IF THERE WERE REALLY TOO MANY LAWYERS, THEN THERE WOULDN'T BE A SHORTAGE OF ATTORNEYS SERVICING LOW-INCOME PEOPLE.
There is also a severe disconnect with people who are not actually trying to make a living practicing law who believe young, newly-minted lawyers can start servicing the low-income population and somehow make a living wage including debt service for themselves.
I recently ran across an article entitled "Anti-Law School Blogging Drastically Effecting Law School Application Rates," written by a law student named Savir Punia at the University of Minnesota Law School. Mr. Punia, after first claiming that law school reported post-graduation employment data has not been proven to be either misleading or innocent (really?!?), argues:
My main contention is with the argument of an oversupply of lawyers in the United States. Currently, there exists a severe shortage of legal help for low-income individuals. New York State's chief judge, Jonathon Lippman, has responded to this by moving ahead with a groundbreaking rule requiring law students to perform 50 hours of pro bono legal services as a condition of admission to the state bar. Other states are seriously considering this requirement as well. Furthermore, according to Gillian K. Hadfield, professor of law and economics at the University of Southern California, there is a mismatch between demand and supply. She went on to say, that there is exploding demand for legal services for "ordinary folk lawyers" and "big corporate ones." [Emphasis added.]
I highly doubt there is an "exploding demand" for legal services for "big corporate clients" given the structural shifts taking place in the profession. Setting that aside, there may very well be a severe shortage of "ordinary folk lawyers" for "low-income individuals." That would be because those jobs almost by definition DON'T PAY. How exactly does working for low-income individuals who can't pay you for your services provide employment to a young lawyer?
School is a false economy. In school, all of the work you produce is done for grades. The real world turns that school paradigm on its head. It isn't about getting a good grade anymore; it is about getting paid for your work. It doesn't matter how brilliant your work product is. Someone has to pay you to do it. Working for people who are barely getting by in life means you too are going to barely get by in life. Legal services are a luxury item for people who can afford specialists to solve their problems for them. Low income people know that problems usually sort themselves out only to be replaced by other problems.
It's really unclear to me how requiring young attorneys to provide pro bono legal services helps the young attorneys. Sure, it gives them some limited hands-on experience, but the experience likely isn't going to help them moving forward. Being proficient at doing work that doesn't pay, like representing low income tenants being evicted, isn't typically a path to an established well-paying practice. It just leads to more work that doesn't pay.
Working for people who can't pay for your services and being required to provide pro bono legal services as a requirement of holding a license, works against a young lawyer making a living. It is a social feel-good, expensive hurdle to entry of the profession and nothing more. The legal equivalent of "good grades" and "community service" for a student does not equal self-sufficient living-wage employment for an adult.
The myth that "there isn't an oversupply of lawyers because otherwise there wouldn't be a shortage of legal representation for low-income people" is BUSTED.