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"Why this sudden interest in law as a human capital investment? In Canada, law school tuition fees - like almost all university tuition fees - are government regulated."

Unless the Canadien legal profession operates very differently from the U.S., wrong. Yes, spiraling tuition is causing problems here in the states too, but the problem most attorneys a smaller to mid-level firms (which is more the norm with Biglaw continuing to decline as far as employment totals) is a lack of income. If you have $200,000 or $100,000 worth of debt is irrelevant if you cannot find work. And no, despite what some economists and legal reformers believe and spew, we cannot simply pass our increased tuition onto clients; every attorney I know who sets their own rates does so based on economics of their location, not their debt. In other words, someone with an Ivy League degree is going to have comparable rates to the State school grad regardless of the variance in debt loads.

There has been a decline in demand for legal services in this U.S., and that has much more to do with the decline in demand for a legal education than increased tuition. Decrease loans by 10%, and for many recent grads that just means a smaller monthly debt payment they cannot meet.

jurisdebtor "Unless the Canadien legal profession operates very differently from the U.S., wrong."

Yes, it is very different. The supply of law school places is much much lower, as are average tuition levels. It's really frustrating when Canadian journalists (who will remain nameless) read articles in the NY Times about oversupply in the US legal profession, and simply assume that the same forces are at work here. It's not as rosy as it once was, but it's far from the US situation.

jurisdebtor: "Unless the Canadien legal profession operates very differently from the U.S., wrong"

Well, Canada is very different from the US - why would you assume otherwise? - and tuition fees are generally government regulated in Canada.

Moreover, the Canadian legal marketplace and legal education system works very differently from the US.

The US has vast quantities of law schools, many of whom will admit candidates with a pulse and a bank account (ideally a big bank account). In contrast, while there is variation in quality/selectivity amongst Canadian law schools, there are none that are equivalent to the fourth-tier US law schools. In fact, given that they are generaly subsidized, they have to be selective in admissions, otherwise demand would far exceed supply.

Furthermore, the marketplace itself is very different. In the US, the threshold for practicing law is passing the bar exam. Now, the NY Bar is actually rigorous (something like 10% of Yale graduates fail on the first go), but other state bars aren't as rigorous. As a result, the supply of lawyers isn't neccesarily constrained by market factors - anyone with a law degree from some shyster law school who passes the bar exam can hang up a shingle, regardless of whether they can make a living at it. In contrast, in Canada, the key threshold for practicing law is completing an articling term - during which you work as a glorified legal apprentice (or indentured servant, depending on your take) with a more senior lawyer or at a firm (we generally have bar exams too, but if you have a pencil and a pulse, you can pass them). No articling, no legal career (the Law Society of Upper Canada in Ontario is trying to change that - but like all Law Society initiative, it will fail).

This has two implications, first, admission to the practice of law is not unrelated to the demand for legal services - if you can't pursuade a practioner to hire you as an articling student, you can't become a lawyer. If demand in the legal market sucks (and its been weak recently), no one is going to hire you. This has the effect of moderating over-supply in the legal marketplace (although I agree with you that it doesn't really effect fees at the bottom, since the reality is that few people who really need legal services can afford to pay the fees that any lawyer is going to work for). Second, it prevents Canadian law schools from playing the sort of statistical shenanigans to attract students that US schools play. In the US, law schools boast (read: lie) about their employment rate post-graduation - that a good chunk of their graduates are employed at Starbucks or in fake jobs the schools created is buried in the small bring. In contrast, in Canada, no one cares about the employment rate, it's irrelevant, what matters is the placement rate - if 20% of your class can't find articling positions (hello, University of Ottawa) you can't hide that.

Mind you, you have to wonder about the wit of someone who drops $200,000 on a law school degree if its not a Harvard, Yale or other T-14 degree or on the expectation that they'll be doing criminal work (and given that even fourth rate schools can charge $50,000 a year, it's a possibility). I mean they'd be further ahead dropping $200,000 on lottery tickets.

