Demographics icon Growth of the legal profession

There are more than 1.3 million lawyers in the United States. To be more precise, there were 1,331,290 active lawyers as of Jan. 1, 2023, according to the ABA National Lawyer Population Survey, a tally of lawyers in every U.S. state and territory.

Over the past year, from 2022 to 2023, the number of active lawyers counted by the survey rose slightly, by just over 4,000, or three-tenths of one percent. The increase came mostly in three places – a 7,000 increase in Florida, another 7,000 increase in the District of Columbia and a 3,000 increase in Ohio. This was partly offset by a 14,000 decrease in Maryland. The fluctuation is likely due to how the states count active lawyers who live within the state, rather than actual changes in the number of working lawyers.

• 5% – Increase in the number of lawyers from 2013 to 2023
• 1970s – Decade when the number of lawyers grew fastest, by 76%

Over the past decade, the number of lawyers nationwide has grown by more than 63,000 – an increase of 5% from 2013 to 2023.

In the 21st century, the growth of the legal profession has slowed. In the previous century, from 1900 to 2000, the number of lawyers rose 793% – from 114,460 to just over 1 million, an average growth of nearly 8% a year. By contrast, the number of lawyers nationwide has grown roughly 1.3% a year since 2000 – from 1,022,462 in 2000 to 1,331,290 in 2023, an increase of 30%.

The largest increase in lawyers occurred in the 1970s, when the number of lawyers jumped 76% – from 326,000 in 1970 to 574,000 in 1980.

For much of the 20th century, the profession’s growth was much slower: It took 50 years for the number of lawyers to nearly double – from 114,000 in 1900 to 221,000 in 1950. It took less than 30 years for that number to double again – from 221,000 in 1950 to 464,000 in 1978.


Source: ABA National Lawyer Population Survey
Demographics icon Lawyers by state
State 2023 lawyers 2022 population Lawyers per
1,000 pop
New York 188,341 19,677,151 9.6
Massachusetts 42,635 6,981,974 6.1
Connecticut 21,036 3,626,205 5.8
Illinois 62,201 12,582,032 4.9
Minnesota 26,065 5,717,184 4.6
California 170,959 39,029,342 4.4
New Jersey 40,078 9,261,699 4.3
Louisiana 19,566 4,590,241 4.3
Maryland 26,020 6,164,660 4.2
Missouri 24,613 6,177,957 4.0
Colorado 22,802 5,839,926 3.9
Florida 84,594 22,244,823 3.8
Rhode Island 4,081 1,093,734 3.7
Pennsylvania 48,174 12,972,008 3.7
Michigan 34,577 10,034,113 3.4
Vermont 2,198 647,064 3.4
Washington 26,300 7,785,786 3.4
Oklahoma 13,415 4,019,800 3.3
Texas 96,827 30,029,572 3.2
Ohio 37,717 11,756,058 3.2
Georgia 33,890 10,912,876 3.1
Alaska 2,268 733,583 3.1
Kentucky 13,600 4,512,310 3.0
Delaware 3,058 1,018,396 3.0
Nebraska 5,689 1,967,923 2.9
Maine 4,002 1,385,340 2.9
Wyoming 1,673 581,381 2.9
Oregon 12,196 4,240,137 2.9
Hawaii 4,122 1,440,196 2.9
Montana 3,201 1,122,867 2.9
Tennessee 19,583 7,051,339 2.8
Virginia 23,855 8,683,619 2.7
Kansas 7,858 2,937,150 2.7
West Virginia 4,673 1,775,156 2.6
Wisconsin 15,192 5,892,539 2.6
New Mexico 5,411 2,113,344 2.6
Utah 8,581 3,380,800 2.5
New Hampshire 3,451 1,395,231 2.5
North Carolina 26,274 10,698,973 2.5
Alabama 12,195 5,074,296 2.4
Nevada 7,498 3,177,772 2.4
Mississippi 6,736 2,940,057 2.3
Iowa 7,258 3,200,517 2.3
Indiana 15,485 6,833,037 2.3
Arkansas 6,808 3,045,637 2.2
South Dakota 2,027 909,824 2.2
North Dakota 1,694 779,261 2.2
Idaho 4,098 1,939,033 2.1
Arizona 15,506 7,359,197 2.1
South Carolina 11,090 5,282,634 2.1

One-fourth of all the lawyers are in just two states: New York (188,341 lawyers) and California (170,959 lawyers). Combined, they have 27% of the nation’s lawyers.

