In 2020, it sometimes feel like we’re in the midst of constant change. The world has changed incredibly quickly due to the pandemic, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up. That being said, there’s one thing we can count on to change much more slowly: lawyer demographics.
When it comes to the demographics of lawyers in the U.S., it sometimes feels as if the old adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same” is squarely applicable. Sometimes it seems as if very little has changed, but when you look closely and follow long term trends, it’s evident that the make up of lawyers is changing, just not as quickly as many would like.
Not convinced? Here’s some of the latest lawyer demographic data from the ABA Profile of the Profession 2020 Report.
Lawyer population by state
Over the past decade, the growth in the number of lawyers has outpaced the overall U.S. population growth. During that timeframe, the overall population of the U.S. grew by 6.3% while the number of lawyers increased by 10.4%. There were 1,203,097 lawyers in 2010 and that number increased to 1,328,692 active lawyers in the United States as of January 1, 2020.
Growth in all states was not equal, and the lawyer population increased significantly in some states more than others over the past decade. Here are the states that have grown the most since 2010:
- Florida (26%)
- Utah (25%)
- North Dakota (22%)
- Texas (21%)
- Georgia (19%)
- New York (17%)
Growth aside, some states continue to have far more lawyers than others. Oftentimes, and not surprisingly, the states with the most lawyers also happen to have very large populations overall. Here are the states with the largest number of lawyers:
- New York (184,662)
- California (168,569)
- Texas (92,833)
- Florida (79, 328)
- Illinois (62,720)
- Pennsylvania (49,249)
- Massachusetts (42,908)
- New Jersey (41,152)
- Maryland (40,800)
So that’s how the lawyer population has grown over the past decade. Now let’s take a look at gender statistics.
Lawyer population by gender
Gender is one area where there continues to be a disparity and reversing that trend is proving to be a very slow process. This despite the fact that women have made up approximately 50% of graduating law school classes for at least a decade now.
Let’s take a look at the statistics for 2020. According to the Report, male lawyers continue to greatly outnumber women in 2020, and that has changed very little over the past decade. In 2010, 31% of attorneys were women, and in 2020, that percentage has only increased to 37%. In other words, change is occurring, but slowly.
Next up, let’s take a look at statistics on the average age of lawyers in the U.S.
Lawyer population by age
The average age of lawyers skews higher than that of the average worker in the U.S. In part, this is due to the late arrival of lawyers into the workplace due to post-graduate education requirements. Another contributing factor is that older lawyers seem reluctant to fully retire, thus skewing the median age by quite a bit.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the numbers. The median age for lawyers in 2019 was 47.5 years old, while the median age of all U.S. workers is 42.3. Here are the percentages for the different attorney age groups:
- 25-34 years (19%)
- 35-44 years (25%)
- 45-54 years (20%)
- 55-64 (17%)
- 65 and up (7%)
Finally, last, but not least, let’s look at statistics on the diversity – or lack thereof – in the legal profession.
Diversity in the lawyer population
Overall diversity in the legal profession has grown at very slow rates, no matter how you look at at. Over the past decade the profession became slightly more diverse, but there remains a lot of work to be done in this regard.
For instance, let’s take a look at racial and ethnic diversity. The percentage of lawyers who are men and women of color (Hispanic, African American, Asian, Native American and mixed race) grew by a mere 3% over the past decade, increasing from 11.4% in 2010 to 14.1% in 2020.
Here are the statistics for some of the different categories of lawyers who are men and women of color in 2020:
- 5% of all lawyers are African American – a percentage that hasn’t changed over the past decade – despite the fact that 13.4% of the U.S. population is African American.
- 5% of all lawyers are Hispanic – up 4% from 2010 – despite the fact that the U.S. population is 18.5% Hispanic.
- 2% of all lawyers are Asian – up 1.6% from 2010 – despite the fact that the U.S. population is 5.9% Asian.
- 0.4% of all lawyers are Native American – down 0.7% from 2010 – despite the fact that the U.S. population is 1.3% Native American.
- Nearly 2% of the profession is mixed race, up from close to 0% in 2014, which was the year that tracking on this statistic began.
Of note is that there are far more associates who are people of color compared to law firm partners. In 2009, nearly 20% of all associates were lawyers of color, and that number has grown only slightly over the past decade to 25% in 2019. In comparison, in 2009, a mere 6% of law firm partners were Hispanic, African American, Asian, Native American or mixed race, and that percentage increased very little, with only 10% of partners in 2019 who were people of color.
The percentage of LGBT lawyers is also growing very slowly. In 2020, there are only a little under 3% of lawyers who are openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. 2.1% are partners in 2020, compared to 1.4% a decade earlier. As for LGBT associates, there are 4.1% in 2020 up from 2.3% in 2009.
Finally, when it comes to disabled lawyers, the numbers are also quite small. In 2019, there were approximately 0.05% of lawyers who were disabled, compared to a little over 0.02% in 2010. Of those disabled lawyers, 0.046% are partners and 0.059% are associates.
So, while our world right now feels as if it’s ever-changing, the same can’t be said for diversity in the legal profession. Even so, there is undoubtedly some change occurring, and hopefully it will accelerate more quickly in the months and years to come. Only time will tell, so make sure to check back next fall for the 2021 Report on the latest demographic statistics on the legal profession.