In a retrospective spanning 1981 to 2006, Canadian Lawyer Inhouse, Vol. 2, Feb. 2007 at 7, found that during that 25-year span, “the number of lawyers employed in the corporate sector has tripled.” The study did not include government lawyers or lawyers of Canadian corporations hired outside of Canada. Rising from 1,125 to 3,329 lawyers, that increase amounts to a compounded annual growth rate of roughly 4.3 percent (See my post of Nov. 26, 2006 for a riveting frolic through the delights of CAGR.). What amazed me is that the expansion in-house almost doubled the expansion in the number of Canadian lawyers in private practice (2.2 percent).
It is possible that in the US the same relative growth rates hold true – law departments added lawyers faster than law firms and solo practitioners added to their numbers – but the explanation may be that during those two decades law departments were coming into their own and staffing up (See my post of Sept. 10, 2005 on relative growth of US firms and departments.).
It also took me aback that “Canada’s five biggest banks alone employ about 10 percent of the lawyers who work in corporations.” That would not be true in the US; insurance firms might hold a similar dominant position in terms of numbers of lawyers.