Another piece of the puzzle came my way, courtesy of Iberian Lawyer, July/Aug. 2010 at 23. Ramon Mullerat, the former President of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of the European Union (CCBE), writes that “there are an estimated 70,000 transnational corporations with some 700,000 subsidiaries.” If the adjective “transnational” suggests companies large enough to do business in multiple countries, many of them may have an in-house legal team. For that matter, many of their subsidiaries may also.
Later in his article, Mullerat refers to “over five million lawyers around the globe,” a figure that allows me to use earlier estimates of one in-house lawyer for every 8-10 lawyers (See my post of April 13, 2006: estimates in the UK of 14.5% inside solicitors; Feb. 8, 2010: estimates based on US, UK, and French data; and June 18, 2010: number of British in-house solicitors.). That polestar would suggest something on the order of 500,000 employed lawyers, which at an average of three per law department (also a very broad presumption and probably toward the high side), results in 170,000 law departments.