I just got back from a day at court. After court was over, I went to see another attorney about some work he needed done. He had just returned from a seminar where a local judge recounted how many foreclosures that are starting to take place locally. The real shocking news was that about half of the foreclosures were homes owned by attorneys. Apparently the market is worse than I previously thought.
Now, the judge's account is merely anecdotal, but the fact that she is noticing a significant number of attorneys who are losing their homes in foreclosure is, to me, substantial.
Based on what I am generally hearing at the courthouse, and from this lawyer in particular, incomes are down for attorneys. After the change in the bankruptcy law, mine sure is. I went from doing 3 or 4 consumer bankruptcies a week to 4 all of last year. Because of the nature of the law practice, it is not so easy to "retool" your practice if your area of concentration or specialty is curtailed due to legislation. I am not the only attorney to face a fractured market. Oklahoma severely restricted worker's compensation. (I don't really practice this area, but my understanding is that they eliminated all compensation for "soft tissue" injuries.) Oklahoma also has limits on punitive and exemplary damages. I have previously written on the attempted restriction on medical malpractice lawsuits.
The net result of all these "reforms" is that it has led to lower incomes for attorneys. So it is no wonder that attorneys are feeling the same crunch as the rest of middle America. In some ways, I'll admit that there may be some good in it. Lawyers are still the educated class. They will be able to articulate why the conservative attempts to limit access to the courts is a bad idea.
In the past, lawyers argued for more access to the courts because "jaw-jaw" is better than "war-war." That is to say: it is better that people be able to fight out their differences in the courtroom than riot on the streets with weapons and violence. Less access to the courts mean less avenues for responsible and peaceful resolutions of real or perceived injustices.
I have actually considered (and am still considering) getting out of the practice of law completely. But getting out of the law practice is not so easy. Once on a case, it can be a tar baby to get out of. (On a side note, although I touch on racial issues in this post, I am not using "tar baby" in the sense of a racial epithet. I would use another term -- if I could think of one -- but I cannot find any references to other terms that have the same meaning.)
Yesterday, Barry Ritholtz of the Big Picture blog published a series of colored maps on the risk of foreclosures around the country. He got the maps from a site called Neighboroo. Based on this map, the far west side of Oklahoma City is at the least risk for foreclosures, while the rest of the metropolitan area are at a greater risk.
Based on what I know about Oklahoma City, it appears there is some correlation to African-American areas having a greater risk of foreclosures than other areas. There has been some hints in the past that African-Americans have been steered into more risky loans than other racial groups, so this could be an indication of it as well.
I have more of a tendency to believe that it has a greater correlation to poorer and less-educated populations being taken advantage of rather than on a strictly racial basis. But I think that because African-Americans have less economic power as a group that it shows up as a racial correlation.
Here is a page that explains the terms "Collateral Risk" and "Foreclosure Rate."