Frances,

I'd be curious to see what the gender mix is at other Ontario law schools. UofT claims that "approximately" 50% of its student body is woman, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if "approximately" in this case meant "more than". I looked briefly at some other schools and they don't have readily apparent numbers, but my impression is that generally more than 50% of the law student class is woman. If tuition fees have a differential impact on woman, my god, would there be any men left if tuition fees were lower?

My sense is that the tuition fees aren't likely to have a huge impact on gender (my recollection is that the Ontario law school deans did a study and found that tuition fees - accompanied by enhanced aid programs - didn't appear to have an impact on socioeconomic status either, but that would be somewhat dated now. I don't recall if that study looked at gender).

Partly I think this conclusion is based on my experience that, for a lot of law students, law school isn't neccesarily a rational (or at least, rationalized) decision (certainly I think that's the only plausible explanation for the US experience over the last 4 years). I joke about the Ontario Bar Association's new "Why did I go to law school" campaign by suggesting that they should publish some honest answers like "I had a degree in Canadian history, what was I supposed to do?" (as opposed to the nauseatingly sacharine "I wanted to help people" stuff that they've been publishing).

I think the reality is many (most?) people applying to law school have visions of Ally McBeal or Ben Stone fighting for justice, not a career in a grey suit reviewing prospectuses (because, be honest, who actually knows what corporate lawyers do?) or doing residential home sales in some suburban strip mall (both of which reflect the reality of a huge chunk of the legal profession). So while I agree that your theories are apriori reasonable, I suspect they overstate the level of analysis that goes into the law school choice. Maybe on one level students have an inchoate sense that they've got a better chance of getting a job if they graduate from UofT, then, say Osgoode (which is questionable) - which would be consistent with the flight to quality theory - but that's about as far as it goes.

And truth be told, many (myself included) probably pay the extra dough to go to UofT for the simple reason that the prospect of commuting to, much less living near, Osgoode law school is worth paying an extra $8,000 a year to avoid.

As an outsider, what about articling students in Canada who then set up shop in smaller centres in small partnerships? Some years ago now, I did out my Will and Powers of Attorney (for Living Care & Property). I called around Peterborough's law firms (where I was living at the time) and got a price variance of 3; the highest cost was three times the lowest cost.

It was (if Bob will pardon the pun) a drop-dead simple case, just paperwork and proper wording, I had no dependants or much property but I am diabetic.

I wound up using the most junior staff solicitor at reputable local firm, he charged me $250 for the lot.

He has since left that firm and set up his own with another; I tracked him because I may move to Quebec and therefore need his copy of my will destroyed when I get the thing redone by a Quebec notary to be Civil Code-compliant.

His practice is the standard for smaller centres: divorce, insurance lawsuits, petty criminal work and real estate. Whatever the ad says on the website, that's what goes on in reality.

I find this to be a very interesting post, but a factor that should be acknowledged is that law school admissions committees (at least at some of the schools, and I'm going ahead and presuming it to be true at the rest), take the gender balance seriously in admission decisions. And they make these decisions on a rolling basis so if women disproportionately turn down offers of admission the school is likely to make more of its subsequent offers to women, or vice versa.

So, barring an enormous effect that can't be corrected for in admissions decision (e.g, almost no sufficiently talented men apply in a given cycle), we probably will never have the data in terms of enrolled students that reflects the answers to these questions.

The reality is that a lot of recent graduates aren't interested in setting up shop in what they perceive to be the styx, although I gather it can have both a decent lifestyle and reasonably lucrative practice (my dad always told me to be the second lawyer in a town just big enough for two lawyers). You have to hustle, though.

There has always been question about the impact of tuition fees on career path (i.e., does it discourage graduates from pursuing careers in rural communities or in public interest law). I don't recall that the evidence was all that compelling, but i think it suggested that the problem was a lack of job opportunities in those areas, not a shortage of graduates (in the case of public interest law, i recall there was evidence that public interest organizations weren't interested in hiring new graduates).

