There are more than 1.3 million lawyers currently practicing in the United States. In the past decade, the number of practicing attorneys has grown by approximately 100,000, or 8.4 percent.
On the surface, it would appear that there is no shortage of lawyers for anyone that may need one. But diving into the numbers, you may be surprised to learn that some parts of the country are technically underserved in the legal space.
Which States Have the Fewest Lawyers?
Looking at the raw numbers, the top 10 states with the fewest lawyers are:
- North Dakota (1,694)
- Wyoming (1,716)
- South Dakota (1,995)
- Vermont (2,227)
- Alaska (2,311)
- Delaware (2,978)
- Montana (3,179)
- New Hampshire (3,523)
- Idaho (3,882)
- Maine (3,988)
Looking at states with the fewest lawyers per 10,000 residents paints a different picture, with some surprising entries on the list.
The states with the 10 fewest lawyers per 10,000 residents are:
- South Carolina (20.5)
- Arizona (21.8)
- Idaho (22.1)
- North Dakota (22.3)
- South Dakota (22.6)
- North Carolina (23.2)
- Mississippi (23.5)
- Arkansas (23.5)
- Iowa (23.6)
- Indiana (23.6)
There is some recent movement on some of the states that have the lowest numbers on the list. For example, North Dakota has had one of the largest growth rates for lawyers since 2011, at 17 percent. North Carolina is also starting to move the needle with an identical 17 percent growth rate of practicing lawyers in the last 10 years.
Other states that have low attorney numbers are not growing at the same rate, and continue to be what are considered “legal deserts” due to the distance that needs to be traveled for some individuals to get legal services.
Idaho is one such example, where 29 out of the state’s 44 counties have less than one lawyer per 1,000 people. The state also has lawyers that don’t have any practicing lawyers.
Six states actually lost lawyers over the past decade, bucking the overall increase trend that is largely seen in the country. They are: Alaska, Vermont, Kansas, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Mississippi.
An interesting caveat that has affected where lawyers are growing and potentially declining is COVID. More lawyers have stated that they have put off retirement due to COVID than have stayed on their retirement course or retired early.
Which United States Regions Have the Fewest Lawyers?
If the number of attorneys per region is considered, some of the same trends can be seen that are occurring in the states – although emerging growth centers that were already large, such as California, skew some regional numbers. The number of practicing attorneys per United States region lays out as follows:
- Rocky Mountains (38,161)
- Plains (74,845)
- New England (78,159)
- Southwest (123,209)
- Great Lakes (168,022)
- Far West (222,433)
- Southeast (254,697)
- Mideast (367,798)
Overall, the trends point to the attorney profession continuing its growth, but there are anomalies in the data.
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