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Largest law departments serve governmental agencies

The law department of the US Department of Homeland Securities has roughly 1,500 lawyers (Corp. Counsel, Vol. 12, Nov. 2005 at 24). Pennsylvania’s Office of the General Counsel counted more than 700 lawyers several years ago. New York City’s Corporate Counsel Office weighs in at more than 650 lawyers (See my post of Sept. 10, 2005 about its technology investments.). The Department of Justice probably dwarfs all of these, combined, as might the Internal Revenue Service’s legal function.

I would not be surprised if the 25 largest law departments in this country included 24 government agencies. Citigroup may exceed 1,000 lawyers, but it is the most super sized of the private corporation law departments. Unfortunately, we rarely hear of innovative managerial practices coming from government law departments (See my post on April 5, 2005 regarding law department size and innovation.). Part of the reason for this lacuna is that agency law departments often use outside counsel relatively little.