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Law Offices of Ronald W. Rutz
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October 17, 2000: U.S. Proportion of Lawyers; Titling First House

Q: Does the United States really need more than 70% of the World's lawyers?

A: Like many of the modern American myths, this 70% figure seems to keep bouncing around and never goes away. I believe its source was Dan Quayle and the President's Council on Competitiveness which he chaired around 1991. But a few years ago, Ray August actually compiled the numbers from 100 countries and came up with a figure closer to 9%, if you define "lawyer" as a person with formal legal training who has passed an exam and is allowed to handle matters in a judicial setting, even if he or she never does so. If you include the other 90 or so countries, then the percentage drops even lower.

Defining who is a lawyer is difficult because systems differ so much from country to country and culture to culture. But if the term "lawyer" is defined as a "law provider" both inside and outside the judicial system, after being trained in the law, then the figure nosedives, at least according to an article that Mr. August published in the American Bar Association Journal a few years ago.

Many nations, such as Japan, Germany, Great Britain, and Russia, publicly like to brag about the minimal number of attorneys they need. But Japan, for example, has about 35,000 law graduates each year but out of 30,000 who annually take the bar exam only 475 pass, so there are just 13,000 "bengoshi" in all of Japan. But the other law graduates work for the government and industry in the law departments of elsewhere, or do other things like teach, etc., all using their legal training.

For what it is worth, using the premise of a "law provider," Mr. August charted 100 nations. Occupying first place, with the highest percentage of the population being lawyers, is the Vatican with about 1/3 "lawyers," followed by Uruguay, Lebanon, Argentina, and Spain.

The United States was 35th coming in lower than countries like France, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland, but ahead of Australia, the United Kingdom, and Russia. The bottom 100 included Zaire, Chad, Mali, Burundi, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Yes, figures can be made to reflect almost anything the user wants (I believe the term is "spin doctor"). But the base figures need to be in the ballpark. Does the foregoing suggest we are losing the race to supply "law providers" and in fact need to encourage more law schools and law graduates?

Q: We are buying our first house and were asked how we want to take title. The real estate sales lady made several suggestions that confused us since she could not explain herself.

A: Unless you have tax wills, put title in joint tenancy. That means if one of you dies, title will automatically go to the other after recording a death certificate and possibly an affidavit. No probate or new deed will be necessary.

Tenants in common is the other way to take title. There, just as with joint tenancy, both names are on the deed but there is no right of survivorship. So to transfer title from the deceased to the other, probate and a deed are needed.

Your realtor was wrong in suggesting title by the entirety since that special form of ownership is not recognized in Colorado and adding "husband and wife" after your names does nothing in Colorado. I have no idea what a "grantor's deed" is, especially since your seller is not a trust. You should always take a general warranty deed, although a quit claim deed is acceptable as long as you also get title insurance that shows that the title to the property has no problems.

Even though I am told time and time again by home buyers here in Larimer and Weld Counties that realtors do not encourage buyers to work with an attorney, perhaps you can see why just taking a few minutes may be important. The vast majority of the time everything is fine. But even though many are very, very knowledgeable, at least in real estate, agents, brokers, and even title companies are not supposed to be practicing law and giving legal advice.

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