Amy Schulman, Bonuses, General Counsel, In-House Counsel, Money, Rankings

Who Are America’s Best-Paid General Counsel? (2014 Rankings)

What’s more stressful: working in-house, or working at a law firm? Conventional wisdom might say that law firm life is more stressful — but that’s not the case for everyone, as recently explained by one of our in-house columnists, Susan Moon.

So in-house lawyers might be more stressed than many people think. But at least they’re getting paid a pretty penny to put up with all these headaches — mo’ problems, mo’ money?

That’s one conclusion to be drawn from Corporate Counsel’s new rankings of the nation’s best-paid general counsel. Conventional wisdom holds that in-house lawyers earn less than their Biglaw counterparts — but top in-house lawyers, the GCs of the nation’s largest companies, earn sums that meet or even exceed Biglaw partner pay….

We noted the salary survey in Morning Docket. Here’s more, from Corporate Counsel:

[L]ast year’s significant gains in GC pay were no fluke. It was another lucrative year for the chief legal officers on our list, and a confirmation that after relatively tough times earlier in the decade, happy paydays are indeed here again. ALM Legal Intelligence’s evaluation of publicly disclosed pay packages for the 100 best-compensated general counsel in 2013 shows that salary and bonuses are going up, and equity awards, while experiencing a very slight dip this year, are still more popular than options.

Here’s how general counsel compensation changed on various fronts since last year’s survey:

  • Average base salary: $701,000, up 6.8 percent.
  • Average bonus: $1,211,608, up 8 percent.
  • Average bonus plus nonequity incentive compensation: $1,271,867, up 6.3 percent.
  • Average stock option award: $769,280, down 13.4 percent.
  • Average stock award: $1,562,059, down 33.5 percent.

That big dip in the average stock award isn’t as bad as it looks. As explained by Corporate Counsel, “last year’s numbers were inflated by hefty performance-based awards going to Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Inc.’s general counsel, Bruce Sewell…. Without Sewell, the average stock award this year would only be 3.6 percent lower than it was in 2012.”

In last year’s survey, Sewell topped the stock-award list with a $66,571,750 stock grant in 2012. This time around, the biggest stock award was far smaller — a $5,218,930 restricted award to Frank Steeves of Emerson Electric Co.

Big stock awards are nice, but remember that they don’t factor into the Corporate Counsel rankings. The magazine ranks GCs by cash compensation (salary plus bonus).

To those rankings we now turn….

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