Friday, December 15, 2017

Robinson on the Decline of the Lawyer-Politician

Available on-line from the Buffalo Law Review 65 (August 2017): 657-737, is  The Decline of the Lawyer-Politician, by Nick Robinson.  Although”lawyers’ ubiquity in politics is relatively common knowledge,” Robinson writes, “there has been almost no study of how lawyers’ prevalence in politics has changed over time, why these changes might have occurred, or whether a shift in the prevalence of lawyers—or the types of lawyers—in politics even matters.” The article
Daniel Webster (LC)
examines a unique data set of the occupational background of members of the U.S. Congress that spans more than two hundred years from the 1st Congress to the 114th Congress. This data shows that the proportion of lawyers in Congress has not been static. Instead, after a notable increase in the number of lawyers in the U.S. Congress after Independence, there has been a slow, but steady, decline in their numbers. In the mid-nineteenth century, almost 80% of members of Congress were lawyers. By the 1960s, this dropped to under 60%, and in the 114th Congress, the number of lawyer-members in Congress was slightly under 40%.
 Robinson believes the change has diminished “the centrality of lawyers and courts in the United States,” and created “a more technocratic judiciary.”