On the cultivation of lawyers

Good or bad? Right or wrong? Just different?


I was into the department yesterday morning when I stumbled across a particularly rare sight for 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning: undergrads. Why are there undergrads making noise outside my office?

Turns out the LSAT was being administered today. Poking around, I found that four classrooms had been booked for this event, and they all seemed pretty full. I would estimate a minimum of 100 students – approximately 10 per cent of the graduating class.

That’s a lot of wannabe lawyers. Out of everyone I knew throughout high school and university, I can only think of three people who wrote the LSAT, two of whom are now lawyers in training. Googling around, it’s fairly easy to find that there’s about 1.15m lawyers in the United States, but I had to construct an estimate for Canada – about 70,000. Applying the 10-to-one rule, that implies that the US has 60 per cent more lawyers than we do in per-capita terms.

Tossing out some economic reasons for the disparity, I can think of lawyers becoming a larger section of the population with more income, more income inequality (though Canada and the States aren’t significantly different on that score) and some bias from the different mixture of businesses that comprise our respective economies.

Still, it seems that like would hardly account for it all. I don’t put much stock in those reasons. In general, the law degree in the States seems a prerequisite for political ambition, moreso than in Canada. Elite law schools down here seem like the ultimate network for the would-be movers and shakers, one that doesn’t have a Canadian analogue, just like our universities are much more egalitarian than south of the border.

Good or bad? Right or wrong? Just different? I’m inclined to pick the latter, with some mild worry that a select handful of professors are giving the same education to an awful lot of the future governing body.

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