General Counsel, In-House Counsel, Money

Your Job May Keep You Up At Night, But It Really Pays To Be General Counsel

Times are changing for in-house attorneys, especially for those lucky enough to ascend to the rank of general counsel. With increased regulation has come increased growth at in-house law departments, as well as increased responsibilities — so much so that general counsel have bemoaned the fact that their “jobs keep [them] up at night.” However, considering that many of them are now earning even more than they did last year, they probably shouldn’t be complaining too much about their jobs.

But that’s the thing with in-house compensation: relevant salary data is harder to come by than it is in Biglaw. In-house salaries don’t follow the Biglaw lockstep model, they’re often negotiable, and they can vary widely depending on a broad range of factors such as industry, size of legal department, and tenure. If you play your cards right, you could wind up out-earning your company’s corporate executives.

Just how much money are we talking about here? Let’s check out the results of the latest survey on general counsel compensation and find out….

Yesterday, Equilar released its 2012 In-Depth Top General Counsel Compensation Report (sub. req.), a study that examined pay packages among 404 general counsel in the Fortune 1000. Here’s the good news, folks: at $1,409,982, median total compensation for general counsel is up 2.4 percent from last year.

Here are more of the details gleaned from Equilar’s report, courtesy of Corporate Counsel:

The median total compensation figure accounts for base salary; annual cash bonus; time-based option awards; time-based stock or unit awards; and performance-based awards. This year’s pay-out for general counsel breaks down as follows:

  • Median base salary: $425,000
  • Median bonus: $287,216
  • Median options: $120,000
  • Median stock: $120,000
  • Median performance incentives: $255,000

And if having the ability to roll around in a pile of money isn’t good enough for you, today’s general counsel are also eligible to receive some rather high-end perks, like company cars or drivers, the use of company aircraft, and home or personal security. Not for nothing, but perhaps their jobs keep them up at night because they’re busy playing with these expensive toys and counting all of their money.

Also of note from the results of this study is the fact that unlike their Biglaw counterparts, women general counsel have slightly edged out their male competition in terms of compensation. While women in the top in-house slot at Fortune 500 companies earned a median total of $1,285,063, men earned $1,111,578. We won’t hold our breath waiting for Biglaw to follow suit in terms of equity in compensation.

In the end, jobs may have gotten harder for general counsel in the Fortune 1000, but the cold, hard cash that keeps rolling in should be more than enough to outweigh their sleepless nights.

2012 In-Depth Top General Counsel Compensation Report [Equilar (sub. req.)]
Latest Survey of GC Compensation Shows Earnings Going Up [Corporate Counsel]
New Roles for In-House Lawyers: ‘Our Jobs Keep Us Up at Night.’ [WSJ Law Blog]

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