Bonuses, Gender, General Counsel, In-House Counsel, Money, Women's Issues

Good News and Bad News About In-House Counsel Compensation

The most recent rankings of America’s best-paid general counsel reflected healthy increases in GC compensation. But that data related to the highest-paid legal officers at the nation’s largest companies. What about rank-and-file in-house lawyers?

We’ve mentioned some anecdotal evidence of in-house counsel doing very well for themselves financially. But some of our in-house readers, as well as one of our columnists, questioned whether that data was representative of in-house lawyers generally.

Now we’re happy to bring you a more systematic and all-encompassing look at in-house compensation, going beyond just general counsel, courtesy of a new survey. There’s good news and bad news….

We’ll start with the good news. From ALM Legal Intelligence:

This year’s survey reported modest gains in Salary and Total Cash Compensation for seven of the nine positions surveyed at in-house legal departments in the U.S. The most senior positions – Chief Legal Officers/General Counsel (CLO/GC) – experienced an increase in median total cash compensation to $603,400, up 11% from 2012. The number-two position – Deputy CLO – realized an increase in median total cash compensation to $372,500, up 5% from a year ago. All other positions reported slight compensation gains, except for the junior level positions of attorney and staff attorney (both down 6%).

So except for the most-junior in-house lawyers, corporate counsel are doing better for themselves these days. Earning a few hundred grand doesn’t make you rich, but there’s no denying that it’s a very handsome living. The median total cash compensation for either a GC or a deputy CLO exceeds what many a Biglaw attorney earns (even if it might pale in comparison to the take-home pay of an equity partner at an Am Law 100 firm).

Now, on to the bad news:

However, the pay increases this year were all due to raises in salary, as median bonuses were down this year in every position that was surveyed. For instance, while CLOs/GCs saw their salaries climb, their median bonuses declined more than 16% this year. Likewise, median bonuses slipped for Deputy CLOs by more than 10% over 2012. The biggest dips were among senior attorneys (down 39%) and attorneys (down 98%). [Ed. note: Is 98% a typo?]

Declining bonuses? Talk about rich people problems (which are, of course, some of our favorite problems to talk about here at Above the Law; check back with us in November, when Biglaw bonus season will be underway).

Alas, that’s not the end of the negative news. From Corporate Counsel (via today’s Morning Docket):

The women in the ALM/Corporate Counsel survey who held the top positions in their law departments—chief legal officers and general counsel—reported an average total cash compensation of $575,200, while their male counterparts pocketed an average of $723,700. Female deputy chief legal officers surveyed brought home an average of $316,400 in total cash compensation, while men in the same positions made an average $386,700. Total cash compensation was calculated in the survey as a combination of salary reported as of March 1, 2013, and annual cash bonus for 2012.

Smaller bonuses for women accounted for a large part of the disparity between the numbers for top-level men and women corporate counsel. The survey indicated that GC and CLO women and their deputies made around 40 percent less in bonus payouts than men in the same roles.

Women lawyers, if you feel you’re underpaid, don’t be afraid to ask for more. Talk to experts like Lisa Gates and Victoria Pynchon if you need help in this regard.

We’ve given you just the highlights from the in-house compensation survey. If you’d like to learn more — and are willing to pay for the privilege — you can access the full survey here.

Survey Finds High-Level Women In-House Lawyers Paid Less [Corporate Counsel via Morning Docket]
New Survey Shows Modest Pay Gains for Attorneys in U.S. Corporate Law Departments [ALM Legal Intelligence]
Law Department Compensation Benchmarking Survey [ALM Legal Intelligence (sub. req.)]
What do do if you’re afraid to ask for more [She Negotiates]

Earlier: Who Are America’s Best-Paid General Counsel? (2013 Rankings)
In Defense of In-House Counsel Compensation
House Rules: Spring Breakers

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