Lawyers, beware lawyers

Browsing through this week’s issue of The Economist, I get the impression that the US Congress is somewhat over-lawyered: “Though fewer than one in 200 Americans has a law licence, the profession can lay claim to a third of the current House of Representatives and to more than half the seats in the Senate.” These 33% and 50%, respectively, in the US compare to 14% in Britain’s House of Commons and its Canadian counterpart. And only one in 15 deputies (7%) in the French Assemblée Nationale is a lawyer. As Germany did just elect a new Bundestag in September 2013, I was curious to see what our figures were:

80 out of 631 members of the Bundestag (MdB) are lawyers in private practice (Rechtsanwälte und Notare), some 13%, and broadly in line with Britain and Canada. Amongst the newly elected members of the Bundestag from the legal community is a rare academic – corporate law professor Heribert Hirte, who won a seat in Cologne. He teaches at Hamburg University and is an alumnus of the University of California at Berkeley. Definitely good to have an MdB with an international background and outlook.

Since 1961, by the way, the number or lawyers has doubled, albeit in a parliament that has increased its number of seats by more than 25% from 499 to 631, but the share of lawyers still handsomely exceeds the overall growth rate.

I do not know whether The Economist’s definition of lawyer comprises everyone with a law degree, though. By far the largest contingent in the current Bundestag are civil servants, 149 MdBs out of 630 (24%). Those in this group who are not teachers tend to be lawyers holding positions in the administration or the judiciary. The official detailed statistics which would shed some light on this have not yet been updated. – I feel perfectly comfortable with all theses lawyers in parliament. But then I am a lawyer, and we are a far cry from the US percentages….



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