Law school decline continues in US, but not globally
Drawing once again from the National Law Journal, it has recently been announced that law school enrolments in the US are down once more. This is the fourth successive year of decline and numbers have fallen by 28% since 2010.
I tried to find statistics for other jurisdictions, but that isn’t always easy. However, a recent article in The Diplomat highlights the rapid growth China, suggesting that there are now 150,000 new lawyers graduating annually (up from about 1,000 in the 1980s). Japan has also witnessed a big increase in the number of lawyers. Public policy encouraged this growth – but only to a level of around 3,000 a year and the grand total is only just over 30,000, compared with 1.2 million registered attorneys in the United States. The Japanese government feels that there may now be too many lawyers because some are struggling to find work.
Growth continues in India, averaging about 4% per year. And in fact, in gross numbers, India has now overtaken the US, with statistics suggesting a total of around 1.3 million. I could not find data to tell me how many of these are engaged in offshore or outsourced legal and contract management centers, though the high volumes appear to be concentrated in states where such service centers are typically located.
Numbers in the UK tripled in the last 30 years, but appear now to be static. With around 150,000 lawyers in total, the numbers per head actually lag behind some European countries (Spain, Italy) and significantly exceed those in Germany and France. A significant proportion of UK lawyers work in the financial services sector, which has offered significant job opportunities in compliance and regulatory affairs.
One reason for the US student decline may well be a drop in the number of overseas students. As the US economy becomes less dominant, the need to study US law also becomes less relevant. Instead, students may stay in their home country (especially China and India) to learn within their own jurisdiction. These changes are likely to reflect in reduced dominance by common law systems and perhaps, over time, the emergence of more widely established global practices, especially in business transactions.