Wyoming has the fewest lawyers: 1,673.

Nationwide, there are nearly 4 lawyers (actually, 3.9) for every 1,000 residents, but some states have far more. Not surprisingly, New York tops the list with 9.6 lawyers per 1,000 residents. California is NOT second on the list; it has 4.4 lawyers per 1,000 residents – just slightly more than the national average. Massachusetts is No. 2 with 6.1 lawyers per 1,000 residents.

South Carolina has the fewest lawyers per capita: 2.1 lawyers for every 1,000 residents, or roughly half the national average.

• Where will you find the most lawyers per capita? The District of Columbia has fewer than 700,000 residents – about the population of Vermont – but it has one lawyer living in the district for every 19 residents.

Where is the lawyer population growing fastest? In Florida, the number of active lawyers grew nearly 24% in the past decade, followed by North Carolina (20%), Texas and Georgia (both 17%).

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia reported a reduction in lawyers over the past decade, led by Alabama (-15%), Alaska (-7%) and West Virginia (-5%).

U.S. Map showing lawyers per 10k population in each state


Sources: ABA National Lawyer Population Survey, U.S. Census Bureauoffsite link
Demographics icon Lawyers by gender
• Most state bars and state licensing agencies track gender in the profession, but not all do. In 2023, 45 states reported the number of male and female lawyers.

Over the past decade, the percentage of female lawyers has increased slowly. It stood at 34% in 2013 and grew to 39% a decade later in 2023. In other words, male attorneys still greatly outnumber female attorneys, but that is gradually changing as more women, and fewer men, are enrolling in law school every year.

The gender numbers have changed drastically over the past 70 years. From 1950 to 1970, only 3% of all lawyers were women. The percentage has edged up gradually since then – to 8% in 1980, 20% in 1991, 27% in 2000 and 39% in 2023.

The first female lawyer in the United States was Margaret Brent, in 1648 in Maryland. The ABA created the Margaret Brent Award in 1991 to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of female lawyers.

The American Bar Association has had 12 female presidents as of 2023, including seven of the last nine. The ABA admitted the first two women as members in 1918 – Mary Florence Lathrop of Denver and Mary Grossman of Cleveland. The first female president of the ABA was Roberta Cooper Ramo of New Mexico in 1995.


Source: ABA National Lawyer Population Survey
Demographics icon Lawyers by race and ethnicity
• Fewer than half of all state bars and licensing agencies track race and ethnicity in the profession. In 2023, 21 states reported the race and ethnicity of lawyers.

The percentage of lawyers of color nearly doubled in the past decade, according to the ABA National Lawyer Population Survey.

White lawyers are still overrepresented in the legal profession compared with their presence in the U.S. population, but that is slowly changing. Ten years ago, in 2013, lawyers of color were 11% of the profession. A decade later, in 2023, they were 21% of the profession. 

The biggest change was in the number of Asian American lawyers. In 2021, the National Lawyer Population Survey found 2.5% of all lawyers were Asian American. That number more than doubled in 2022 to 5.5%, and stood at 6% in 2023. The rapid change in one year occurred largely because California began reporting the race and ethnicity of its lawyers in 2022. California has a huge number of lawyers – 170,000 – and 13% of them are Asian American. Asian Americans are now represented in the legal profession very close to their share of the U.S. population (6.3%).

The percentage of Hispanic lawyers nationwide also rose – from 3.7% in 2013 to 6% a decade later in 2023, according to the survey. It rose a full percentage point in 2022 alone. Again, this was likely caused by California starting to count race and ethnicity among its lawyers. Still, Hispanics are underrepresented among lawyers compared with their share of the U.S. population (19.1%).

