The parade of 2020 in-house corporate counsel salary guides continues. (Previously here at Dollar Barrister, we drilled into the details of Major Lindsey’s and Special Counsel’s 2020 in-house counsel compensation survey results.)

Now, it’s BarkerGilmore’s turn. To keep things consistent, we’re updating our summary of compensation data points from the 2019 guide with the new numbers from 2020. BarkerGilmore compiled this data from 1900 lawyers who responded between February and April of 2020 (essentially pre-COVID, so of course you should expect these numbers to change dramatically in the 2021 iteration of this and other salary surveys.)

My key takeaways from BarkerGilmore’s executive summary to the guide were:

  • The average annual salary increase for all levels of seniority, in all industries surveyed, was flat from 2019, at 4.4%. (From my perspective, this is a healthy increase in-house. During my career, 3% has been the norm, with some years better than that.)
  • Interestingly, 40% of respondents said they would be looking for a new job in 2020 on account of compensation issues, which was 2% higher than in 2019. (But that will likely be a different story thanks to COVID, as many of us who are in-house already are, best-case, facing flat budgets for FY21 and just hoping to weather the storm.)
  • While at the GC level the survey found that females earn only 81% of what their male general counsel peers take home, compensation across genders at the managing counsel and senior counsel levels (as defined in the survey – see below) was generally consistent.

Note that in terms of titles, for purposes of the survey, “managing counsel” has at least one direct report, but is not the lead lawyer in the organization or business segment. “Senior counsel” is an individual contributor (i.e. does not have any direct reports). General counsel should be self-explanatory.

On to the results!

GENERAL COUNSEL – TOTAL COMPENSATION
(INCLUDES BASE SALARY, CASH BONUS, AND LTI)

By Company Revenue

<$500M               $375K (down from $399K in 2019)

$500M-$1B         $502K (up from $475K)

$1B-$5B               $875K (up from $720K)

$5B+                     $1.4M (same as in 2019)

Private/Public (Median Total Compensation by Industry)

Consumer:          $700K/$426K (down from $733K/$440K)

Healthcare:         $720K/$349K (up from $657K/$333K)

Financial:             $845K/$560K (up from $811K/$540K)

Prof. Services:    $286K/$292K (down from $913K/$360K)

Technology:        $750K/$410K (down/up from $919K/$405K)

$B reaction: There was a big drop in compensation for general counsels of professional services firms; the $286K in total compensation for a public company general counsel seems like a typo. In general, though, I think these numbers are consistent with GCs taking on more responsibility and authority within both public and private companies over the last few years, and their compensation increasingly accordingly.

MANAGING COUNSEL – TOTAL COMPENSATION

By Company Revenue

<$500M                $283K (down from $315K in 2019)

$500M-$1B        $289K (down from $327K)

$1B-$5B              $345K (down from $364K)

$5B+                     $401K (up from $396K)

I was surprised by these numbers, which were mostly down across the board.

Private/Public (Median Total Compensation by Industry)

Consumer:          $301K/$440K (down/up from $320K/$354K)

Healthcare:         $270K/$364K (up from $300K/$374K)

Financial:             $392K/$420K (up from $390K/$335K)

Prof. Services:    $264K/$347K (up from $277K/$270K)

Technology:        $335K/$385K (up from $330K/$407K)

Managing Counsel cash bonus (as a percentage of base compensation):

By Company Revenue (private/public)

<$500M               20%/29% (up from 19%/23%)

$500M-$1B        24%/21% (up from 25%/23%)

$1B-$5B              25%/25% (down from 30%/33%)

$5B+                     31%/34% (up from 30%/32%)

$B reaction: In general, total compensation for managing counsel decreased from 2019, which is surprising to me. But it’s interesting that bonus compensation increased – possibly a function of corporate America having a good year in 2019.

Managing Counsel long-term incentive compensation (LTI)

By Company Revenue (private/public)

<$500M               $7K/$52.5K (up from $1K/$32K)

$500M-$1B         $9K/$30K (down from $10K/$45K)

$1B-$5B               $15K/$51K (down from $40K/$64K)

$5B+                     $30K/$75K (down/up from $49K/$72K)

$B reaction: LTI compensation was down across the board in the $1B – $5B public and private company revenue range, which is frustrating. (Frankly, I’ve never understood why companies are not more generous distributing LTI to their lawyers. Institutional knowledge is critical and keeping the legal team engaged for the long term should be a C-suite-level goal. Yes, it’s a liability for the company, but we are in an era where public companies are buying back their stock left and right. Companies should fix this moving forward.)

SENIOR COUNSEL – TOTAL COMPENSATION

By Company Revenue

<$500M               $211K (down from $221K)

$500M-$1B         $209K (down from $246K)

$1B-$5B               $233K (up but virtually flat from $227K)

$5B+                     $260K (down but virtually flat from $262K)

Private/Public (Median Total Compensation by Industry)

Consumer:          $220K/$235K (down/up from $203K/$238K)

Healthcare:         $195K/$247K (up/down from $176K/$266K)

Financial:             $248K/$250K (down, flat from $289K/$250K)

Prof. Services:   $199K/$210K (flat, down from $197K/$239K)

Technology:        $211K/$264K (up, down from $228K/$259K)

$B reaction: Not great numbers for anyone, really, especially compared against Biglaw associate compensation. These results should underscore a frequent theme here at Dollar Barrister: stay in your firm as long as you can! Absent another big move, you’ll likely be stuck with the salary you negotiate on the way in.

There’s also some interesting data in the survey around total compensation by JD year for both managing and senior counsel, which is entirely mixed, and from which I’m not sure we can really draw too many conclusions:

MANGING COUNSEL – TOTAL COMPENSATION BY JD YEAR

1980-84:              $407K (down from $417K)

1985-89:              $452K (down from $457K)

1990-94:              $395K (down from $415K)

1995-99:              $420K (up from $396K)

2000-04:              $360K (down from $364K)

2005-09:              $323K (down from $337K)

2010-15:              $238K (up from $233K)

SENIOR COUNSEL – TOTAL COMPENSATION BY JD YEAR

1980-84:              $334K (up from $277K)

1985-89:              $298K (up from $215K)

1990-94:              $248K (down from $259K)

1995-99:              $300K (up from $280K)

2000-04:              $279K (down from $281K)

2005-09:              $237K (down from $239K)

2010-15:              $213K (up from $206K)

2015-2019          $150K (new cohort)

Your thoughts on these results? Accurate? Helpful? Let us know in the comments below!