New ABA survey data reveals rise in number of U.S. lawyers

Newly released survey data from the American Bar Association on the nationwide population of lawyers indicates a total of 1,338,678 licensed, active attorneys in the United States. The total represents a 0.2 percent increase since last year and a 15.2 percent rise over the past decade in number of U.S. lawyers.

The American Bar Association National Lawyer Population Survey is an annual snapshot of the number of licensed practicing lawyers in the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and five U.S. territories. The association compiles this information each year from data voluntarily submitted by state bar associations or licensing agencies that are asked to provide the number of resident and active attorneys as of December 31 of the prior year. Under those parameters, the 2018 survey represents data as of December 31, 2017.

Overall, the 2018 survey indicates a slight gain in the national lawyer population, rising 0.2 percent from 1,335,963 active resident attorneys on December 31, 2016 to 1,338,678 lawyers on the same day in 2017. A look at the 10-year trend in lawyer population also shows modest year to year increases since 2008, culminating in 2018 with an overall 15.2 percent gain in practicing U.S. lawyers over the decade.

Among other findings from the report, the top five areas with the largest number of active attorneys in residence are New York (177,035), California (170,044), Texas (90,485), Florida (78,244) and Illinois (63,422). The top five areas with the fewest resident attorneys are North Dakota (1,694), Virgin Islands (776), Guam (270), North Mariana Islands (128) and American Samoa (59).

The 2018 data is presented in three tables. The first is a state-by-state listing of the number of resident lawyers with comparable data from the previous year. The next table shows the trend in population over the past 10 years, again organized by geographic area. And the last table offers the total number of lawyers by year from 1878 to present.

The numbers presented in the 2018 population report reflect the best available data provided to the ABA from the state associations and agencies. The organizations responding to the survey sometimes change their reporting standards. Among the changes affecting the 2018 report, Vermont was not able to provide current data for 2017 so the data from the most recent submission were used (2016). Virgin Islands was not able to provide residency data in 2018 due to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, causing the significant increase in lawyer count. In 2018, Oklahoma removed senior members from the count of active residents (they can still practice but are over the age of 70), causing the significant drop in lawyer count.

Each table is footnoted to provide relevant detail on the data submitted by each responding entity..

 

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