Saturday, October 30, 2010

Story on lawyers

Here is an interesting story on lawyers. Law schools are churning out so many that there is a glut in supply.

This raises an interesting question: Are additional lawyers adding or decreasing to the value of society? Certainly some minimum number of lawyers is necessary to help keep the rule of law in our country. However, we seem to be well beyond that point in the US. Additional lawyers can detract from the value of society by being too litigious - increasing costs to the rest of society because of increased prices for products (because higher insurance prices are passed to consumers). On the extreme, professions that add little value to society are professional gamblers, lobbyists, and political consultants. There is nothing these folks do to add to society based on their profession: they take money from other gamblers, spend their time trying to get laws passed that helps their constituents, or try to get their candidate elected (likely battling a political consultant of an opposing candidate).

The most disturbing line in the story to me is here: "That has caused some concern among lawyers who think the accrediting organization, the American Bar Association, is doing the profession a disservice by approving so many new schools. (Contrast that with medical schools. They come with much higher startup costs and tend not to be money-makers. Relatively few students get medical degrees every year, and demand far outstrips supply.)"

Doctors do add value to society. In addition to their earning a large income, they help people daily by providing medical care. Most jobs add value to society - construction workers, teachers, fast food workers, etc. all make others better off while simultaneously earning incomes. Personally, it is discouraging when I see so many incoming freshman indicate they want to go to law school.

I would be curious to see an index of the social value of various professions - but I am not sure one exists.