I always doubted the sincerity of many of the people making those argument, suspecting (correctly, in many cases) that even if tuition were free there was no way those people would give up 6-figure salaries and a house in the Annex for a life drafting wills in Wawa. The rural/public interest law rationale was just a convenient cover for the naked self-interest of people who had no genuine interest in working in either area.

Marc,

Judging by the fact that woman are disproportionately over-represented amongst university graduates and among the top law school graduates, to the extent law school admissions committees are tweaking offers to provide gender parity, they're doing it to maintain a respectable number of males.

Frances says: "It's not easy to make partner. I suspect, but I don't have evidence, that going to University of Toronto, which is regarded (by itself, at least) as the top school in the country, and which has strong ties to the large law firms on Bay Street, increases a person's odds. If people merely believe that going to University of Toronto helps a person secure a top placement and get on the partnership track, that will be enough to tilt anyone who wants to make partner towards U of T."

Speaking as a U of To law grad, and someone who started their legal career on Bay St., I think there is certainly a benefit to going to U of T law school in terms of getting a job on Bay St. In terms of whether it helps on the partnership track, I don't think so, beyond the threshold of getting through the door. Once in the firm, there doesn't seem to be any difference between where people went to school, but instead the emphasis is on your work and your business development plan - partnership is all about either bringing in business, or providing niche services to other partners in your firm that bring in business, and can't service their clients without your expertise. This is in contrast to US firms where, except for people that turn out to be stars, you have to have gone to a top-tier school in order to become a partner, and there are also a lower proportion of equity partners than in the relatively more egalitarian Canadian firms.

In terms of my own decision making, I went to U of T in part because my life was in Toronto, and my (now) wife was living in Toronto. Even if I could have saved some money going to a different law school outside of Toronto, I would have spent a lot more in living expenses and travelling costs. I don't think I did a very comprehensive cost/benefit analysis, though.

Also, to another point, Bob Smith mentions that the bar is less rigorous and the need to get an articling position is more of a filter here than in the US. I guess I agree somewhat, but I actually think that the biggest filter is getting into law school. Most Canadian law graduates can pass the bar easily - I know that I probably didn't even need to do the minimal amount of studying I did to actually pass the bar exam. But, I also think that most people can get through articles, even if it takes a little longer, requires patching together a couple of places to do them, and not earning much while doing them.

There is a definite bifurcation in the market for new lawyers in Canada. Big law firms pay pretty well for articling students and junior associates, with an opportunity for a bigger payoff in the future with a partnership (though the number that makes it through to that stage from any particular articling class at a law firm is pretty low - say about 10%). The alternatives are generally less lucrative to start with, though some provide opportunities for entrepreneurial individuals to do well if they position themselves well, develop a practice area that is lucrative and they are good at etc... However, a lot of lawyers either don't continue in law, or make lower salaries in marginal/commodity practices, or in "public interest" careers.

Also, further to another of Bob Smith's points, there doesn't seem to be an underrepresentation of females at U of T, and in fact I think that as many women as men go into the law firms, though at the senior level of the law firms there are fewer women. I wonder if that will change as the generations move through the system?

Bob Smith also says: "I always doubted the sincerity of many of the people making those argument, suspecting (correctly, in many cases) that even if tuition were free there was no way those people would give up 6-figure salaries and a house in the Annex for a life drafting wills in Wawa. The rural/public interest law rationale was just a convenient cover for the naked self-interest of people who had no genuine interest in working in either area."

