The law graduates who don’t get jobs — where do they go?

leninJobs for law graduates are staying down, although improving.

Peter Turchin observes:

From the mid-1970s to 2011, according to the American Bar Association, the number of lawyers tripled to 1.2 million from 400,000. Meanwhile, the population grew by only 45 percent. Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. recently estimated that twice as many law graduates pass the bar exam as there are job openings for them. In other words, every year U.S. law schools churn out about 25,000 “surplus” lawyers, many of whom are in debt. A large number of them go to law school with an ambition to enter politics someday.

He believes that overproduction of lawyers contributes to social unrest:

The elite aspirants who end up among the winners tend to receive a disproportionate amount of rewards, but at the same time there is a growing proportion of losers. As a result, intraelite inequality explodes: while a minority enjoys runaway incomes and fortunes, a growing majority are frustrated in the attempts to attain elite status (that is, to secure income level that is necessary for maintaining elite status).

Inequality breaks down social cohesion:

Elite overproduction generally leads to more intra-elite competition that gradually undermines the spirit of cooperation, which is followed by ideological polarization and fragmentation of the political class. This happens because the more contenders there are, the more of them end up on the losing side. A large class of disgruntled elite-wannabes, often well-educated and highly capable, has been denied access to elite positions.

Turchin says this is happening now among American lawyers. And, he cites the history of frustrated lawyers for what the upshot may be:

Revolutions are often made by frustrated elite aspirants. There is a disproportionate number of lawyers among them. Abraham Lincoln, the leader of what really amounted to the Second American Revolution was, of course, a lawyer. And so were Vladimir Lenin and Fidel Castro…

I might add Ghandi, Albion Tourgée. . . Would their careers have been different if they had started out at large law firms? If they had spent their early years being highly paid to do document production?

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