The number of mixed-race lawyers also grew. None were counted in 2014 and 2015, but by 2023 they were 3% of all lawyers – identical to their share of the U.S. population.

Meanwhile, the number of Black lawyers is virtually unchanged over the past decade, according to the survey. Black lawyers were 4.8% of the profession in 2013 and 5% in 2023. That’s far less than the percentage of Black people in the U.S. population (13.6%).

Native Americans are the smallest racial or ethnic group among U.S. lawyers. Just over one-half of 1% of all lawyers (0.7%) were Native Americans, Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders in 2022 – down from 1.1% a decade earlier. That compares with 2.7% of the U.S. population that claims Native American heritage, according to the Census Bureau.

Finally, the percentage of white lawyers has declined. White lawyers were 88.7% of the profession in 2013, but 79% in 2023. They are still overrepresented compared to the U.S. population. Non-Hispanic white people are 58.9% of the national population.


Sources: ABA National Lawyer Population Survey, U.S. Census Bureauoffsite link
Demographics icon  Age

The legal profession skews older than most professions in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median age for lawyers in 2022 was 46 years old, which means half were younger and half older. By comparison, the median age of all U.S. workers was 42.3 – nearly four years younger than the typical lawyer.


There are two reasons. First, very few lawyers are younger than 25, but roughly 12% of all American workers are younger than 25. Second, many lawyers work past age 65. Nearly 14% of all lawyers – that’s roughly 1 in 7 – are 65 or older. Only about 7% of all U.S. workers are 65 or older.


The age of a typical lawyer varies year by year. It rose from 2003 to 2012, then dropped for a few years, bottoming out in 2016, then rose again. It has dropped every year since 2020, but it’s not clear if that’s an actual drop caused by, say, the retirement of older lawyers during the COVID-19 pandemic or by random variation in the sample in the Bureau of Labor Statistics annual survey.


Going back several decades, the typical lawyer was younger than today. In 1980, the median age for all U.S. lawyers was 39. That’s seven years younger than the median age of 46 in 2022.

Demographics icon  Diversity in U.S. law firms

For the 31st consecutive year, the percentage of law firm partners who are lawyers of color rose in 2022, according to the National Association for Law Placement Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms.


The increase has been slow but steady. Viewed year by year, the change is almost imperceptible. But viewed over the span of decades, it is easier to see, and it is accelerating.


In 1991, when NALP began tracking race and ethnicity of law firm partners, just over 2% of all partners were lawyers of color. The number has increased every year since then.


In 2022, 11.4% of all law firm partners were lawyers of color, according to the NALP report. That figure has more than doubled in the past 15 years, when 5.4% of all partners were lawyers of color in 2007.


Among the partners of color in 2022, the largest group is Asian lawyers (4.6% of all partners), followed by Hispanic lawyers (3.0%), Black lawyers (2.3%) and multiracial lawyers (1.3%).


The accelerating change from decade to decade is striking. During the 1990s and 2000s, the annual increase in the percentage of partners of color was small – usually between 0.1 and 0.3 percentage points each year. But in recent years, the change has been much faster. Since 2016, the percentage of partners who are lawyers of color has increased at least 1 percentage point every two years.


The diversity numbers are much higher for law firm associates. In 2022, 28.3% of all associates were lawyers of color. That number is up from 10 years ago, when it was 20.3% in 2012.


Law firm diversity varies dramatically across the country. At one extreme, 33% of all law firm partners in San Diego were lawyers of color in 2022 – the largest percentage in the country, according to the NALP survey. At the other extreme, just 3% of partners in Pittsburgh were lawyers of color – the lowest percentage in the country.


Law firm diversity is particularly strong in California. Among the top 10 cities and metro areas for law firm diversity, five were in California in 2022: San Diego, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Orange County. Two more were in the Washington, D.C. area: Northern Virginia and the capital city itself. Another two were in Texas: Austin and Houston.


On the flip side, four of the bottom 10 areas for law firm diversity are in the Midwest: Cleveland, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Minneapolis.


