It is no secret that there are more and more lawyers in the Washington area. But one area of growth largely unnoticed is in the job of in-house counsel for Washington-based corporations.

Corporate attorney jobs always have been available, but the rising cost of litigation has prompted numerous firms to hire in-house lawyers for more jobs than ever before. There are now more than 2,000 firms across the country with full-time corporate law staffs.

The Washington area has been no exception to that trend, according to date compiled from a new publication, the Law and Business Directory of Corporate Counsel, published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

None of the Washington firms is among the top 50 nationally in terms of the number of attorneys they employ. For example, nationally, AT&T employs more than 900 attorneys, and 20 large corporations employ more than 100. The 50th corporation in terms of counsel staff size employs 51 attorneys.

In the Washington area, the leaders is Communications Satellite Corp., which has 28 staff attorneys. Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone (an AT&T subsidiary) has 26 lawyers and Southern Railway Co. has 26.

Other firms based in the Washington area and the size of their legal offices are: Marriott Corp., 19; Martin Marietta Corp., 18; Rouse Co., 14; Potomac Electric Co., 10, and Fairchild Industries Inc., 10.

Additional corporate attorneys in Washington can be found in the Washington offices of firms headquartered in other cities. There are 11 attorneys in the Washington office of General Electric, which is based in Connecticut, for example.

On the other end of the scale, some good-sized Washington firms still have small legal departments. Giant Food has only three attorneys, and Garfinckel, Brooks Brothers, Miller & Rhoads has only two, according to information from the book's publishers.