Legal Ethics and Reform

Why are Lawyers so Attracted to Politics?

Anyone who ventures into the business of influencing elections will be stunned by the high percentage of lawyers involved in politics. Whereas the number of lawyers in the adult population is 1/4 of 1%, the number of lawyers at a typical political meeting is likely to be 10% or more. At higher level meetings, like State Party Committee meetings, 25% or more is not uncommon. The US Congress is about 50% lawyers.

The political activist must always remember the close link between lawyers and elected office holders. All lawyers, even those who are not seeking elective office, are very interested in politics.

First, lawyers realize early on that the judicial branch of government has a lot of highly compensated judgeships that only lawyers can hold. For every thousand lawyers in the US there are about 50 judicial positions paying in excess of $75,000 per year. These jobs at the state and federal level are mostly appointed, and the person doing the appointing is either the President of the US or governor of the a state. So thousands of lawyers swarm around trying to figure out which candidates to support today in order to improve their chances of being appointed in four, eight or twelve years.

Second, many lawyers become experts in one or two areas of the law. These lawyers become very interested in the appointments made to certain judgeships and regulatory positions, and in the making of laws and rules that govern their area of interest. To retain their ability to influence these governmental processes, these lawyers remain very active in politics.

Finally, legal education necessarily involves a lot of explaining about how laws and rules are made and how they change over time. Knowledge about any system, no matter how acquired, will usually lead to a higher than normal interest in that system. However, because of a peculiarity of the legal mind, lawyers are unusually attracted to politics and government. The psychological make up of the typical lawyer is worth mentioning. Lawyers are brighter than average, more aggressive than most, slightly more introverted than normal, and, most important, have a larger than normal need to exercise control others. Governmental process exert control over others. The combination of knowledge and psychological proclivity leads to heavy lawyer involvement government.

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