More Americans are applying to law school this year (see “Law School Is Hot Again as Politics Piques Interest” from the WSJ, for example).
I wonder if all of the publicity around litigation following work-related sex is playing a role. After all, every plaintiff needs a lawyer and every defendant also needs a lawyer.
One new wrinkle that could make a career in law more lucrative is that folks have established a fund to pay plaintiffs’ legal expenses (described by the New York Times as a “legal defense fund, backed by $13 million in donations, to help less privileged women”; the word “defense” is curious since the cash will be used to paid to lawyers who are on the offense by representing plaintiffs).
This has the potential to transform workplace sex litigation into the same kind of opportunity as divorce litigation. From “Divorce Ligation”:
From a more practical standpoint, divorce litigation is more intense than other kinds of civil litigation because, depending on the state, one person can be designated by the judge to pay the legal fees for both sides. “Once my plaintiff gets a hint from the judge that she’ll be getting a fee award,” said one attorney, “she no longer has any motivation to settle. The lawsuit and trial are going to be free for her and anything she gets in the final judgment is gravy.” Another lawyer said “Most civil lawsuits end when each party has spent about as much on legal fees as the amount in dispute. By that point they’ve both learned their lesson that litigation generally makes sense for lawyers, not for litigants. In divorces, however, since all of the fees are being paid by the defendant there is no reason for the case to end until he runs through his savings, what he can borrow from friends and family, and what he can borrow from the bank.”
A competent family law practitioner in the Boston area, where this kind of system prevails, can easily earn $1 million per year.
[Note that this is very different from a contingent fee system in which a plaintiff’s lawyer gets paid if he or she wins. The risk of losing and not getting paid anything (and, in fact, typically being on the hook for some expenses) limits the number of cases that are filed. With a “legal defense fund” paying the lawyer who sues an employer on behalf of, e.g., someone who had sex with the boss but didn’t get a hoped-for promotion, neither the lawyer nor the victim/survivor has anything to lose.]
Readers: What do you think? No society in the history of humanity has ever devoted as much of its resources to litigation as the U.S. does, but we cranked out so many lawyers that, after the collapse of 2008, there was a surplus. Will the #metoo movement help turn this around to the point where going to law school becomes rational?