I would not want to give up my six figure salary and house in the Annex (adjacent, anyway) to draft wills in Wawa. Of course, I never thought I would want to do that - coming from Toronto, and liking urban life. However, there are at least opportunities to contribute to the public interest, either through pro bono work, working in the public sector or doing public interest litigation while still earning a decent living (though not as good as being a finance lawyer on Bay St., but those guys have houses in Rosedale, Forest Hill or Oakville). I am not sure it is so easy to characterize someone who wants to do some public interest work, but still earn a decent living as only being driven by naked self interest, and only lying about the public interest component. I mean, there are a few ascetics out there, but calling everyone who isn't of that rank as only being driven by naked self-interest is kind of crossing the line.

Todd: "Speaking as a U of To law grad, and someone who started their legal career on Bay St., I think there is certainly a benefit to going to U of T law school in terms of getting a job on Bay St. In terms of whether it helps on the partnership track, I don't think so, beyond the threshold of getting through the door. Once "

I agree on the second point - once you're in the door, no one really cares where you went to school. You're also right that the real filter to the practice of law is selective admissions offered by law schools (although that's breaking down with law schools sharply expanding their class size - Ottawa - and the influx of graduates from Bond University in Australia. Hence the new proposed licensing process)

On the first point, there's a bit of a causation/correlation issue for UofT. Yes, Bay Street draws disproportionately from UofT, but whether the UofT degree is the cause of that success or whether it's just correlated with factors that relate to that success is a totally different question. In particular, I think there are real differences in the people who go to UofT vs, say, Ottawa. First, they tend to be more likely to be interested in going the corporate law work (UofT being rather weak in areas like criminal law or family law - at least when I was there). Second, they tend to be much stronger candidates than the people who go to other schools (reflected in admission GPAs, LSAT scores, prior degrees, prior experience, etc.). Since those are traits that Bay Street firms look for when they're hiring (Is this candidate smart? Do they have a skill set or experience that we can leverage off? Are they interested in what we do?) it shouldn't come as any surprise that UofT students place particularly well on Bay Street.

While it's true that a Bay Street firm might show, say, a B+ student from UofT more love than a B+ student from Windsor, it doesn't follow that the UofT degree is advantageous. After all, if the B+ student from UofT went to Windsor, and was competing against the weaker student body at that school, she might be an A student. Similarly, its a common observation that UofT (and Osgoode) students are much more polished than candidates from, say Ottawa (and that's generally been my experience). While the career development offices may have some impact on that level, I think that observation reflects the reality that the UofT (and Osgoode) candidates are generally inherently stronger candidates before they went to law school - they wouldn't be less polished if they had gone to Ottawa.

In any event, even if there is some advantage of going to UofT (in terms of getting hired on Bay Street), I have doubts as to whether it's worth the extra ~$50K over three years vs going to Ottawa.

I didn't mean to impugn the character of people who do public interest law - I do some pro bono work myself - just the character who assert that high tuition precludes them from doing pubic interest law (as an argument for why tuition should be lower), even though there are no circumstances in which they would ever work in those areas. My response was always that, if that's the case, let subsidize those handful of people who actually do public interest law (for example through UofT's debt forgiveness program) rather that subsidizing a whole whack of future corporate finance lawyers through lower tuition fees. That was never a popular response.

I have some thoughts on this subject, as my wife just graduated with a JD from the University of Alberta.

First, at about $12k/year, tuition and mandatory fees were a factor, but not as big as lost income. Using fairly a generous assumption that she wouldn't have gotten any significant raises in the 3 years she took off (and therefore that her articling salary is basically what she would have been making this year anyway), I estimated that net of tax impacts and summer earnings, tuition was about 1/3 of the cost of going to law school. (I'm an accountant...I did a capital budget)

All told, this made the ROI of even a relatively modest law salary in the mid-80's at about 30% annually. So for people who are earning near the Canadian median, as she was, there's quite a bit of cushion to maintain its status as a good investment.

Now, just doing the dollars and cents of men and women in law misses something. As far as I can tell, many high earning lawyers place little-to-no value on leisure time or pursuing interests outside of work, and I think there's a big gender gap in how people value free time. The public service, which pays substantially lower salaries than most firms, has a lot of women, who are attracted to the lower pay because it comes with an 8-5 work schedule.

