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….
Last year, all things considered, wasn’t a bad year for Biglaw. The law firms of the Am Law 100, for example, experienced decent growth. In 2011, for the Am Law 100 as a whole, gross revenue grew by 5.3 percent, revenue per lawyer grew by 1.9 percent, and profits per partner grew by 3 percent. It was a perfectly fine year for partners.
How did their counterparts on the corporate side fare? Alas, not as well, according to Corporate Counsel’s latest compensation survey of the nation’s general counsel. Base pay for GCs in the survey declined by 1.8 percent, to an average of $611,411. Bonuses and nonequity incentive pay slid by an even larger number, 7.7 percent, to an average of $1,125,458. Meanwhile, in terms of non-cash compensation, the average stock award fell by 10.8 percent, to $1,426,325, and the average stock option award dropped by a whopping 18.7 percent, to $732,453.
These are just the top-line figures — which, of course, conceal a lot of individual variability. Let’s take a look at some specific names and numbers, as well as the top ten highest-paid general counsel….
In May 2006, then-Judge J. Michael Luttig made major news in the legal world by resigning from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to become senior vice president and general counsel of aerospace giant Boeing. Luttig served as a Fourth Circuit judge for almost 15 years, during which time he reigned as the #1 feeder judge, sending almost all of his clerks into Supreme Court clerkships, and came extremely close to becoming a justice himself.
Luttig’s resignation from his life-tenured Fourth Circuit judgeship came as a shock to many (and was viewed by some as “taking his toys and going home,” after he got passed over for the SCOTUS seats that ultimately went to John Roberts and Samuel Alito). But Luttig, who’s only 56 — he was appointed to the Fourth Circuit at the tender age of 37 — seems to be enjoying the new challenges of serving as GC of a large public company.
During his four years at Boeing, Luttig has given its in-house ranks a major makeover. He has brought in some top talent, including at least four Supreme Court clerks: John Demers (OT 2005/Scalia), Grant Dixton (OT 2000/Kennedy), Brett Gerry (OT 2000/Kennedy), and Jake Phillips (OT 2004/Scalia). Is there any in-house legal department with more former Supreme Court clerks than Boeing? Don’t forget to count Luttig himself, who clerked for Chief Justice Burger (OT 1983), after clerking for then-Judge Scalia on the D.C. Circuit.
UPDATE: Boeing boasts at least eight (8) SCOTUS clerks. Here are three who were inadvertently omitted from the original version of this post: Bertrand-Marc Allen (OT 2003/Kennedy), Lynda Guild Simpson (OT 1984/Powell), and Eric Wolff (OT 2000/Scalia).
And Luttig has given his net worth a makeover, too. At the time of his May 2006 resignation, federal circuit judges earned $175,100 a year. As executive vice president and general counsel of Boeing — the country’s largest aerospace and defense company, #28 on the Fortune 500 — he makes millions.
Luttig no longer has to worry about covering college expenses for his two kids (which he cited in his resignation letter as a reason for leaving the bench). And this past May, he and his wife, Elizabeth Luttig, bought a fabulous second home in beautiful Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
How much did Mike Luttig pay for his new place? And how does the price tag compare to his in-house compensation at Boeing?
Professor Joel P. Trachtman has developed a unique, practical guide to help lawyers analyze, argue, and write effectively.
The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win is a highly readable 200-page book, available for about $10 in paperback or e-book. Chapters focus on foundational principles in legal argument: procedure, interpretation of contracts and statutes, use of evidence, and more. The material covered is taught only implicitly in law school. Yet, when up-and-coming attorneys master these straightforward tools, they will think and argue like the best lawyers.
For most attorneys, time spent managing the books is a necessary evil at best. Yet it is undeniably a crucial aspect of running a successful practice. With that in mind, we invite you to view or download a free webinar by Above the Law and our friends at Clio to learn how to better manage your finances.
Take this opportunity to learn what it takes to streamline your accounting and get the most out of your time. The webinar agenda:
● The basics of accounting for lawyers.
● How legal accounting differs from regular accounting.
● Report and reconciliation issues surrounding trust accounts.
● How to pick and integrate the best accounting tools for your practice.
● Steps to prepare your tax return for your firm’s income.
Do not miss this crucial chance to optimize your accounting practices. Save time and get back to billing!
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!