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Just How Rich Is Twitter’s General Counsel?

In-house legal jobs are growing in prestige. As our very own Mark Herrmann recently noted, in-house lawyers were once viewed as “the folks who couldn’t succeed at real jobs,” namely, jobs at firms. But that’s no longer true today, Herrmann argued, citing the trend of Biglaw partners leaving their firms for gigs as corporate counsel.

What is behind the growing allure of in-house jobs? Sure, the work is interesting and exciting, and yes, bossing around outside counsel is fun. But improving pay packages also play a role. As you can see from the rankings of America’s best-paid general counsel, GCs at top companies can take home millions.

And those rankings, by Corporate Counsel, focus on cash compensation. In-house lawyers can make many multiples of their cash comp through stock.

Take Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s general counsel. She became GC less than a year ago, but she already owns tens of millions in TWTR shares, as revealed in recent reporting about the end of Twitter’s IPO lockup period….

Gadde, who graduated from Cornell in 1997 and NYU Law in 2000, is probably around 40 (and looks even younger). She joined Twitter’s legal department in July 2011, after almost a decade at Wilson Sonsini and a short stint at Juniper Networks, and she became general counsel around August 2013, after Alex Macgillivray stepped down.

A few days ago, while reading about Twitter’s IPO lockup period expiring, I came across this tidbit:

Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s general counsel, sold 13,346 shares for $33.77 on Tuesday, reaping proceeds of about $451,000. She still owns about 848,000 shares, the filing said.

Twitter just closed at $33.39 a share. At that price, Gadde’s 848,296 shares are worth $28,324,603.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Gadde will ultimately walk away with that much; the stock price could go down before she liquidates her full position. In fact, the stock price has already come down from its all-time high of $74.73, giving Gadde a paper loss of more than $35 million (although not a loss she could have averted, due to the lockup).

But hey, the stock might go up as well. Gadde might get more stock issued to her as the years pass. And she can also take steps to protect herself against future dips in Twitter stock — through the use of options, for example. No matter how you look at it, it’s safe to say that Gadde is doing very, very well for herself. Earning $28 million from toiling at Wilson Sonsini would have taken her many, many years.

Vijaya Gadde is not the first general counsel to make a killing through a company going public, of course. There’s Ted Ullyot, former GC of Facebook, who has already sold more than $24 million in Facebook shares and who appears to still hold more than $42 million in Facebook shares (at today’s closing price of $59.83). Or take Gregory Palm — GC of Goldman Sachs, and a partner at Goldman prior to its IPO — who received stock and options worth $59 million between 2002 and 2010. Greg Palm continues to serve as executive vice president and general counsel, so he has surely earned many millions more since we last checked in on him.

Congratulations to Vijaya Gadde, Ted Ullyot, Greg Palm, and the many other very well-paid in-house lawyers. It’s nice to know that Biglaw isn’t the only path to big bucks within the legal profession.

Twitter Insiders Sell After Lockup Expires [Bits / New York Times]
Twitter To Appoint Vijaya Gadde as General Counsel as Alex Macgillivray Moves On [Techcrunch]

Earlier: The Generational Divide In Perceptions Of In-House Counsel
Musical Chairs: Ted Ullyot Is Leaving Facebook
Goldman General Counsel Greg Palm Is Still Richer Than You
Who Are America’s Best-Paid General Counsel? (2013 Rankings)

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