Also, I'm pretty sure the 5-10% unplaced rate at U of T is high, though maybe not by Ontario standards. Ontario suffers from too many law schools, and U of T in particular is bad for attracting students with a Bay Street or nothing attitude. While there were a few people at U of A who didn't have jobs lined up when classes ended, when we went to convocation last week, everyone seemed to have found something.

Bob Smith, I agree with everything you say in response to my comment.

Neil, I agree with some of your comments, but there is one thing I would add. Some U of T students have a Bay St. or nothing attitude, I guess (although some also want to go to NY/London, which is a lot more likely from U of T), but there is also a large portion who are interested in public law, law and economics, the philosophy of law, constitutional law and some others. U of T has, in addition to being a good place to get a good corporate job, a lot of highly regarded academic teachers, especially compared to some of the other law schools that tend to rely more on practicing lawyers as sessional lecturers. This academic approach attracts a lot of people as well, some of whom might not end up as academics, but it is not just a school full of strivers interested in going into corporate law.

I'm not saying it's a mono-cultural school, just that the Bay St. or nothing crowd (and I'd include the NY/London set in that group, too) will be higher than at most other law schools. I have a good friend who went to U of T with no interest in big corporate work. I seem to recall from the stats we reviewed that there's typically only one or two U of A grads who go to work on Bay St each year, so even though it's a very good school, nobody comes here closed to the idea of working elsewhere.

Even at that, a lot of people only applied for big firm/big city jobs during articling week, and then were left scrambling to cobble something together after they didn't get it, and all the mid-range jobs were taken.

Todd "and in fact I think that as many women as men go into the law firms, though at the senior level of the law firms there are fewer women. I wonder if that will change as the generations move through the system?"

With more women graduating out of law school, I suspect more women will reach the senior levels, but I would be very surprised if there continued to be a gender imbalance. It's the billable hours culture - I think a lot of smart women just look at it and figure "I can't meet my billing targets and live the kind of life that I want to life." My sister Alice Woolley has done some really interesting work on billable hours, discussing some of its drawbacks as a system.

Frances,

Well, I agree that the billable hour model is under attack (primarily from clients looking for cost reduction and/or cost certainty), but I don't think it's the billable hour model, per se, that creates the lifestyle problems for woman (and men).

The more fundamental problem is that law is a service business in a competitive market. Whether you're getting a call from a client at 5:30 on a friday evening wanting to close a deal on monday, a call from wealthy drunk driver at midnight looking for legal advice, or from a spouse looking for temporary custody of their kids, you can't really say, "let's talk on monday", because their next call will be to a competitor. Law firms are experimenting will all sorts of alternative billing arrangements, but that aspect of the business doesn't change. How you calculate your fee or evaluate your associates doesn't change the fact that your client wants her deal closed on monday.

And there's only so much people can do to deal with that issue. If you're a sole practioner or in a small firm, you face the same choice. It's either to forego potential business or give up the lifestyle. Every time you take a vacation or head home early, you're leaving money on the table. You're not dealing with big firm billable hour culture, but the trade-off between lifestyle and remuneration is still there. I suppose you have flexibility to make those decisions, but... And in fairness, some big firms are willing to try to work out those sorts of flexible work arrangements with some of their lawyers, but the combination of overhead and client demand means that its often only workable for people who are both senior and well-established or high demand (meaning they bill at a high enough rate to make it economically feasible, and have a loyal enough client base willing to accept that they might not be able to reach them after 5:00) - i.e., a narrow subset of the legal population.


I guess I contributed to that trend. As a preacher's son, I know how traumatic end-of-life events can be, and there is no substitute for a Will and Powers of Attorney. Death, in my family, was quite normal, it was business; funerals are what my parents did during the week (they are now retired).

