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December 24, 2015


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Sy Ablelman

Law school is a great education. One learns the nuts and bolts of how our democracy and legal system operates. However, the profession, the income and work part, is where Chrysler was in 1981 and GM in 2009. Over capacity for a diminishing customer base. Even cash back incentives and spiffs couldn't clear the lots. The Gub'mint in its "cash for clunkers" program had to BRIBE people to buy Cobalts, Aveos and Bonnevilles. Unfortunately, my solo practice, like a lot of my lawyer colleagues and buddies is very much like that matter how hard I push the accelerator, I just can't get it to go.


Magic 8 ball says:

- overall applicants end up 2 percent from 2015.
- overall applications end up down 1 percent from 2015.
- matriculation ends up down 5 percent from 2015, with a flight to quality.
- 25 percent level LSATs end up across the board.

Sly Ableman

There is no evidence for Sy's claims. Typical hard knocks practitioner know-nothingness.

In fact, demand for lawyers has increased steadily for at least two decades as well as income

Is there is no editor here for such b.s.?

Sy Ablelman

Never argue with the data. Check out the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the legal profession. The profession continues to loose jobs at the rate of 1000 per month. Check out websites like Above the Law where law firm lay offs are profiled on a weekly basis. Several law firms have gone down in the last couple years. Take a look at the ABA disclosures for your respective law schools and you will notice placement rates for jobs requiring bar passage are stuck in the 30-50% range. Solo or JD advantage to a newbie with no network, connections or family lawyers means UNEMPLOYED. Check out blogs like Third Tier Reality, Outside the Law School Scam, Paul Campos, Law School Truth Center, and Law School Lemmings. I am out 25 years and am desperately seeking employment. There are hundreds of applicants for every job, all chasing the same posting or ad found in the Daily Law Bulletin or USAJOBS. My solo practice has reached the end of the road. I can't keep chasing 3 bill DUI's and clients who pull open the Yellow Pages and find 30 pages of attorneys barking about free consultations and tremendous PI results. In Illinois alone there are 92,000 registered attorneys and 95,146 people employed by car dealers. Nearly every adult in Illinois owns a car or two and will only several throughout their life times. All of those cars will need repairs and maintenance. How many times will the average adult need a lawyer and for how long? The profession is on an unsustainable path.

Sy Ablelman

Also, a Matt Leichter, the Last Gen X American blog for a comprehensive break out of the data on law schools and the status of the profession. For anecdotal evidence, talk to any Solo or small firm attorney. It doesn't feel so good to have to borrow a few bucks from another solo for gas to get home from court because you haven't had any new clients for several weeks. My buddy, on a PI case we have worked together on, asked me to hold off on my split. He was in tears. He was down to his last four files. You guys need to get out there...go to any urban court house and ask the Solos what they received as fees.

Paul Campos

Average earnings of solo practitioners in 1988: $71,000 (2012 dollars)

Average earnings of solo practitioners in 2012: $49,000

Solo practitioner earnings as a percentage of average full time worker earnings in 1988: 190%

Solo practitioner earnings as a percentage of average full time worker earnings in 2012: 110%

Percentage of lawyers in private practice who are solos: 50%

So over the past 25 years or so the half of all private practice lawyers who have solo practices have gone from making an average of nearly twice as much as the typical full time worker to making barely more.

Meanwhile someone who matriculated into a private law school in 1985 paid an average undiscounted price of about $16,000 in annual tuition, IN 2015 DOLLARS. Today the average undiscounted price (still paid by 40% of all students) is $44,000.

Enrique Guerra Pujol

Boom and bust ...

not so sly

But Prof Campos, million dollar premium. Boom. Debate over.

Sy Ablelman

Thank you Professor Campos for the truth. My Schedule C has not risen over 40K in several years. I am not alone. Its not the clients or the law, that's what I signed up for. What I didn't bargain for is the grotesque over supply of lawyers since 2003. It's been a painful financial struggle even for a Solo like me out over 25 years.

Sly Ableman



425,000 people employed as lawyers with an average income of $73,000


600,000 people employed as lawyers with an average income of $133,000

Solo practitioners are not included but account for fewer than 5% of all lawyers (NALP). Partners are not included either but would likely skew the income results much higher.

Paul Campos

NALP data only records the status of law graduates a few months after graduation. It is not a good source for the status of the profession as a whole.

ABA data on the latter indicates that 49% of lawyers in private practice were solos in 2005 (the most recent year for which numbers are available).

The income data are from tax records and are quoted in Benjamin Barton's new book GLASS HALF FULL.

Sy Ablelman

Or check out the annual bar report from the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. Approximately 50% of all lawyers are solos or small firms. That is one jurisdiction. If you don't like Professor Campos data sources or the actual data from the ARDC, we can discuss my practice or that of my law buddies who have taken jobs in retail to make ends meet. I have also taken a minimum wage job. It is brutal out there. Only once in 23 years of solo practice did I pierce the six figure barrier. That was because two of my PI referrals paid out. It was a one it wonder. You need more? Go to any courthouse across the country and ask any solo or small firm attorney what fee they received to appear for that client that day.

Sly Ableman

Wrong again Paulo, NALP tracks back to 1999:

In any case Sy's comment was not limited to a discussion of solo practitioners.

Paul Campos

Sly doesn't know how to read simple data tables. The NALP data he links to describe the employment situation of various national graduating classes nine months after graduation. Those data have almost no relevance to how many lawyers are in solo practices.

Solos, who make up nearly 40% of all practicing attorneys, are on average in far worse economic shape than they were 25 years ago. And that's true even without taking into account the vast increase in the cost of getting a law license over that time.

Sy Ablelman

Professor Campos, some of these posters are attempting to dilute my postings and posting under the handle "Sly Abelman" to confuse. I post as Sy Abelman and stand with you, as do my fellow Solo travelers. I think these posters are afraid of the truth... Your postings, research, writings are much appreciated. I never thought as a middle aged attorney that I would have to scrounge for change to purchase gas to get to court. I hadn't had a "sign up" in weeks and the gub'mint was slow in paying for my appointed work.

J.R. Goodwin Ph.D.

As a non-lawyer (but a nonetheless interested party), I would greatly appreciate "Sly Ableman's" ceasing and desisting from posting on this and other similar threads - either that or his changing of his username to something that is not starkly disingenuous. I consider this copy-catting of Sy's username to be childish behavior that has no place on a professional forum. Thank you.
J. Goodwin Ph.D. (Chemistry Professor)

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