The number of in-house solicitors has doubled to 25,600 since the year 2000 as organisations seek to combat rising external legal fees, according to research from the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

In-house solicitors represent 18% of the profession, with 60% working in the private sector. Of those, 30% are employed in the financial services sector, found the Role of In-house Solicitors survey.

Around 18% are employed in local government, with 8% working for the Crown Prosecution Service and 3% working in the third sector, according to the 2,013 respondents to the survey.

Financial pressures have contributed to the sector’s growth, with general counsel playing an important role in controlling external spend in the face of rising legal costs, said the research.

Consequently many organisations have brought in-house work previously done by external firms, resulting in the termination of sometimes long-standing relationships.

Improvements to efficiency, cost reduction and better risk management were identified as the key benefits of in-house legal departments, according to a separate survey by the SRA of 213 employers.

Of employers surveyed, 15 said they were considering the business case for an alternative business structure application. If extrapolated across all organisations employing in-house solicitors, this could mean up to 700 organisations are considering applying to become an ABS, the SRA said.

Richard Collins (pictured), SRA executive director, said: ‘Many in-house solicitors are in a role that also involves providing advice to third parties outside of their organisation, and potentially linked to that, it would seem that there is an appetite among some organisations to convert to an ABS.’

According to the survey of in-house solicitors, those in the private sector work on average 44 hours per week and receive a salary of £100,000, while public sector solicitors work 40 hours and receive an average salary of £50,000.

Women make up a higher proportion of the in-house solicitors (56%) compared with the overall number population of solicitors (48%), with the highest number found in the public sector (66%).

Around 15% of in-house solicitors are black minority ethnic (BME). Of the total 1.4% have said they have some form of disability, the research found.