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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On the cultivation of lawyers

  1. actually, i think it is because there are more sham lawyers operating in the USA. seriously, most canadian towns have no equivalent of the Lionel Hutz, a strip-mall lawyer working on contingency trying to make a buck.

    we only have about 15 law schools in canada, whereas there are about 200 in the USA. i dont think there are any you can get into here with marks below B or B+ (except in extenuating circumstances) but there are schools in the USA that will take you with an LSAT in the 20th percentile and charge you $40,000 a year only to have you graduate unable to pass the bar! or you do pass the bar after five or six tries but are basically incompetent and end up barely practicing…

    it’s true that the USA has a lot more corporate lawyers (since so many transactions happen in the USA and so many companies are headquartered there) but i would wager it is the lionel hutz’s of the world that inflate the numbers so much.

  2. Good, bad, different,…if they were good, THAT would be different! Mistakenly, we seem to think of lawyers in terms of honesty,…but that is only when it pays them, I am afraid! I speak from experience, both good and bad and like the nursery rhyme,…”when they are bad, they are horrid!”

  3. I’ve had to deal with several lawyers over the last 5 years between divorce, real estate, Will, personal injury, employment, etc. The ones with set rates for real estate or percentages for the injury were pretty good for the most part.
    Divorce is a whole other deal, they are just blood suckers taking the equity out of a split family all in the name of making life better for the children and they keep the battle going until they get every drop until the parents can barely provide for the children. I would love to see a set rate for a divorce lawyer like it is to buy a house and see how fast they settle the affairs.
    Divorce or any hourly lawyer will make great politicians, they are being prepared to act petty and keep the clock running just as they do in the house of commons. You want an example: I watched my lawyer and the ex’s lawyer debate for an hour ($600) about who’s paying for the kids school agenda book worth $6 / year. Yes, they are ready for politics.

    Where’s that common sense revolution Mike Harris started? except for selling the 407 Mike was awesome.

  4. Wish ALL lawyers had to list their specific rates like a restaurant menu and I wish they were more controlled as to how to register complaints against them. And ‘can’ the legalese garbage, as no one is as ‘dumb’ as they think we are,…elitism at its’ worst!!! But Kevin, I hold NO praise for anything Mike Harris had to say, as I don’t see an economics, or even an accounting degree in his background and I resented being a victim of a ‘golf pro’!!!! Think again, please?

  5. The difference is that it is harder to get accepted to a law school in Canada. Of the 100 students you witnessed writing the LSAT, only about 10 will make it to a Canadian law school on the first try. You can’t just purchase a legal education here in Canada – and that is a good thing.

  6. My son wanted to enter law at one point, but after having a placement and dealing with many government offices, he felt that he could not fit in and enjoy anything to do with law, because he was too honest and believed in Justice, first! Doesn’t say much for our society’s values and behaviour, but then again, we are dealing with a lot of problems, lately,….kind of reminds me of the “Fall of the Roman Empire”,…just a thought!!!!?

  7. There will be 15 million lawsuits filed this year in the US, that’s one every two seconds. It’s a demand issue really.

  8. Why don’t some of these eager law students consider medicine,…we need more of those than we need lawyers! DEMAND issue or not, people’s GREED is out-of-control when we see so many ridiculous suits getting near the courts,…ie., like hot coffee, etc. Methinks, the general public is being ‘dumbed down’ with every frivolous involvment with the lawyers, while the lawyers are laughing all the way to the bank. Lawyers, the general public, the government,…who created the race for WASTE?

  9. This post is completely incorrect. Law school in Canada is much more of a prerequisite for politics than it is in the US. Stephen Harper is the first PM since Pearson not to have a law degree. As well, our law schools are the most difficult to gain entrance to in the Western and common law world.