The Fortune 500 amassed revenue of close to $10 trillion in 2011. At five lawyers typically for every billion of revenue, they alone would employ something like 50,000 in-house lawyers. What else can we cobble together about the number of law departments in the United States.
With something like 25,000 law departments in the United States (See my post of Sept. 25, 2005: ACCA estimate of 71,000 non-governmental in-house lawyers; Dec. 3, 2006: possible Fortune 500 staff figures; Dec. 31, 2008: oblique data suggests about 21% in-house; March 9, 2009: ABA data and 8% in-house; April 2, 2009 #2: data from 1961 to 1991; June 15, 2009: almost one out of five lawyers in a large survey had gone in-house by their seventh year of practice; Oct. 7, 2010 #1: US has 30,000 companies with 100+ employees; Dec. 31, 2010: clues from subscriptions to trade journals and listings of largest law departments; July 20, 2011: estimates 30,000 departments; and Dec. 20, 2011: closer to 30,000 departments. ), employing at least one lawyer per department – call it 20,000 more. Governmental legal staffs contribute more – a pure guess at 15,000 federal and 20,000 state and local (See my post of May 13, 2012: law departments of government agencies.).
OK, so how can we correlate the estimate of 100,000 in-house lawyers to other facts? There are approximately one million lawyers practicing law in the United States, but 500,000 of them are solo practitioners who do very little corporate work. Take away 100,000 in-house lawyers from the remainder, then that leaves 400,000 in multi-lawyer private practices.
But every in-house lawyer supports approximately one lawyer in private practice (See my post of Aug. 14, 2006: one hour for one hour.), so the numbers don’t work out. It must be that many of the multi-lawyer practitioners serve individuals or entities without in-house counsel.