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What goes up must come down. Looks like Newton's law of gravity also applies to in house counsel salary as a recent survey indicates that the in house counsel salary increases are slowing. In a survey conducted by Hildebrant Baker Robbins, the average seniority level in house counsel salary is a cool $174,000.
Although that figure may be less than what many associates at big law firms are earning there are two upswings to the in house counsel salary -- not working under outrageous billable hour requirements and typically receiving much larger bonuses than law firm associates. In 2010, the average in house counsel bonus was $57,000. The salary figures did represent the smallest percentage increase seen in the industry in the last six years, with only a 2% jump from the previous year.
Survey editor Lauren Chung offers some insight into the data:
"More than half of the companies in the 2010 survey implemented a salary freeze in 2009 as a cost saving measure. Considering the recent data trends, the current market conditions and law department management practices geared towards costs savings, salary levels will most likely remain stable over the next couple of years. At best, annual salary increases of 2 to 3 percent appear to be the new norm for in house counsel, but we may see greater emphasis on variable pay such as bonuses, for increased earning potential."
The decline in salary increases seems to be as much a reflection of the current recessionary state of the legal profession as it does the economy as a whole. Money isn't everything and recent studies have shown that in house counsel have high qualities of life and are generally happy employees.