How Many Lawyers Are There in the US? A Small Business Perspective

As a consultant who assists entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses, I‘m often asked about finding and working with business lawyers. So how many lawyers are out there that can provide legal services to small and medium sized companies? In this article, we‘ll take a deep dive into the size and scope of the legal profession in America to understand the landscape for legal services.

Over 1.3 Million Total Lawyers

  • According to the American Bar Association, there were 1,338,678 licensed attorneys in the United States as of 2021.
  • This means there is approximately one lawyer for every 245 Americans.

That‘s a sizeable number to draw from when seeking legal support. Keep in mind not all of these lawyers work with businesses. Let‘s analyze further where they work…

Lawyers by Industry

Chart showing 50% at law firms, 16% in government, 8% corporate, 26% other

  • 50% of lawyers work at private law firms. This includes big national firms down to small local practices.
  • 16% work in government positions at the federal, state and local level.
  • 8% work in-house in corporate legal departments.
  • The remaining 26% work in other industries like education, non-profits, and more.

So when targeting lawyers who can provide counsel to entrepreneurs, law firms and corporate lawyers are a focus.

Lawyers Per Capita by State

Some states have a much higher concentration of lawyers than others, as this table illustrates:

State Number of Lawyers Lawyers per Capita
New York 184,664 1 per 132 residents
California 171,403 1 per 263 residents
Florida 74,726 1 per 348 residents
Texas 93,720 1 per 349 residents
Illinois 62,047 1 per 348 residents

As you can see, New York and California have by far the most lawyers per resident. My clients in these states have an abundant choice of legal services.

Most Lawyers Work Full-Time

  • Approximately 83% of lawyers work full-time.
  • 10% work part-time.
  • 7% are retired or inactive.

This indicates most attorneys devote their careers fully to the practice of law. Young lawyers tend to work long hours as they build their skills and client base.

Increased Demand for Legal Services

  • Between 1980 and 2018, the number of U.S. lawyers more than doubled from 542,205 to 1,335,963.
  • The growth correlates to increasing population, economic activity, regulations, and court cases requiring legal expertise.

As an advisor to startups, I‘ve witnessed firsthand the demand for legal services continue to rise as more new businesses emerge. The complexity of commercial transactions and regulations necessitates thorough counsel.

While lawyer jokes abound, the reality is that qualified legal advice is indispensable for entrepreneurs. Don‘t be intimidated by the immense size of the profession – many dedicated lawyers are ready to assist small businesses navigate their needs.