Reputation will take you only so far. To get the best General Counsel, you need to offer an extraordinary package including compensation, equity, long-term incentives, perks and more.
There are over a million attorneys in the US, but only a relative handful will make it into the rarefied ranks of General Counsel of a Fortune 500 company. Competition is equally fierce among corporations seeking to fill these top legal positions.
If you’re in the market, you’ll need to design a creative and generous remuneration package that will help you stand out from the crowd. It must include the requisite intangibles like an impeccable reputation, compelling business and a top-tier executive team. Beyond that, it’s a race for the riches, according to Equilar’s most recent study of general counsel pay strategies.
Companies put ‘stock’ in general counsel performance
Equilar found that performance incentives were the largest element of total direct compensation at companies with revenue over $15 billion. Those between $5 billion and $15 billion granted more value in time vesting stock. Of all performance awards, stock was the most popular for GCs, with options being the least common. Stock, in the form of RSUs and performance shares, constituted more than three-quarters of the total performance-based vehicles at companies across all revenue ranges.
While perquisites did not constitute a significant component of general counsel compensation, they did play a role in attracting and retaining these key executives. According to Equilar, automobile perks were by far the most common for GCs, followed by club memberships, tax gross-ups and aircraft, in terms of popularity.
As with other trends in GC compensation, perquisite eligibility trended higher in line with company revenue. For example, more GCs were eligible to receive perks at companies with revenue between $5 billion and $15 billion, while the smallest percentage of GCs eligible to receive perks were those at companies under $500 million. Eligibility was also strongly linked to reporting structure. GCs reporting directly to the CEO were more likely than those who did not to be eligible for perks.
A reflection of the changing role of General Counsel
The role of General Counsel has been evolving over the past 10 years—from legal adviser to an active member of the executive team. As GCs assume responsibility for a wider scope of duties like HR, government relations, internal audit, cyber security and enterprise risk management. They are also growing in clout and, as a result, can command higher levels of remuneration both in terms of total direct compensation and perks.
Choosing the right general counsel is a weighty task with enormous implications for your company’s future success. This is the individual who may guide you through a financial crisis, regulatory infractions or bet-the-company litigation. It’s a 24/7 job with significant responsibility and personal risk. Make sure the package you offer acknowledges the scope and importance and is appropriately appealing to your next GC—a business-minded lawyer with the IQ, EQ, personality, credentials and experience your company demands.BarkerGilmore is a national legal recruiting firm with an unmatched track record in executive placement. We deliver the laser focus and attention of boutique search firms, plus the scope and resources of the largest national recruiters. It’s a uniquely successful formula we call grit and gravitas.