But when I called around for estimates, I was surprised at the variation. I was expecting maybe 25%, not 300%. And I had examined what I needed and didn't ask for frills.

Or in my other piece of legal wrangling, I had a legal problem that is in the purview of the Federal Court (that one, the one that normal people never go near). I took my case to an Ottawa lawyer who specializes in that area and conducted most of my case by e-mail. I never saw my lawyer in person, I didn't need to. It sure kept my costs down, but conversely it did have an impact on his income as I wasn't a money-spinner. Fifteen years ago I could not have used that strategy to contain costs, nor would I have found him, because I was looking for a specific practice profile from websites.

Or lastly, I have a relative who is an auditor for the Law Society. Many lawyers are not keeping separate storefront offices anymore, it's just too expensive so they work from home offices. She's done audits everywhere from barns to docks to washrooms (only private place in the joint).

The average income for a lawyer in Ontario is only $55,000.

Don't worry Determinant, if he only charged you $250, I'm sure you didn't ruin his weekend! :)

"Many lawyers are not keeping separate storefront offices anymore, it's just too expensive so they work from home offices. She's done audits everywhere from barns to docks to washrooms (only private place in the joint)."

Part of that is cost, but it's also technological change. 40 years ago, to practice law, you'd need a secretary to type out your documents, some sort of library for reference, proximity to clients (and to other lawyers if you're doing transactional work - I mean, you don't want to have to schlep accross town for a drafting session). Now, everyone can type their own work, you get all your reference documents on line, and people are comforable doing business by phone and email, etc.. Hell, I took a conference call in my car from a parking lot this morning. Nobody listens to me, but I keep telling people that, one of these days, one of the big Bay Street firms (and probably one of the weaker ones) will realize that they can move their offices out to some campus in the suburbs (and maybe keeping a single floor for show on Bay Street), slash their overhead, allowing them to both reduce fees and increase profits.

Frankly, on many of my files - when I'm just dealing with the client rather than with other members of a team - I could do my job just as effectively from my basement as from Bay Street. Granted, for more complex transactions, everone probably needs to be in one place. But for the sort of work that gets done by store-front lawyers, it makes a ton of sense to lose the overhead and work from home. You even see lawyers starting up virtual "cloud" firms for more sophisticated transactions (one of my former colleagues started up one of the first in Canada) where every lawyer works for themselves, but they bring them together as needed for particular clients.

"The average income for a lawyer in Ontario is only $55,000."

Yeah, that's waaaay too low. The Bay Street firms alone would push the average (at least the mean) well about $55,000 a year, and if you toss in Crowns, in-house counsel, etc. making 6-figures, that's just not plausible. My recollection is that might even be less than the average articling student salary.

The post gives some links to data on lawyers' salaries. I agree with Bob, there is no way that that $55K number makes any sense.

A few thoughts to various posts (and this might go back a bit, as I made a comment that was eaten and unrecoverable).

First, on the gender of law school admissions. At the U of C we are consistently at around 50/50. We do NOT adjust for gender in any way. It's always a bit of a surprise that it ends up 50/50 each year as we look at a variety of inputs - LSAT/GPA as starters, but also extra-curricular and work/life experience - but it does. I don't think any law school admits based on gender.

Second, I would be very surprised if U of T grads were over represented in law school partners. In the US the top law schools do not produce more big law partners. See here: http://about.bloomberglaw.com/practitioner-contributions/becoming-a-national-law-firm-partner/

Also, no Canadian school had that much of an edge over other Canadian common law schools. All law schools in Canada are very hard to get into. There was no material expansion in Canadian law school places between the time that Moncton opened in 1982(ish) and TRU opened in 2011(ish). Every year some 400 Canadians are studying law overseas after trying to get in here. Some (most?) jurisdictions regulate the number of places that can be offered in existing law schools, and every province has to approve the opening of a new professional faculty. Very different from the US. Also the caps on tuitions here make law school much less of a money spinner than in the US. Some American universities have reported general budget cuts as a result of the declining law school enrolment (one of the DC schools - name escaping me at the moment). It's fair to say that U of T tuition has gone up, but it still doesn't approach anything like the nose bleed altitude of the private US schools.

