Articles Posted in Compensation

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During 2012, General Counsel Metrics collected compensation data for 65 law department administrators.  The report shows medians and quartiles for base salary, bonus, and total compensation as of Dec. 31, 2011 by six industries as well as five revenue ranges (a minimum of four respondents in each).


The industries are Construction/Engineering, Food & Beverage, Hospital Systems, Manufacturing, Not-for-Profit/Government, and Technology.  The revenue ranges are less than $1 billion, $1-2 billion, $2-3 billion, $4-5 billion, and more than $5 billion.


The report is free for administrators of participants in the current GC Metrics benchmark who request it. For anyone whose law department has NOT participated in the 2012 GC Metrics Benchmark Survey, the report is $45, payable by credit card here:  .  The URL to take the short, confidential GC Metrics survey is  Note in the last question some reference to the administrator’s comp report so we know to send you your report benchmark report plus your comp report.

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An article in the Stanford Closer Look Series (at 2) addresses how government-appointed monitors should be paid.  It cites research by Equilar on the compensation of the top lawyers within large U.S. companies.  “General counsel within Fortune 1000 companies receive compensation that is 43 percent salary, 27 percent annual bonus, and 30 percent cash and equity long-term incentives.”

The compensation data available from General Counsel Metrics, provided by 194 general counsel to date, shows a markedly different distribution.  If we take the medians of their salary, bonus, and equity value, of that total amount, 80 percent is salary; 17 percent bonus, and 3 percent equity.  The Equilar data covers publicly-traded companies, and even among them, only the ones with the general counsel in the top five most highly-paid executives.  It is skewed as compared to the many more companies in the United States that are neither publicly traded nor so large nor with relatively well-paid general counsel.

If you’re interested in how your pay compares, take the quick, confidential survey.  It’s absolutely free, and you will get your report in early December with staffing and spending benchmarks from more than 1,000 companies.  Do so by clicking on this secure survey link.
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The compensation data currently in the General Counsel Metrics study includes almost 1,000 in-house lawyers, of which 404 reported the value of the equity award they received for 2011 (either zero or an amount; the others did not complete that question).  Of that group that reported on equity, 225 got no award (55%) and 179 got an award (45%) of options, restricted stock or some other equity.  The high proportion was a surprise to me, since I thought equity awards were much less common.


The average amount of the equity awards was $188,000, while the median was $100,000.  They ranged from very small amounts to well over a million dollars.  The ratio between cash compensation, base salary and cash bonus, and the value of equity awards ranged widely: from less than one percent to 300-400%.

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Some publications regularly trawl the annual reports of U.S. publicly traded companies and assemble those that include the general counsel in the five most highly paid executives.  The articles they publish list the reported data in tables and inevitably headline the general counsel who “made the most last year.”  It is usually someone who cashed in a significant amount from accumulated stock options and restricted stock grants.


What I hadn’t seen is data on the number or proportion of general counsel in publicly traded companies who make enough to find themselves one of the top five.  The Conf. Bd. Rev., Summer 2011 at 45, tells us part of the answer: It cites a Towers Perrin study that “recently revealed that CFO’s, heads of legal, and HR leaders showed up among the top five highest-paid execs 76, 38, and 5 percent of the time, respectively.”  I think that means that almost four out of ten annual reports gave the general counsel’s compensation data.  If so, that would be a reasonably representative selection of data.


Given that there are something like 5,000 U.S. companies with shares traded on exchanges, every year data must be reported to the SEC and shareholders on close to 2,000 general counsel.