New counts show the number of federal lawyers now exceed the individual public payrolls of twelve states or the top seven largest private law firms in the USA, combined.  It’s Uncle Sam, Esq.  As Mario Puzo cautioned in The Godfather, “A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.”

Many times, those lawyers are out to protect the government’s interests, not the public interest.  Consider the example of North Carolina convenience store owner, Lyndon McLellan.  McLellan was accused of making cash bank deposits less than $10,000 to avoid reporting requirements.  The feds dropped the case but kept McLellan’s life savings of $107,000 for more than two years.  Prosecutors even had the audacity to warn him not to go to the media.

A study illustrates the extent to which the little guys are outgunned.  Here is just a small sample of findings:

  • 25,060 lawyers on the rank and file federal agency payroll with a job classification of "general attorney" cost taxpayers $3.3 billion last year and $26.2 billion since 2007, plus $130 million in bonuses.
  • The average federal lawyer "earned" $132,817.06 plus bonuses.
  • The number of federal lawyers exceeds the total public payroll headcount of twelve states including Alaska (25,050); Delaware (23,249); Idaho (20,270); Maine (18,602); Maryland (16,877); Nevada (24,524); New Hampshire (14,694); North Dakota (15,742); Rhode Island (17,073); South Dakota (12,774); Vermont (13,289); and Wyoming (8,500).
  • If the feds were a private-sector law firm, they would exceed the top 7 largest private law firms combined (24,411): Baker & McKenzie (4,363); Yingke (4,153); DLA Piper (3,702); Dacheng (3,700); Norton Rose Fulbright (3,461); CMS Legal Service (2,522); and Jones Day (2,510).
  • More than half of the lawyers are located inside the Washington, D.C., beltway.

For good reason, businesses fear an overzealous federal pursuit of "justice" and its guilty-until-proven-innocent attitude.  If the government is coming after you, the implication is you must have done something wrong.  LabMD was a thriving company testing blood, urine, and tissue samples for urologists and had 30 employees with $4 million in annual sales.  Then, the Federal Trade Commission came knocking, and the rest is history.

Unlike private-sector litigants who have to balance the cost-risk of litigation against the eventual bottom-line reward, the federal government knows no such constraints.  If anything, their emphasis on win/loss stats encourages them to pursue the little guys rather than large firms that have the means to mount a vigorous defense.  The fraudulent case the Department of Injustice just pursued against Tom Scott is a classic example of the government pursuing little guys and wasting millions of tax dollars in the process.

American citizens and the business community have good reason to fear the fed's army of 25,060 lawyers.  In The Godfather, Mario Puzo had it right.  Today, the heavy boot of government often comes disguised wearing a pair of wingtips delivering intrusive subpoenas devoid of due process.