City size appears to have no correlation to law firm diversity. For example, San Diego, Los Angeles and Houston are among the 10 largest U.S. cities by population and by diversity of law firms, but Philadelphia – the nation’s sixth-largest city – fares poorly for law firm diversity. Only 7% of law firm partners in Philadelphia are lawyers of color.

• Which city is the median for law firm partners of color?
Denver: 9%
Demographics icon  LGBTQ lawyers
• Law students are much more likely to be openly LGBTQ than law firm lawyers: 9.4% of law firm summer associates describe themselves as LGBTQ – more than double the percentage of all law firm lawyers who describe themselves as LGBTQ (4.2%).

The number of openly LGBTQ lawyers at American law firms continues to grow, according to a 2022 survey by the National Association for Law Placement.


The survey found 4,006 lawyers who identified as LGBTQ at 800 law offices across the country. That represented 4.2% of the 96,058 lawyers at those firms. A decade earlier, in 2012, the same survey found roughly half as many lawyers – 2,105 – who identified as LGBTQ at law firms, or 2.1% of all lawyers at those firm.


The same trend is evident among law firm associates. In 2012, 2.7% of all associates reported they were LGBTQ. A decade later, in 2022, the figure was 6.1%.


The percentage of law firm summer associates who report they are LGBTQ is substantially higher. In 2022, 9.4% of all summer associates said they were LGBTQ, according to the survey.


No reliable statistics are available on the total number of lawyers who identify as LGBTQ in the legal profession overall.


Demographics icon  Lawyers with disabilities

The number of lawyers at American law firms who reported having disabilities in 2022 remains small – about 1.4% of all lawyers. Because the number is so small, it is difficult to draw any conclusions about trends, according to a survey by the National Association for Law Placement.


The survey found 996 lawyers at 618 law offices across the country who say they have disabilities.


The percentage of law firm partners who said they have disabilities is slightly lower – 1.1% – according to the 2022 survey. Still, that is much more than the percentage for most of the past decade, when it fluctuated between 0.2% and 0.3%.


More associates also reported they have disabilities. In 2022, roughly 1.6% of all law firm associates reported having a disability. This is more than double the percentage of associates who reported having a disability just three years earlier (0.6%).


No reliable statistics exist on the total number of lawyers with disabilities throughout the legal profession.

Demographics icon  Legal demand in metro areas

The demand for lawyers is high in Washington, D.C., and New York City. But did you know the demand is also high in Tallahassee and Miami, Florida, and Santa Fe, New Mexico? Those are the five metropolitan areas with the highest demand for legal services in the United States in 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


The bureau measures employment and wages for more than 800 occupations in more than 380 metropolitan areas. It also assesses demand for each occupation in each metro area. It’s called the “location quotient” – a single number that shows demand for an occupation in one area compared to the nation as a whole.*


For 2022 – as in previous years – the Washington, D.C., area had the highest demand for lawyers. In fact, the location quotient for lawyers in the D.C. area was 3.23 – more than triple the national average. The demand for lawyers in the New York City area was 2.04 – double the national average.


Surprisingly, most of the other top 10 metro areas for lawyer demand in 2022 were not huge cities, but many were state capitals. They were, in order: Tallahassee (2.31), Miami (2.13), Santa Fe (1.99), Trenton, New Jersey (1.89), New Orleans, Louisiana (1.75), Charleston, West Virginia (1.67), Carson City, Nevada (1.57) and Denver, Colorado (1.56).


Many other state capitals also have high demand for lawyers. For example, the top 20 metro areas for lawyer demand includes Albany, New York; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Hartford, Connecticut; Boston, Massachusetts; Sacramento, California; Topeka, Kansas; and Montgomery, Alabama.


But not all state capitals have high location quotients for lawyers. Seventeen capitals are below the national average for lawyer demand, including such large cities as Phoenix, Arizona; Honolulu, Hawaii; Columbus, Ohio; and Nashville, Tennesse.




Demand for legal aid: US Map
High / Low legal demand
*Location Quotient
Example: if an occupation is 10% of all employment in one metro area compared with 2% in the nation, that metro area has a location quotient of 5.0, which indicates demand is five times higher than the national average.
Download the ABA Profile of the Legal Profession in .pdf format