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Higher base pay for general counsel as they manage more attorneys

The Small Law Department Compensation Survey, conducted in the summer of 2008 by ACC and Empsight, reports on data from approximately 340 law departments. According to a sidebar and chart in the ACC Docket, Vol. 26, Nov. 2008 at 8, the base pay of a general counsel with 1 to 2 staff is 25 percent higher than the base pay of a general counsel with zero staff. As compared to that zero staff level of base pay, a general counsel with 3 to 4 staff is 35 percent above; with five or more staff, the pay escalates to 75 percent more.

What that means to me is that if the average (or median) solo general counsel makes a $200,000 base, then the next department-size level up makes $250,000 (a quarter more), add a staff person or two and base climbs to $270,000, but the base jumps at five or more staff to a princely $350,000.

It would be useful to have a bracket for general counsel with 6 to 12 lawyers (See my post of Dec. 27, 2008: small law departments are 1-5 lawyers; and Dec. 29, 2008: medium size departments are 6-12 lawyers.). The pay premium stands out so much for the five-plus group that you wonder whether a few general counsel from relatively large departments skew the average. Unlikely, because the website states that the survey “Targets companies with revenue of $1 billion or less and 10 or fewer attorneys.”

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