In today’s Wall Street Journal, divorce lawyer Raoul Felder writes that in the current deep recession, bankruptcy and negligence lawyers should do OK, but divorce lawyers need a bailout. (Divorce Lawyers Could Use Subsidies Too, WSJ, 12/6/08)   A few excerpts:

Bankruptcy lawyers should be doing OK, since more people are going out of business, and the lawyers get their money before anybody else. Negligence lawyers should also be just fine, since people still are getting run over, not to mention the possibility of being struck by a stockbroker jumping out a window. But divorce lawyers are hard hit.

[While the economy is flat-lined, it is a period of great uncertainty and people put their lives — and happiness — in a holding pattern. Since divorce cases can take eight months to a year or more, undertaking one is a little like buying futures or selling short. It becomes an economic guessing game.

Some smart mathematician should utilize divorce statistics to develop a software program that will predict recessions.

Meanwhile, Congress might consider a bailout plan for lawyers. There are now some 1,162,124 attorneys in the U.S., and the law schools are spewing out graduates at a rate of 43,518 a year, all set adrift upon a public that increasingly doesn’t have money to pay for their services. There is no other profession more dependent on discretionary spending, except perhaps the oldest one.

Somehow I doubt that Congress will rush to provide a bailout for the legal profession.  We have to sink or swim on our own.  However, we may need to put on some continuing legal education programs about how to survive economically in Depression 2.0.  Possible topics might include bartering legal services for bass boats and garden produce, how to slash overhead expense, and other topics unfamiliar to most younger lawyers.  However, having entered practice in the midst of another economic downturn, I have all too sharp memories of such expedients



Ken Shigley is a board-certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy and Secretary of the State Bar of Georgia.