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Disclose compensation ranges at each level in the department

If a law department has more than five lawyers at a pay level, the general counsel should disclose the highs and lows of salary and bonuses in that range. Disclosure promotes a culture of openness – even more powerfully when it reveals such sensitive information as pay – and reduces time-consuming gossip and backbiting about salaries. It can ease worries about inequitable treatment and can push management to benchmark compensation against the market.

To be sure, disadvantages exist of disclosing compensation ranges. Head hunters can use the information to pry away talent; the disclosed ranges might prove that pay is lower than at comparable law departments and as a result spur attrition; and ranges that are too wide can fuel beliefs that the comp system is inequitable.

Even with disclosure, the better run departments also clearly define roles and levels, they lay out promotion criteria with clarity, they gather comp benchmarking data in their relevant market; and they hit the right balance of salary and at-risk bonus.