Third, job prospects vary jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We have placed 99% of our students in articling positions every year for the past several years. That isn't because of our innate fabulousness (although we are of course innately fabulous) but because of our location.

Fourth (and related to third) hiring from law schools is market specific. Our students do very well in the Calgary market; somewhat less well in Toronto market (OK, but not as well). When I advise people about where to go I always tell them (even if it's not strictly the best recruiting strategy) to try to go to the law school in the market they want to work in.

Fifth (and this contradicts 4 to some extent), students wanting to go to law school might rationally choose to go to a school where they will be statistically more impressive, since a student in the top 15% at a "lower" ranked school has better job prospects than a student in the top 30% at a "higher" ranked school. I.e., is more likely to get a big firm job, clerkship or good government job.

Sixth, some law schools are more "national" than others. Both the U of C and Dalhousie have 50% of their students from out of province. Toronto has a much lower percentage of students from outside of Ontario - I think 30/40%.

Finally, I have written about hourly billing, but I am cheerfully skeptical about all billing methods. Hourly billing has perverse incentives, but so do all billing methods. Hourly billing has many advantages. I don't think it is particularly responsible for the gender problem in law. I think that arises more from the tournament structure of law firm partner (see the book, Tournament of Lawyers). Also, it is hard to get good data on lawyer salaries. The census data shows lawyer salaries as not that high - I think in the $70K range as the mid 2000s - but I have never been quite sure how that works given the massive salaries enjoyed by some in the profession. I wrote a paper on that too in relation to access to justice and whether lawyers are able to extract rents. My conclusion was that theoretically they could, but there was no evidence that they did - i.e., that they enjoyed earnings higher than one would expect relative to other professions. All of those are on my SSRN page.

Note - Alice Woolley is writing under her twitter handle, Woolleylaw, to get through the typepad filter, which has blacklisted her. I'm also using different variants of my name, in the hopes that these can get by the filter.

Alice, thanks for those observations. A couple of reactions. A lot of studies of earnings will look only at people who are employed, which of course misses out anyone who is self-employed - this is more of an issue in some professions than others, and I suspect could explain some of these law numbers.

Sandra Black gave an interesting talk at the CEA meetings where she suggested that over confidence and risk loving were reasons why men were more likely to compete in these winner take all tournaments.

"a student in the top 15% at a "lower" ranked school has better job prospects than a student in the top 30% at a "higher" ranked school"

This is something that's an issue everywhere in the educational sector. Is a B student from University of Toronto better than an A student from Concordia? Sometimes - for example, when taking a PhD - it's better to be in the top 30% from a higher ranked school. My sense is that with the expansion of higher education, university reputation matters more than it once did. But as you rightly point out, Canadian law schools haven't expanded particularly, so perhaps this is less true for law schools than other types of degree programs.

Frances, would the census data have that problem with self-employment? If it did that would explain the data. Although on that data lawyers ranked where you might expect in the professions: dentists, doctors, lawyers, engineers.

"I think that arises more from the tournament structure of law firm partner (see the book, Tournament of Lawyers)"

I hadn't thought about it before (something I seem to be saying all the time after reading Frances' posts. That is, I suppose, the sign of a good blog), but is there any literature on gender differences in terms of establishing and operating small businesses? I mean, people don't think of lawyers (or doctors or dentists) as being entrepeneurs, but that's what they are. Even a partner at a Bay Street law firm is just running their own business, albeit in conjunction and cooperation with hundreds of other partners. And that's the clear divide between private practice and legal fields that are seen as more "woman-friendly" (government, public interest, in-house) where lawyers are employees rather than entrepeneurs (it's also the clear divide between associates and partners).

