I wrote previously about Robert Half’s survey for in-house attorney compensation, and now we’ve got another metric for those of us interested in salary trends for in-house lawyers: BarkerGilmore has released its 2017 in-house counsel compensation report. (It’s available for download via the link.)

57 percent of responses came from public company lawyers, and 62 percent of respondents work in large metropolitan areas (which I suppose makes sense). The report is divided into metrics for General Counsel (the company’s lead lawyer), Managing Counsel (a lawyer with direct reports, but not the lead), and Senior Counsel (an individual contributor) and highlights some key findings before drilling down into a more granular set of data:

Median annual salary increase rate for all in-house lawyer positions across all industries is 4.3 percent. BarkerGilmore reports that this is up 0.1 percent from 2016.

41 percent of those who responded to BarkerGilmore’s survey say they would consider a new position within the next 12 months on account of compensation issues.

43 percent believed their compensation was “below or significantly below” that of their peers in other companies, and litigators reported the greatest dissatisfaction (perhaps not surprisingly, based on my experience, and as I described in this article here at Dollar Barrister previously.)

In-house lawyers practicing in real estate or banking/finance practice areas were the most likely to report compensation that was “above or significantly above average.”

Long-term incentive compensation (LTI, as it’s referred to in the report) “poses the greatest disparity across all position levels.” (Note – I think this is a critical issues for those of us who are in-house, or those of you looking to go in-house, and I will have much more to say about it in a future post.)

The highest-paying public in-house counsel positions by industry were:

General Counsel: healthcare
Managing Counsel: technology
Senior Counsel: life sciences

The highest-paying private in-house counsel positions by industry were:

General Counsel: financial
Managing Counsel: healthcare
Senior Counsel: energy

The lowest-paying public in-house counsel positions by industry were:

General Counsel: life sciences
Managing Counsel: professional services
Senior Counsel: professional services

The lowest-paying private in-house counsel positions by industry were:

General Counsel: professional services
Managing Counsel: consumer
Senior Counsel: professional services

The report’s findings about compensation for Senior Counsel and Managing Counsel were as follows (I left out the General Counsel findings intentionally but you can pull those directly from the report if you’re interested in digging into them):

Senior Counsel

Base salary

Public company over $5B: $185K
Private company over $5B: $190K

Bonus (as percentage of base salary)

Public company over $5B: 23%
Private company over $5B: 23%

Long-term incentive (i.e. stock grants)

Public company over $5B: $20K
Private company over $5B: $12K

Total compensation

Public company over $5B: $255K
Private company over $5B: $260K

Total compensation by JD year

2014+: $152K
2010-14: $163K
2005-09: $215K
2000-04: $246K
1995-99: $260K
1990-94: $288K
1985-89: $248K
1980-84: $288K
Prior to 1980: $212K

Managing Counsel

Base salary

Public company over $5B: $218K
Private company over $5B: $240K

Bonus (as percentage of base salary)

Public company over $5B: 34%
Private company over $5B: 33%

Long-term incentive (i.e. stock grants)

Public company over $5B: $55K
Private company over $5B: $68K

Total compensation

Public company over $5B: $350K
Private company over $5B: $388K

Total compensation by JD year

2010-14: $127K
2005-09: $260K
2000-04: $321K
1995-99: $375K
1990-94: $402K
1985-89: $405K
1980-84: $382K
Prior to 1980: $511K

Here are a my primary take aways from this particular report on in-house counsel compensation and salary trends, based primarily on my experience and talking with my friends and colleagues in various companies and industries:

If you look at total compensation by JD year, I think the data underscore one of my prior posts which discussed how important it is to wait as long as possible to find that “sweet spot” in terms of experience before making the jump from private practice to in-house. For example, if you’re 15 years out, you’re likely making nearly 200K more than somebody who is only 5+years out. And don’t think that you’ll just go in-house at 5 years and get increases until you hit that number. You are likely stuck with the deal you made on the way in until you leave – and you might be forced to disclose your current compensation when you do (unless you hit the jackpot with an employer that pays extremely well, or the equity underlying your stock grant surges in value).

The base salaries for Senior Counsel and Managing Counsel, in both the private and public settings, seem fairly representative of what I’ve seen and heard in the market currently. But while I think the cash and equity bonus numbers might be equally on point, I would rely less on them because I think those are so company and industry-specific that it is hard to draw general conclusions about them.

I was also interested to see that professional services is all over the list of lowest-paying positions in both public and private companies. Architecture, engineering, or other licensed professional services firms generally have pretty low margins and, on the public company side, relatively lower market caps. On the other hand I was not surprised to see healthcare, financial, energy, and technology industry paying their in-house lawyers on the high end of the scale. So if you’re still in a law firm and are planning an exit strategy, trying to get experience supporting clients in those better paying industries will likely pay dividends down the line.

Finally, I think we are conditioned in the law firm to focus on the lock-step compensation model and bonus structure which, in BigLaw, can certainly be very lucrative. On the in-house side, I think it’s critical to remember as this report emphasizes, that a significant portion of in-house lawyer compensation comes from both bonus and long-term incentives (like stock), in addition to base compensation. So don’t forget about that when you are reviewing an offer letter or engaging in your negotiations with HR or your future manager.

What do you think of the numbers in this report? Do they seem in-line with your experience? Why or why not?