Speculation on the FBI’s high number of lawyers per billion of budget

Government agencies use budgets instead of revenue for their basic comparative metric. For example, the FBI has a $6 billion budget, according to Diversity & The Bar, Jan./Feb. 2009 at 42. Its office of the general counsel, headed by Valerie Caproni, has 180 attorneys, which means its lawyers per billion dollars of budget is 30. That figure dwarfs the counterpart for any $6 billion dollar corporation, which would likely have approximately five lawyers per billion dollars of revenue.

Is the difference accounted for by lower compensation levels for the FBI attorneys? If FBI lawyers make two-thirds of what a comparable lawyer makes in a multi-billion dollar private corporation, that would possibly account for hiring more of them for approximately the same total cost.

Is the difference explained by the likelihood that the FBI lawyers do nearly all the agency’s legal work, with litigation done by the Department of Justice and very little by outside counsel? If the typical $6 billion company did nearly all of its non-litigation work internally, its lawyer ranks might double, given the 40/60 ratio of inside to outside spend that is normal.

Even so, if we reduce the FBI’s contingent of lawyers by a third because of presumed lower salaries, that leaves 20 lawyers per billion. If we double the private corporation’s lawyers per billion because we make the do nearly all non-litigation work internally, we might expect 10lawyers per billion. A 100 percent gap remains, and the FBI has few or no litigation lawyers.

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