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Too many lawyers?

Almost all the states in the nation, including Virginia, are turning out more lawyers than they need, according to a new study.

The New York Times reports that there were nearly twice as many lawyers who passed the bar than there were job openings, according to a nationwide study conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc.

EMSI analysts compared the number of people who passed the bar exam in each state in 2009 against the estimated number of job openings for lawyers in those states (based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau). They also compared data from the Department of Education on law school graduates.

In the state-by-state breakdown, New York tops the list with a staggering surplus of 7,687. Also high on the list are California, New Jersey, Illinois and Massachusetts. Virginia has the 17th highest oversupply of lawyers in the nation.

The numbers for Virginia are:
2010-2015 estimated annual openings: 956
2009 bar exam passers: 1,375
2009 law school graduates: 1,435
Surplus: 419

The EMSI study also compared median wages per state. Virginia lawyers earn an average of $49.34 per hour. D.C. lawyers earn the most at $70.96.

Wisconsin and Nebraska are the only states showing a deficit of lawyers – and not by much. Data for the District of Columbia shows the nation’s capital is in need of 345 lawyers.

But, as the article points out,there are special considerations for bar admission in Wisconsin and D.C. EMSI also notes that not everyone who takes the bar exam is fresh out of law school, and acknowledges that the numbers include established lawyers taking the bar exam for accreditation in another state.

- Sarah Rodriguez

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