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In-House Salary Trends Remain Stable

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on October 26, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

According to a report composed of data compiled by Major, Lindsey & Africa Consultants, in-house lawyers enjoyed relatively stable incomes from 2014 to 2015. But Miriam Frank, Vice President of MLA, cautioned that the numbers may mislead because some compensation is classified as an equity, not compensation.

"Pretty Stable"

Those were the words that Frank used to describe the in-house compensation market when speaking to Inside Counsel. "It's not different from what I expected to see a couple of years ago." But Frank's provisio regarding some compensation as being categorized as "equity" continues to linger. Hey, it's legal.

Additionally, she also notes that companies are more flexible with general counsel, of which there is usually one for any company.

The MLA report described the cash compensation for all in-house lawyers in a "remarkably tight range" and that the base salaries paid to GC's was "fairly tight."

More Veteran = Less Pay

The report's findings further suggest something counter-intuitive: GCs that averaged 20-30 years of experience enjoyed higher compensation numbers their counterparts who had 30-40 years experience. Frank believes that this is explained by old GCs staying at the jobs longer without an increase in pay., i.e., lawyers tend to move up the ladder with each step.

Stock Isn't Salary

GCs of larger companies get an additional bonus, depending on how you interpret it. Larger companies generally opt to entice talent with equity that has the interesting feature of not showing up as cash compensation on a firm's books -- a feature that has most likely made the IH compensation numbers in the MLA report so stable. Typically, when a firm's revenue exceeds $5 billion, the compensation package will include stock rather than just a cash compensation schedule.

Go Into Medicine ... Indirectly

Of the general counsel that enjoyed the highest median base compensation number -- GCs in pharmacy and health took that crown at $350,000 and $362,500, respectively. If you didn't go to medical school, it looks like medicine really could still end up making you bunches of money.

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