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Q: How many lawyers in the U.S.? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: How many lawyers in the U.S.?
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: executivehotline-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 14 Feb 2003 07:50 PST
Expires: 16 Mar 2003 07:50 PST
Question ID: 161335
I need to know how many lawyers there are in the U.S. If it is
possible to ascertain (or make an educated guess), I would really like
to know how many are licensed and practicing vs. licensed and not

Here is what I already know...

Per the BLS: Lawyers held about 681,000 jobs in 2000. About 3 out of 4
lawyers practiced privately, either in law firms or in solo practices.
Most of the remaining lawyers held positions in government, the
greatest number at the local level.  In the Federal Government,
lawyers work for many different agencies but are concentrated in the
Departments of Justice, Treasury, and Defense. A small number of
lawyers are employed as house counsel by public utilities, banks,
insurance companies, real estate agencies, manufacturing firms,
welfare and religious organizations, and other business firms and
nonprofit organizations. Some salaried lawyers also have part-time
independent practices; others work as lawyers part time while working
full time in another occupation.  (See:
Some states have statistics on the number of licensed lawyers in their
locality. However, licensed lawyers do not necessarily practice. To
find statistics on licensed lawyers, contact the American Bar
Association: [I have not done this.]
If I'm reading it right, this Census Dept report says in 1997 there
were 173,716 "legal services" establishments in the U.S., with 1.01m
employees and $127 billion in receipts. (That would be about $125,000
in receipts per employee.)
This 1996 publication says there were 720,000 lawyers practicing in
the U.S. at that time, and 25,000 new graduates per year
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 490,000 lawyers in 2001 but that's
employees only - does not include self-employed etc. Also does not
include judges, arbitrators, and other legal types.
I also found a cogent argument (from a non-governmental source) that
quality of life varies inversely with the number of attorneys per

I am looking for a credible estimate of the # of lawyers in the U.S.
The information/data/logical assumptions you provide must be
incremental to what I have stated in this post.
Subject: Re: How many lawyers in the U.S.?
Answered By: jbf777-ga on 14 Feb 2003 10:16 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
This answer is not finished until you're satisfied with it.  If you
need any clarification/information, please don't hesitate to ask
before rating this answer. Thank you for your understanding.

According to the American Bar Association, there are 1,049,751
currently practicing lawyers in the US as of the end of 2002.

This is up from 1,048,903 in 2001.

This information was sourced from the following American Bar
Association document, which has a breakdown per state:

American Bar Association Market Research Department

Unfortunately, both the American Bar Association and American Bar
Foundation are unaware of non-practicing lawyer statistics.  This
statistic is a tough one to come by.  A rep from Forbes magazine who
does a lot of the legal writing for the magazine agrees with this,
citing that the definitions of "non-practicing" could be ambiguous and
difficult to nail to a demographic.

Here's a brief excerpt on the topic, for what it's worth:
"Forbes magazine reports that in California the number of inactive
attorneys has risen by 50% from a decade ago and in Massachusetts the
number of inactive attorneys grew 3% in three years. Further, Forbes
says, a full 38% of attorneys say that they somewhat regret their
career choice. Additionally, Harvard Law School counselors estimate
that 20% to 30% of active attorneys are considering another career."

You may want to visit Martindale-Hubbel as
an additional resource to pursue.

Thank you,

GA Researcher

Request for Answer Clarification by executivehotline-ga on 14 Feb 2003 10:38 PST
Are you able to determine how many individual lawyers (unique
individuals, no duplicates e.g. same person in multiple offices or
switched firms) are listed in Martindale-Hubbell?

Clarification of Answer by jbf777-ga on 14 Feb 2003 11:19 PST
I talked to two representatives there.  One says there are "no
duplicates."  Another said  there are over a million records in the
database of both lawyers and law firms.  Getting the actual number of
individual lawyers would entail searching the CD, which is available
for a fee.
executivehotline-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Good sleuthing.

Subject: Re: How many lawyers in the U.S.?
From: expertlaw-ga on 14 Feb 2003 14:51 PST
Dear executivehotline-ga,

As jbf777-ga indicated, it is difficult to determine how many lawyers
are actively practicing, as opposed to holding law licenses but not
actually practicing law. When I was with an educational nonprofit in
Michigan which serves the legal community, we estimated that a third
of Michigan's licensed lawyers were not actually in active practice.
Many licensed lawyers are retired or are employed in non-legal fields.

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