A researcher wrote in 1996 that “Of the 40,000 corporations in Massachusetts with 15 or more employees, less than 1,000 (about 2%) have in-house counsel” (See my post of May 23, 2007 #1: data from Ron Fox.). Working with my norm of 2.5 lawyers on average per department, that would mean 2,000 or so in-house lawyers. In 1996, Massachusetts had approximately 6.2 million residents so this data suggests on the order of one in-house lawyer for every 3,000 residents and 150 law departments for every million residents.
The Corporate Counsel Section of the New York State Bar Association is comprised of more than 1,600 in-house attorneys. I do not know what percentage of in-house lawyers in NY State have joined that Section, but let’s guess that one-half have joined and paid the extra dues. If we assume 2.5 lawyers per department, that means 1,280 law departments. Since the population of New York State in 2010 is about 19.5 million, that means approximately one in-house lawyer for every 6,000 residents and 65 law departments for every million residents.
A group for law departments in Texas has about 325 member departments, which includes government agencies, but a manager of that group estimated there to be close to a 1,000 in the state (let’s assume 2,500 in-house lawyers). The population of Texas in 2010 is about 23.9 million people, which translates into one in-house lawyer for every 23,900 residents and 104 law departments per million residents.
On these sparse and shaky numbers, if we combine the data from the three states we could argue for one in-house lawyer for every 8,000 residents and 90 law departments for every million residents.
One final step: assume a current population of 300 million for the United States. On the admittedly frail calculations above, this country hosts something 37,500 in-house lawyers, which in turn means approximately 11,000 law departments.