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The Size of Canada’s Legal Profession

As you’ll likely know, there’s been a great deal of concern expressed here and elsewhere lately about the economic state of the profession, the most recent addition to the discussion being Mitch Kowalski’s post Articling Debate Exposes Convocation’s Flaws [1] and the comments it garnered. I made a comment on that post suggesting that one aspect of the discussion — the complaint that the law schools are graduating too many students — might be proceeding without the benefit of data and asking whether anyone had the stats.

It’s Sunday and I was reflexively lazy. But a moment later I thought to get some of the data for myself from the website of the Federation of Law Societies. I’m reproducing what I got below, i.e. data for the years 2010 (the latest available there), 2009, 2008, and 2007. This only scratches the surface, I know. We should have a couple of decades of data available in a variety of forms if we’re going to purport to identify problems and solutions, data on numbers in and out of the profession, incomes, distribution between urban and rural, etc. As it is, the Federation data doesn’t contain information on numbers of resignations or deaths, and I suspect you’d have to involve an actuary to make full sense of things, particularly if you’re interested in projecting a “peak practice” point at some date in the future. After all, not only might there be too many young people coming in, but thanks to health care, too many old people declining to leave.

Herewith, then, the meagre crop I gleaned on a lazy Grey Cup day:

www.flsc.ca/_documents/2010-Statistical-Report.pdf [2]
59,478 insured
24,197 exempt from insurance
83,675 total practicing members

[students called 3553 / transfers: 582 = 4135 new admissions
Note: I assume “transfers from other jurisdictions” means those coming from outside Canada.]

www.flsc.ca/_documents/2009-Law-Societies-Statistics-C.pdf [3]
82,517 tot.

[students called: 3464 / transfers: 455 = 3919]

www.flsc.ca/_documents/2008-Law-Societies-Statistics-C.pdf [4]
77,080 tot.

[students called: 3282 / transfers 416 = 3698]

www.flsc.ca/_documents/2007-Statistical-Report.pdf [5]
78,658 tot.

[students called: 3268 / transfers 434 = 3702]

So: very roughly there was an increase in membership of 5,000 (~6%) over the four years. (The drop between 2007 and 2008 is curious; 2007 may be an anomalous basis for the calculation of an overall increase.) At a growth rate of 1.5% this is somewhat — but only somewhat — ahead of Canada’s population growth over the same period [6], which was a trifle over 1%. And although the number of law school graduates has increased each year over this period, the increase has been relatively small. The number of transfers took a bump up in 2010.