Lawyers & Dentists

Here’s a curious fact. The number of dentists per person has risen since the 1960s, and unsurprisingly the wages of dentists have declined, but curiously the number of lawyers has increased and so have thier wages.

One straight forward explaination for this is that each time a lawyer is engaged to prosecute a case it generates work for two other lawyers (the judge and the defense attorney). More if they decide to appeal.

Wonderful! The lawyering proffesion creates it’s own positive feedback. Each act of lawyering can create a positive externality for the proffession of lawyering.

The people that built my house created work for other carpenters, but it took almost a century for before the work began to show up in quantity. I guess you could argue that every time I write a line of code it creates work for other programmers to debug it. But, I’ve yet to notice a profession with as strong a self reenforcing quality as you see in lawyering.

This insight is taken from “The Economics of Network Industries” by Oz Shy.

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