In 2008, the UK had approximately 130,000 lawyers according to an article in Law Bus. Rev., Winter 2009 at 54. By some estimates, the same year the US had somewhat more than a million practicing lawyers. Other estimates suggest that the US has roughly one lawyer in a legal department for every ten lawyers in private practice (See my post of Dec. 3, 2006: worldwide ratio of 3.1 applied to Fortune 500.). That same ratio of 10 percent carried to the UK would mean about 13,000 employed lawyers in corporate practice. Is it just coincidence that the Commerce & Industry group in the UK has 11,000 members, roughly nine percent (9%) of the country’s practicing lawyers?
Across the Channel, The European Lawyer, Issue 92, Jan. 2010 at 21, states that while “there are around 45,600 private practice lawyers working in France, it is estimated that an additional 40,000 lawyers work in-house at legal departments.” That ratio of external counsel outnumbering internal counsel by a mere ten percent differs enormously from the ratio in the United States and the UK.
Thus, in the US and UK about one-tenth of the practicing lawyers are in-house, but in France the ratio is close to even. Perhaps different definitions of lawyers are involved.
The European Lawyer article adds that “the voluntary French Association of Company Lawyers only has around 3,000 individual members.” That means less than one out of ten in-house lawyers belong, unlike in the UK where perhaps membership is mandatory.