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January 20th, 2010 4:47 pm
Lawyers Lobbying Lawyers for Fewer Lawyers?
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There are plenty of jokes about lawyers.  Entire websites are devoted to lampooning one of the most hated professions in America.  For example, when lawyers die, why don’t vultures eat them?  Even a vulture has taste. Ha!

Well, according to one lawyer who resides in the nation’s capital, the legal profession is dying.  Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Mark Greenbaum argues that the current legal environment is over-saturated with new attorneys, leading to the high unemployment rate for incoming bloodsuckers lawyers.

Greenbaum’s solution is to turn an already regulated market over to the federal government to limit the supply of lawyers entering the field.  For Greenbaum, only politicians can stop the bleeding for those poor souls.

Mr. Greenbaum’s treatise on nationalizing the supply of labor is yet another reason why lawyers shouldn’t run the show in Washington, D.C.  If economics teaches anything, it’s that the market determines supply and demand.  Granted, the legal industry is already highly regulated and massive federal subsidies allow for affordable interest free loans.  But, these distortions only enhance the desire for some students to be the next Perry Mason, or the next Jack Abramoff.

Unlike journalists, chefs, florists or most other professions one can imagine, the only barrier to success is the ability to generate capital, usually through the sale of goods or services.  In the U.S., everyone virtually has a constitutional right (though not explicitly) to practice any vocation.  The legal and medical worlds throw in a few hurdles like extra schooling, dues and passing state-approved exams.

If Mr. Greenbaum really wanted to control the supply of lawyers to ensure that unemployment remains low and wages continue to rise, he would advocate for less government involvement.  Let students pay what law school actually costs without massive subsidies from the federal government.  Let markets determine “acceptable” supplies of labor.  Once students realize that a law degree is no longer an easy path to millions, they’ll stop forking over $100,000 for three years of misery inside a law school classroom.  Trust me.

The markets are doing a fine job of determining my access to food, clothing, computers and fantasy baseball.   I wonder if Mr. Greenbaum, an attorney, would approve of state regulation of leather shoes, European cars or arrogance.

Strangely, Mr. Greenbaum probably wouldn’t have written this article five years ago when associate salaries were climbing, the unemployment rate was low and lawyers were still a reviled profession.  In the midst of a recession, however, all of a sudden the supply of lawyers must be controlled by committees on Capitol Hill.

Nonsense.  If it were that easy to right all wrongs in the world, why not have the federal government control the supply of all professions in the United States?  Wait, best to not give them any ideas.

By the way, how can you tell when a lawyer is lying?  His lips are moving.  (Does this joke apply to politicians as well?)

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