Adam Bonica, Adam S. Chilton, and Maya Sen have an extensive new paper (pdf) on this subject:
American lawyers lean to the left of the ideological spectrum. To help place this in context, the mean DIME score among the attorney population is -0.31 compared to -0.05 for the entire population of donors. Moreover, some 62% of the sample of attorneys are positioned to the left of the midpoint between the party means for members of Congress. Morover, the modal CFscore is in the center-left. This places the average American lawyer’s ideology close to the ideology of Bill Clinton. To be more precise, the modal CFscore for American lawyers is -0.52 and Bill Clinton’s CFscore is -0.68. This confirms prior scholarship and journalism that has argued that the legal profession is liberal on balance. To our knowledge, however, this figure represents the most comprehensive picture of the ideology of American lawyers ever assembled.
There is however a (quite slight) bimodal nature to the distribution and a cluster of right-leaning attorneys has views similar to those of Mitt Romney. Not so many lawyers are true extremists, at least not in this data set. Figure 2 on p.19 will not reproduce for me but it is an excellent picture of the data, including comparisons with other professions.
We learn also that female attorneys are considerably more liberal than male attorneys, but the number of years of work predicts a conservative pull. Being a law firm partner also predicts views which are more conservative than average. If you consider “Big Law” attorneys, while they are overall to the Left, they are more conservative on average than the cities they live in, such as NYC or Los Angeles. Lawyers in Washington, D.C. are especially left-leaning.
The top fourteen law schools all have distributions which lean to the Left (pp.28-29), and UC Berkeley has the most left-leaning alumni. The five law schools, of the fifty surveyed, with right-leaning alumni are University of Oklahoma, Texas A&M University, University of Georgia, Louisiana State University, and Brigham Young University. Pages 38-40 of the paper rank different major law firms by how left- or right-leaning their employees are.
Oil and gas, M&A, and energy lawyers are relatively conservative, see p.45. Entertainment lawyers are relatively left-leaning, same for civil rights and personal injury lawyers. Don’t even ask about law professors. Public defenders are far more left-leaning than prosecutors, though prosecutors are still more left-leaning than lawyers as a whole.
This paper is interesting throughout.