Practicing law is very serious business. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot about it that’s quite interesting, fun, and even sometimes funny.
Every once in a while, it is a good idea to step away from the solemnity of it all and think about the lighter side of our business. Accordingly, we’ve compiled the top 10 fun facts about lawyers and the practice of law.
#1: How many lawyers does it take?
There are currently 1.34 million lawyers in the United States. The entire population of the U.S. is 327,522,508. That means that there is roughly one lawyer for every 240 people in this country. With numbers like that, you wouldn’t think it would be so hard to find clients.
#2: The first lady … lawyer
The first woman in U.S. history to become a lawyer was an Iowan named Arabella Mansfield. She had to sue the State Bar of Iowa in order to sit for its bar exam – a privilege that had been exclusively reserved for males. Born in 1844, Ms. Mansfield passed the bar exam and was admitted to the Iowa Bar in 1869. Though the law had always been the province of men, women began to study and teach the law during Ms. Mansfield’s era because so many men were called off to fight in the Civil War.
#3: Out of the mouths of babes
Nearly 150 years later, another female is poised to shatter barriers within the practice of law. A 15-year old girl from Ohio named Danya Hamad is reportedly on track to become the youngest lawyer currently practicing in the United States. Ms. Hamad has modest goals. In her own words, “My goal is to become the youngest lawyer in America and from there I want to change the world.”
She will not, however, be the youngest lawyer to ever practice law in the States. That distinction belongs to a man named Stephen Baccus who graduated from Miami Law in 1986.
#4: That’s not fair
Since 2002, the Institute for Legal Reform has surveyed corporate litigators and senior executives to rank the litigation climate in each state within the U.S. The survey is aimed at determining the reasonableness and fairness of litigation practices. The five states that rank as the most reasonable and fair? South Dakota, Vermont, Idaho, Minnesota, and New Hampshire. And the least? Florida, California, Illinois, Missouri, and Louisiana.
#5: Any correlation?
Interestingly, the state that was determined to have the most fairness and reasonableness in its litigation climate nearly has the fewest number of lawyers per capita of any state. Only Arizona and South Carolina have fewer attorneys per capita than South Dakota, which boasts just 22.2 lawyers for every 10,000 residents.
In case you’re wondering, the District of Columbia has the highest number of lawyers per capita. In fact, Washington, D.C. has 788.1 lawyers per 10,000 residents.
#6: Who said lawyers are dramatic?
There are a surprising number of celebrities who attended law school. Among them are John Cleese (Monty Python), Geraldo Rivera, Ben Stein, Gerard Butler, Jerry Springer, Ozzie Nelson (Ozzie & Harriet), Jeff Cohen (Goonies), and John Saviano (The Wonder Years). Imagine having your closing argument delivered by Geraldo and Jerry Springer!
#7: Worth their weight in gold
Lawyers in America earn vastly different salaries depending on where they live. While top attorneys are reportedly charging upwards of $1,500 per hour, that is certainly not the norm. Across the country, lawyer salaries are highly dependent on location.
The highest wages for lawyers are, not surprisingly, earned in California, New York, and Washington, D.C., where attorneys average $168,693 per year. The lowest wages for lawyers are in Montana, where attorney salaries average $83,330 per year. Per-hour rates also vary wildly within states. For example, in Arizona, attorneys in the Phoenix metropolitan area earn an average of $65.44 per hour, while lawyers across the state average just $49.22 per hour.
#8: How a bill becomes a law
Historically, lawyers dominated the Congressional halls. In fact, in the mid-19th century, nearly 80% of Congressional members were lawyers. Today, however, lawyers account for fewer than 40% of Congress people. History will tell us how that trend impacted lawmaking but the final analysis should be fascinating.
#9: Lawyering isn’t for everyone
Practicing law is such a labor of love. Law school isn’t easy, passing the bar exam isn’t easy, and practicing law is probably the hardest thing of all. Perhaps not surprisingly then, lawyers leave the profession all the time. Whether it is to become a pastry chef or a writer (guilty as charged), lawyers seem to find great success in other careers.
#10: They really love us
Perhaps more than any other profession, lawyers seem to be disliked by the public at large. As it turns out, however, they hate us because they envy us. According to one study, the reasons people aren’t fond of lawyers are: (1) they’re smarter than everyone else; (2) they have their own language; (3) they are intimidating; and (4) they’re expensive. Taken separately, those aren’t really bad qualities to possess.
We hope you enjoyed our brief escape from the day-to-day practice of law. Time to get back to work.