estimated openings with 3,037 estimated bar passers.

Of course, these statistics don't take in a lot of factors. For example, New York may have a high number of bar passers, but that doesn't mean all New York barred attorneys plan on practicing in the Empire State. Most internationally-based positions require a NY bar on your resume, so some of these NY bar passers are most definitely working in some office in Beijing.

And, maybe lawyers shouldn't really be that pessimistic. After all, a legal education has prepared would-be attorneys for any number of jobs besides just being attorney. Like being an engineer, a doctor, or an accountant! Oh wait, it didn't.

Maybe all the surplus attorneys could just all move to the states with the lawyer shortages. According to the same survey, D.C. needs 618 lawyers a year and only has 273 bar passers a year. Sounds like a goldmine, except for the fact that D.C. waives bar admission for lawyers who passed other states' bar exams. Oops.

While these new statistics may be a bit dire, given the negative publicity surrounding the legal employment market these days, is a lawyer surplus really that surprising? So, all you would-be attorneys out there: soldier on. This isn't exactly "new" news.

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