Not that Georgia is in short supply of lawyers. There are more than 28,200 of them actively practicing in the Peach State, according to the State Bar of Georgia. But roughly 19,500 of those lawyers — 69 percent — practice in the core metro Atlanta counties of Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett.
That leaves about 8,700 practicing lawyers sprinkled across Georgia’s remaining 154 counties. In fact, 35 of those counties have fewer than four practicing lawyers, and some have none at all.
Yes, law school is expensive. Yes, BigLaw jobs are hard to come by. No, demand for legal services is not declining. Our society is more complex than ever and there is a huge need for lawyers to deal with the complexity. Of course lawyers who make the decision to actually help folks don’t make $140K+ to start, so it’s a hard sell for young lawyers who have racked up $100K in loans to get through law school.
I don’t want to get into why law school is so expensive or why the cost has risen so much so rapidly (how many law schools had marketing departments 15 years ago?), but I do have some advice for anyone thinking about law school. America needs more lawyers, but not more BigLaw lawyers. We need more lawyers who are interested in serving people with legal problems. If your interest is in representing regular people with regular legal problems, skip the top schools. Find a school close to where you want to practice, figure out how to maximize financial aid and minimize loans. Always keep in mind that you are in law school to serve your future clients, not win the lottery. Find a local attorney in solo practice or a small firm and become an “apprentice” to learn about the practice of law. Spend as much time as you can following these folks around. When you graduate, study for the local bar. Continue your apprenticeship and when you pass the bar, you’ll be ready to hang up your single.
This path is actually not new, I knew a few people who were doing this sort of thing when I was in law school at Syracuse 20 years. And, as far as I know, they are still out there practicing in places were they are really needed.