Community Perspectives: Trying to make an argument for an increase in headcount and looking for data. What's the size of your legal department?

In-house legal professionals share insight into their company legal department details.

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Community Perspectives: Trying to make an argument for an increase in headcount and looking for data. What's the size of your legal department?

(Author) Legal Professional

I’m trying to make an argument for an increase in headcount and looking for data. What's the size of your legal department? I'm finding data via ACC, CLOC, etc., but most of it is for larger companies. For example, CLOC notes an average of 15 lawyers for "small" companies, defined as <$1B in revenues.

I’m looking for insight on the size of legal departments for companies that are in the $100M to $250M revenue range. The industry is technology / energy but interested in data from other verticals as well.

Director Responses:

  • Company 1: 300M revenue, 1500 employees, 7 lawyers. Company 2: 100M revenue, 450 employees, 5 lawyers, 2 legal ops. Current company: 450M revenue, 800 employees, 3 lawyers, with 3 open head count. All were growing healthcare tech companies.

Counsel Responses:

  • On the smaller end, headcount will vary widely based on industry. A privately-owned long-running widget company could get by with 1-3 lawyers keeping things going. A flourishing mid-life healthcare or fintech startup with similar revenue might need 5+ lawyers and lots of outside compliance and regulatory advice. For that reason, I also think you need to measure this holistically alongside outside counsel spend. I suspect many of the places with one inside counsel have larger legal budgets. And for you, the best way to make your case is to demonstrate how bringing somebody in-house can help you save on outside spending.
  • My old company was about $80M for its primary business. Maybe $100M total. We started with like nine lawyers including three IP lawyers. It was far too many. Six months after I left it was maybe three lawyers plus a real estate lawyer and no IP.
  • My current company is a $4B global company. We have about 16 commercial lawyers, a contract manager, and a paralegal (Europe). Separately, we also have 6-7 IP lawyers with different reporting structures. We are overwhelmed.
  • I was in charge of all litigation nationwide (employment, commercial, IP, labeling, marketing etc), all employment law advice, labor law, regulatory compliance, ADA, and COVID. Our corporate counsel was in charge of all contracts and corporate, IP advice and enforcement, privacy. Our corporate counsel and I split all marketing and advertising advice. It was hell.
  • Yes, our department was “really lean” AKA they were fine with us working 16-hour-days. Hence why I left.
  • My previous company was $6B in revenue with 50,000 employees and we had five lawyers. The industry was retail.

Attorney and Associate Responses:

  • I’d like to know the sales members to attorneys ratio. My company completely lacks a legal department (two attorneys, and I’m the only US attorney with 1700 employees) This post will be helpful for me!
  • Have you looked at Gartner? they have a lot of data on this.
  • Energy sector here - one GC, two AGC, and two senior counsel.
  • Foreign tech company, between $5-10B in annual revenue, and about 40 people in legal (with 9 domestic).
  • I can’t imagine we had more than five practice areas (commercial, corporate, employment, IP, privacy, litigation, real estate, global team). I don’t know how you did it.
  • I was at a retail company with $5B in revenue and we had 30 lawyers.

Other Legal and Business Operations Responses:

  • I am also interested in this information. - I know of a company with 100 sales people and only one in-house counsel. What are others seeing?
  • We do a lot of benchmarking against Gartner and AOn data. HBR might have some free data, too. Frankly, I suspect that benchmark data isn’t as compelling to senior leaders as simply demonstrating the value additional resources can deliver to the organization. Good luck!

In-house? Join the conversation on Fishbowl (anonymous).