Colorado has one lawyer for every 136 people

There are 40,052 lawyers registered in Colorado (as of the end of 2016). Colorado’s total population, at the end of 2015, was 5,475,000. Assuming arithmetic still works the same for both conservatives and liberals, that’s one lawyer for every 136 people who live in Colorado. So if you need or just want a lawyer you shouldn’t have any trouble finding one. If you want to become a lawyer you should know that the competition for clients is rather stiff.

Well, there’s a little more to this story. Turns out that 14,017 of those lawyers are not in the active practice of law. They could be retired or just pursuing a living in other ways. All of them are eligible to resume active practice at any time. They just have to write a check to the Colorado Supreme Court and check a box on a form. I’m in this group, retired inactive. I could go back active but I’d have to be completely off my rocker to do that.

So if we count only lawyers currently in active practice there is one lawyer for every 209 people living in Colorado. You still shouldn’t have any trouble finding a lawyer to represent you in legal matters.

Here’s some historical perspective on this, looking at the entire country and not just Colorado. From the beginning of America to about 1960 the lawyer density was fairly consistent at one lawyer for every 1,000 people in the population. Beginning in the 1960’s that ratio began to increase rapidly until it reached one lawyer for approximately every 300 people in the U.S. population.

Some might say that corresponds to when most of the societal troubles we see today began. Not me, I wouldn’t say that. It’s more likely that as American society became more contentious, and thus more complex, more opportunities for lawyers came along with that. The increasing density of lawyers to serve those needs is more a symptom than a cause. I know from the days I was in active practice that clients who were constant complainers and seemed to thrive on conflict were also excellent sources of revenue for a law firm.

The question these days is this: Is lawyering still a profession or is it just another business? Well, it’s a combination but the business part is bigger than ever before. As with other businesses those who do very well financially are a small group. Most are scratching out a living in a stressful environment. One should think about that before choosing the law as a career.

Before going to law school one should think about the bar exam, and the low pass rate that currently prevails. 1,171 applicants sat for the Colorado bar exam in 2016. 583 passed (73%).