The American Bar Association recently published its annual Profile of the Legal Profession. The 124-page report provides detailed information regarding current trends in the profession. This includes data on the race and gender of lawyers, judges, and law school students, lawyer salaries, bar passage rates and student loan debt, and attorney well-being and discipline. In the opening letter, ABA President Reginald M. Turner said, “This new Profile report is a treasure trove of information about lawyers and the legal field. Take a look. I am confident you will learn something new about our profession.” 

There has been substantial growth in the legal profession in the last decade. In January 2022, there were 1,327,010 active lawyers in the country, a 6.6 percent increase from 2012. Over a quarter of those lawyers are in New York and California. Diversity in representation of female and minority attorneys has grown over the same time period.

Law school enrollment has increased over previous years, but it is nowhere near the highs achieved between 1990 and 2010. In 2021, the number of law students was 117,205. This is a stark contrast with the all-time high of 147,525 in 2010. More than half, 55.3 percent, of all students were women. Almost one-third of students were students of color. 

Lawyer discipline remains a relatively rare phenomenon. According to the report, the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility is the only organization that collects data on lawyer regulation nationally. The ABA 2019 Survey on Lawyer Discipline Systems found that 2,308 lawyers were disciplined for misconduct, which was about 0.2 percent of all practicing lawyers. Alabama and Iowa had the highest rates of public discipline, and Rhode Island and Alaska had the lowest. 

This year’s report adds a new chapter on demographics of federal judges. The majority of the 1,400 current Article III judges are white males, but there has been more diversity in appointments in recent years. In a somewhat surprising statistic, from January 1, 2021, to July 1, 2022, 65 of 68 new federal judges were either women, Black, Hispanic, Asian American, Native American, or mixed race. This includes the appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Despite these gains, ABA President Turner noted in an article for Inside Sources that federal judges generally do not reflect the populations of their states. He added, “Someday, the United States may have a legal profession and judiciary that reflect our population. Until then, the ABA will remain dedicated to improving the diversity of the justice system. Achieving the right balance is crucial to maintaining public confidence in the impartiality of our courts.” 

These are just a few of the highlights from the 2022 Profile of the Legal Profession. The full report can be found here. 

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