12% of Israeli Lawyers Not Practicing, Figures Show

Rate of inactive attorneys is probably higher amid unmatched glut of practitioners

A graduation ceremony for one class of newly fledged Israeli lawyers joining the fold.
Olivier Fitoussi

Last week some 1,500 new lawyers were admitted to the Bar Association at a festive ceremony at Jerusalem’s Binyanei Ha’uma. But how many of them will actually end up practicing through their careers?

Figures obtained under freedom of information laws by Hatzlacha, a nonprofit organization that advocates for fairer laws and regulations for consumers, shows that at least 12% of qualified attorneys will drop out of the procession – and the figure may be a lot higher.

As of May, before the latest crop of attorneys joined the ranks, the Israel Bar Association reported that the country had 77,553 lawyers on its rolls, but no fewer than 9,336 were listed as inactive, meaning they had not paid the annual dues of 1,100 shekels ($311) and just 600 shekels for lawyers with less than five years’ experience.

Lawmen

Another 1,133 were now judges and 4,824 were on the rolls even though they were deceased. But the fact is that many of the lawyers who do pay their annual dues aren’t practicing. The dues aren’t particularly high and many people who have stopped practicing pay them so they can do legal work for friends and family from time to time. In other cases, big companies and accounting firms will pay the dues even for an employee who is not doing any legal work for them.

Even though the number of non-practicing lawyers accounts for a fifth of all those listed by the Bar Association, by most estimates Israel is suffering a glut of attorneys.

In a February interview by TheMarker with Efrat Segev, business development director for the business research firm Dun & Bradstreet Israel, estimated that Israel had 684 attorneys per 100,000 population, the highest rate in the world. That has forced the big law firms to explore new business venues.

“The big firms are looking for growth engines to expand the range of services they offer clients,” she said. “The past year saw senior partners moving between the biggest firms to create new departments that will enable them to enter new fields,” she said, noting that the addition of global legal services to their domestic practices is the next frontier.

The figures obtained by Hatzlacha show that Tel Aviv is Israel’s law capital, with the greater Tel Aviv region accounting for nearly two thirds of all the country’s lawyers. The Haifa region is No. 2 with 8,000 and the Jerusalem region No. 3 with 6,500.

In any event, the supply of new lawyers is declining. For the last two years the number of new lawyers joining the Bar Association has been 1,500 annually, down from 1,900 to 2,000 a year in years past.