Legal arteriosclerosis and lawyers dragging down U.S. productivity

Clients deserve to understand the value produce by their in-house lawyers. What if lawyers, as a group, reduce value?

Richard Epstein’s Simple Rules for a Complex World (1995) describes a bell-shaped curve representing the supply of law and lawyers plotted against their economic contribution. Epstein argues that the United States has passed the peak, perhaps by as much as 40 percent, and that there currently exist “too many lawyers, too much law.” As a result, the law has come to distort economic incentives, producing unintended harmful consequences. Texas Law Professor Stephen Magee estimated in a Wall Street Journal piece that each additional lawyer in the United States reduces the level of GDP by $2.5 million. Both of these items came from “The State of Canadian Judicial Statistics: Trends in Canadian Civil Justice” (pgs. 22 and 23).

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