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Legal Services Sector, 2007

U.S. Market Overview

The U.S. legal services industry provides expertise in all aspects of the law, including contract law, corporate law, criminal law, family and estate law, tax law, and tort law. Some transnational firms provide international business services in securities, immigration, mergers and acquisitions, tax, intellectual property, and labor law. reported that revenues of legal services firms in the United States reached $211 billion in 2005. According to the 2002 Economic Census, 179,420 establishments in the United States provide legal services. These firms had receipts of $182 billion and employed 1.16 million persons.

Trade data for legal services provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the Survey of Current Business (October 2006) show that in 2005, U.S. exports of legal services were $4.3 billion and U.S. imports of legal services were $914 million. In 2004 (the last year for which data are available) sales of legal services by foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms were $2.2 billion, and sales of legal services by U.S. subsidiaries of foreign firms were $28 million.

A foreign legal consultant (FLC) is a lawyer admitted to practice in their home jurisdiction who receives authorization from a foreign jurisdiction to practice law -- generally with certain restrictions -- in that jurisdiction. The scope of practice by an FLC can differ from state to state, and country to country. All FLC’s can advise on matters relating to the law of their home country, and under certain circumstances, can advise on matters of international law. Generally an FLC cannot represent others before courts in a foreign country, or offer services relating to local law.

In the United States, the legal services industry is regulated by each state, and state bar associations administer state bar examinations and make rules concerning recognition of practitioners from outside the State. State bar associations also administer rules of professional conduct applicable to lawyers. One exception to state regulation of lawyers is the specialized bar practicing before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office of the U.S. Department of Commerce, which is regulated by the Federal Government.

Global deal making requires U.S. firms to maintain a presence overseas. Corporate restructuring, privatization, cross-border mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property rights, new financial instruments and competition law continue to generate demand for more sophisticated legal services. Under the WTO/GATS agreement, about 60 countries scheduled commitments to international trade in legal services.