BEN BARTON: The Rise And Fall Of Lawyers.
The American legal profession has faced a tsunami of bad news since 2008. White-shoe, corporate law firms have faced waves of layoffs or even shuttered their doors. While the very top firms are rolling again, the 50 years of explosive growth that started in the 1960s are now a memory.
But at least corporate lawyers have had recent glory days. Solo practitioners, the largest single group of American lawyers and the heart and soul of the profession, have struggled for a quarter of a century.
Since the 1960s the IRS has collected and published income levels for all American lawyers filing as solo practitioners. In 1988, solo practitioners earned an inflation-adjusted $70,747. By 2012, earnings had fallen to $49,130, a 30% decrease in real income. And note, $49,130 is not the starting salary for these lawyers. It is the average earnings of all 354,000 lawyers who filed as solo practitioners that year.
And the bad news has just started for these lawyers, who now face new competition from online providers of legal services such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer.
Law school applications have plummeted. If the current trend continues, fewer students will apply to law school in 2015-16 than enrolled in law school in 2010-11. Law schools are closing campuses, merging and buying out faculty and staff.
Believe it or not, though, he manages to find an upside — mostly for consumers — as indicated by the title of his new book, Glass Half Full: The Decline And Rebirth Of The Legal Profession.