"Frances, would the census data have that problem with self-employment?"

How does the census/income surveys deal with professional corporations? These days, most lawyers, doctors, dentists, etc. carry on business through professional corporations, so only a portion of their income may be reported as "employment" income. Depending on how they structure it (and there are different rules for different professions and provinces) that income could flow out as dividends (either to them, a family trust or their spouse), service fees, wages, shareholder benefits. Or it could be retained in the professional corporation (which is often used as a tax-deferral vehicle).

The post gives some links to data on lawyers' salaries. I agree with Bob, there is no way that that $55K number makes any sense.

That factoid came directly from the Law Society of Upper Canada. It's after-costs, take-home pay. The number of lawyers whose secretary makes more than they do is startlingly high. The figure is aggregated across all lawyers in Ontario.

This is one reason the Law Society audits lawyers trust accounts.

Bob can confirm this with the LSUC auditor the next time he/she pays him a visit.

"Bob can confirm this with the LSUC auditor the next time he/she pays him a visit."

Hmm, I may have to wait a while, I'm not an appetizing target for an auditor - can't write checks on the firm's trust fund, don't do real estate transactions/estates (both areas filled with danger for lawyers), and past the 5-year practice review period.

The $55,000 number is still too low. I could see Alice's $70,000 as a national average in the mid-2000s (keeping in mind that legal incomes in Ontario are, on average, higher than elsewhere - pulled up by Bay Street and in-house corporate lawyers). Think about it, lawyers are, for the most part, pretty talented people, and could earn decent incomes in other areas. Few of them are so dedicated that they'll take a hefty pay cut to work the hours they do.

In any event, I wouldn't give too much weight to any income statistics coming from the law society, since they don't know what lawyers make in a year.

Think about it, lawyers are, for the most part, pretty talented people, and could earn decent incomes in other areas. Few of them are so dedicated that they'll take a hefty pay cut to work the hours they do.

Competition.

There are ~40,000 lawyers in Ontario.

The rest doesn't bear up in a demand-limited market like today.

"Competition.

There are ~40,000 lawyers in Ontario."

But lawyers don't have to be lawyers. That's my point, they have skill sets that could get them employed in other fields. If they're only making $30,000 a year (and if the average is $55,000, given the extremely high incomes for large chunk of the profession on Bay Street, in-house and in government - Crown's make 6-figure salaries within a couple of years of starting, and even Children's Aid offers lawyers high 5-figure salaries (see http://www.durhamcas.ca/Job%20Postings/Legal%20Counsel.php)- that average number is only possible if a huge chunk of the profession is making far less than $55,000), they would, rightly, figure "Hell with this, I'm not busting my ass for 3,000 hours a year to pay my landlord and secretary. I'm going to take the sort of job that the average young university graduate gets, work half as long and get paid the same (without the risk), and not have to deal with angry or deadbeat clients, the law society or any of this nonsense". The sort of high-achieving people who get admitted to, and graduate from, law school can get good jobs outside the legal profession.

In any event, the law society doesn't know what lawyers make, so I don't know how they would have come up with that $55,000 number. I do recall that they funded a study by the Ontario Law School Deans a few years ago (which, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be available online) which I seem to recall had a $55,000 average salary number - for articling students (not that I would vouch for the accuracy of that number).

That's why the notion that competition in the legal market will drive down the price of legal services to prices that ordinary people can actually afford (seriously, never get divorced or charged with a criminal offense, it's crippling) is misguided, because it ignores those outside options. The people who become lawyers have outside options that are too lucrative, their reservation wage is too high. While competition may drive lawyer's incomes down to their reservation wage, beyond that the lawyers just exit the market and do something else. And that reservation wage is still beyond the capacity of most people to pay.

I write on the U.S. legal education system, but the best place for commentary on the Canadian system is Law Students for a Fair Profession.

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