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GC Role Now One of Leadership: Consultant

From Corporate Counsel Weekly   |   By Yin Wilczek

Nov. 3 — The general counsel position is undergoing significant changes as companies bring more work-in house and expect their top attorney to do more hiring and build legal departments, a consultant said Oct. 29.

“There is really a hard-core focus on leadership,” said John Gilmore, managing partner at BarkerGilmore, a firm that recruits candidates for in-house counsel.

The added responsibility has brought more pay—but also more scrutiny from boards and C-Suites of what they want in their general counsel, Gilmore added.

Gilmore spoke Oct. 29 at an Equilar webinar with his co-managing partner Bob Barker and Dan Marcec, director of content at Equilar.


In other major changes, Gilmore noted that companies now want “business-minded lawyers” for their GCs. This means that the GC not only has to provide legal counsel but also devise strategies and “unique solutions” to help their companies “get from Point A to Point B,” he said.

GCs also have a much more global role these days, and must be able to juggle different times zones and legal work from different countries around the world, Gilmore said.

Moreover, data privacy and cybersecurity now are top concerns for boards and the C-Suite. Accordingly, they expect their GCs to have more hands-on knowledge about these areas and to be able to handle the many issues that arise with data breaches, Gilmore said.

In other discussions, Barker observed that mergers and acquisitions in 2015 are fueling opportunities for recruiting ideal GC candidates.

Robust Deal Activity

“In 2015, we're actually seeing the largest M&A activity that we've seen in years,” Barker said, adding that “mega deals”—those involving $10 billion or more—have set a record at $1.35 trillion from 48 transactions. “Every time there is a deal like this there is fallout for a GC” who may not want to be the number two in the combined entity, he said.

Barker said that other ideal GC candidates include:

  •  deputy GCs looking to move to the top position;
  •  leaders from key regulatory agencies; and
  •  law firm partners acting as outside counsel who now want to make the move in-house.


Meanwhile, an Equilar report of GC pay released in October found that GCs who report directly to the chief executive officer are paid more than GCs who don't.

The Equilar report also found that GC pay aligns with corporate revenue and that companies with revenues of more than $15 billion paid their GCs the most overall. GCs from such large companies earned median pay of $2.4 million, while GCs at companies with revenues of between $5 billion to $15 billion earned median pay of about $1.6 million, the report found.

In addition, Equilar found that health-care companies with revenues greater than $1 billion paid the most to their GCs by far, at a median of almost $2.2 million. Next is technology companies with revenues of more than $1 billion, which paid their GCs median pay of about $1.9 million.

Marcec said the high pay in the health-care and tech sectors come in part through stock grants.

Gilmore also observed that the highest-paying sector changes every year. Last year, the media and entertainment industries had the highest-paid GCs, he said. He added that the health-care sector is experiencing significant regulatory risks and M&A activity, explaining why their GCs are paid the most in 2015.

To contact the reporter on this story: Yin Wilczek in Washington at ywilczek@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bna.com

For More Information

Equilar's report, “General Counsel Pay Strategies 2015,” is available at http://www.equilar.com/reports/25-2015-general-counsel-pay-strategies.html.