Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2008


Law practice continues to expand across borders, and lawyers and law firms from the United States and other countries are substantially invested in representations that take them outside of their home jurisdictions.[1] Unfortunately, reliable information relating to the extent of internationalization of the legal market is scarce. Neither the number of lawyers and law firms working in the international legal services market nor the receipts generated from internationally-related work are readily and reliably available. Nevertheless, statistics from both the United States and United Kingdom provide a sense of the numbers from the largest present sources of international legal practice.

In the category of outbound services, for example, we can consider how U.S. lawyers and law firms serve foreign clients and U.S.-based clients in their offshore activities. One measure of these services could include the offshore activity of U.S. law firms. The American Lawyer Global 100 includes nine U.S.-based law firms with more than a quarter of their lawyers stationed outside of the United States, three of which support more than 50 percent of their lawyers working from overseas offices.[2] Another study of approximately sixty large U.S. law firms reported that those firms support approximately 375 offices overseas, where approximately 8,000 lawyers are working;[3] three-quarters of these lawyers are working in offices located in Europe. The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the export of legal services from the United States generated $4.3 billion in receipts in 2005, while imports of legal services were valued at $914 million, yielding a 4:1 surplus for balance-of-payment accounts.[4] According to the U.K. Department of Constitutional Affairs, British law firms generated £1.9 billion in exports in 2003, compared to £1.5 billion in imports.[5]