U.S. lawyers working for the government outnumber corporate lawyers two to one?

A new report from Rand, “Innovations in the Provision of Legal Services in the United States,” puts the range of U.S. attorneys at 760,000 to 1,100,000. It cites Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession for estimates that in 2007, lawyers in the United States included 120,000 in government (16% of the total attorney population) and 65,000 in “business.” The split of government lawyers is roughly equal between federal, state, and local government. If my often-used rough estimate holds of three lawyers per law department, the total government headcount suggests they constitute a whopping 40,000 law departments!

Further, the Rand report says 3,300 lawyers were employed by interest groups and 2,400 by “public interest organizations.” The report led me to High Beam, which states in a 2011 study that “A survey of ABA membership indicated that 4 out of 5 (80 percent) attorneys worked in private practice with law firms and another 10 percent worked in corporate law departments.” The ABA has about 440,000 members, but if we take the mid-point of the ranged cited above from Rand, that would place in-side counsel at about 90,000. On the assumptions I have used previously, that converts to 30,000 law departments or so in corporate America.

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