General Counsel, In-House Counsel

Salary Scale and Recession Survival Tactics for In-House Counsel

The appeal of working in-house is two-fold: decent hours and decent $$$ enough money to live on. How much money exactly? A new survey out from legal recruiter Laurence Simons (gavel bang: WSJ Law Blog) has the median salary ranges for those in-house, with experience ranging from zero to 21+ years. It’s six figures throughout, but barely in those baby years.

As we’ve noted before, salaries in-house remained flat in 2009. The Global Salary and Benefits survey [PDF] included responses from 1900 in-house lawyers world-wide, and breaks its results down by country.

Corporate Counsel reports that bonuses were uncommon in-house in the U.S. last year, so base salary reflects fairly reliably what these folks actually made last year. So what do those base salaries in-house look like?

Here’s the range, not including bonuses:

It should come as no surprise that a sixth year in-house (or even a 21+ years in-house) is going to be looking at his or her Biglaw counterpart’s take-home with envy. But getting home every day by 6 p.m. is worth the $100k salary sacrifice for some.

Another benefit: those in-house folk don’t have to worry as much about being fired. The survey says of U.S. legal departments:

Unlike law firms that saw extensive layoffs in 2009, most in- house departments battened down the hatches and managed to maintain headcount by freezing pay, slashing bonuses and shelving recruitment plans. As the market improves we are seeing a definite if modest return to hiring and, in some areas, a correspondingly small improvement in reward levels.

Though in an interview with Corporate Counsel, surveyor Laurence Simons noted that U.S. companies had fired more lawyers than had companies in Europe. Yet another reason to wish you worked abroad.

A different survey, from the Association of Corporate Counsel, revealed exactly what “batten down the hatches” meant last year, based on responses from over 900 in-house lawyers. They were cutting internally, but they cut back on outside counsel first:

In-house may have better job security and work/life balance than on the law firm side, but when it comes to the boot, it can be a harsh place. When we attended the InsideCounsel SuperConference in May, we met an in-house lawyer who had recently been told his position had become redundant: he was given just two weeks’ notice.

Global In-House Salary Survey Finds U.S. Headcounts Hit, Salaries Flat [Corporate Counsel]
Even In-House, Where Life is Dreamy, Times are Tough [WSJ Law Blog]

Earlier: In-House Counsel Salaries Might Not Be Frozen, But They Are Certainly Flat

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