As readers will know, here at Dollar Barrister we typically discuss what it takes to make the jump in-house, and how to succeed from a professional and financial perspective once you get there.
But after a few years in the trenches as a corporate counsel, you might start getting the itch to move up in the world (I know I have). And if that itch includes becoming a GC, there are few better places to start gathering some data points about what it takes to make that move than the 2019 General Counsel Report from LawGeex, which you can access here.
Recently released, the report uses data from (1) LinkedIn; (2) GC job postings; (3) compensation data from the ACC 2018 Global Compensation Report, which included comp responses from nearly 4000 U.S. corporate counsels; and (4) Fortune 500 GC data from ALM Intelligence and the consulting firm Russell Reynolds.
As you might guess from this august list of sources, the report includes some really awesome data points about the world of the general counsel. If that’s your career goal, I can’t imagine a better starting point for some deep diving into how to best position yourself in order make it as a GC.
Here are some of the best nuggets of information from the report, with our own thoughts about what it means for your fledgling in-house corporate counsel legal career. We’ll take a closer look at some of these metrics in a future post here at Dollar Barrister.
The “Statistically Typical” General Counsel
“There remains scant quantifiable data on the skills and background of the modern GC,” the report starts out by noting. However, according to its methodology, the “statistically typical” GC lives in California, is a man, has more than 9 years of legal experience, is between 35 and 54 years old, and works for a company in the financial sector. His average total compensation package is $408K.
Your Background is Important
In order to become a GC in today’s job market, “a lawyer is likely to need experience negotiating with legal and regulatory agencies and industry watchdogs.” This means writing fewer briefs and spending more time in front of regulatory bodies like the FAA, OSHA, and others explaining what a company does in layman’s terms and getting regulators comfortable with its operations.
The report also analyzed 100 LinkedIn and other job postings in the US for a general counsel. It found that the word “business” was the top word included in these postings (306 times), followed by “compliance” (257) and “management” (254 times). Interestingly, the report notes the contrast with “traditional legal expertise” words like “agreements” (113), “risk” (107), “laws” (77), “transactions” (68), and “drafting” (57).
I think this underscores that getting up to speed with your company’s industry and investing in yourself with training on financial, operational, and business issues – rather than yet another CLE on anti-indemnity statutes – is important if you want to take the next step in your in-house career.
Your Education Matters (or Does It?)
Eighteen percent of all GCs went to a Top 14 law school (Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, NYU, Penn, Michigan, UVA, Duke, Northwestern, Berkeley, Cornell, or Texas). Of course, the converse of this is true; 72 percent did not. Interestingly, only 3 percent of GCs have an MBA.
More education is always an option when you’re in a career rut, but I think this data actually stresses that successful people come from all over the place. So if you didn’t go to T14, don’t stress it!
Thirteen percent of GCs work in CA, 10 percent in NY, 7 percent in DC, 7 percent in TX, and 3 percent in each of MA, NJ, PA, MD, VA, IL, GA, FL. As Southwest says, you are free to move around the country! Get out there using the products in our shop and make it happen.
When it Comes to Compensation, Experience Matters
According to LawGeex, 15 years of experience is the magic threshold where a GC’s compensation is turbocharged.
Here are the stats:
Average pay for a GC with less than a year of in-house experience is $202K.
With 2-3 years, up by 42 percent to $288K.
With 11-15 years of experience, salary jumps by 48 percent to $438K-$647K.
So, in other words, 15 years of in-house experience is where GCs’ salaries are the biggest.
Other Interesting Metrics
The report includes insightful data about the sizes of companies that hire GCs:
1-10 employees: 1 out of 265 companies has a GC
11-50 employees: 1 out of 38.
51-200 employees: 1 out of 8.
201-500 employees: 1 out of 3.
501-1000 employees: 9 out of 10.
1001+ employees: every company of this size has a GC.
Finally, I have been a strong advocate here at Dollar Barrister that it is important to choose an industry in which to practice rather than becoming a generic litigator or corporate lawyer. To that end, the report includes a summary of average salaries by industry. These include:
“Fast-Moving” Consumer Goods: $681K
Real Estate: $324K
There’s lots of other good stuff in the report too – congrats to LawGeex on a thorough, data-driven analysis that will surely be of great use to aspiring general counsels.