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Study Reveals 40% of In-House Counsel Would Consider a New Position in 2020, Prior to Epidemic

BarkerGilmore LLC - June 23, 2020


BarkerGilmore, a boutique executive search firm recognized for helping companies build world-class legal and compliance departments nationwide, released their annual 2020 In-House Counsel Compensation Report today. The data was collected from a random sample of in-house counsel throughout the United States via an online survey administered from February to April 2020.

“We are deeply appreciative of the growing number of lawyers willing to share compensation data to support the survey,” said John Gilmore, Founding Partner of BarkerGilmore. “While the data for the 2020 survey reflects 2019 earnings and a strong economy, we are extremely sensitive to the extent of individuals recently impacted by COVID-19. Layoffs, pay reduction, bonus elimination, and drops in equity are difficult to tolerate when working endless hours to keep the company afloat. Leverage to negotiate a salary adjustment based on past data is also lost during times of economic crisis. We are hopeful for a speedy recovery and look forward to a much brighter third and fourth quarter.”

Key trends revealed by the report include:

  1. Annual Salary Increase Rates: The average annual salary increase rate for all positions across industries remained constant at 4.4% this year, with the energy sector experiencing the highest increase rate of 5.4% for the second year in a row. Rates were slightly down for healthcare, industrial and manufacturing, and technology with professional services seeing the largest percentage point drop of .9%, respectively.

  2. Peer Comparison: 39% of all respondents believe their compensation is below or significantly below that of their peers in other organizations, with labor & employment lawyers and compliance reporting the greatest dissatisfaction. Those in the insurance, litigation, banking/finance, and intellectual property practice areas expressed the highest levels of satisfaction with over 22% reporting compensation above or significantly above average.

  3. Who’s on the Market: 40% of respondents indicate that they would consider a new position within the next year due to compensation issues, 2 percentage points more than the previous year. Those in the technology and healthcare industries report the greatest likelihood of a job search in the next year , while those in the life sciences industry are the least likely to engage in a job search for the second year in a row. This year, in-house counsel with practice area concentrations in litigation and intellectual property are most likely to consider a move for compensation issues, while those who identify with an insurance or compliance area report least likely to move.

    Male managing counsel reported a 44% likelihood of considering a new position in the next year versus 35% of women; general counsel and senior counsel position change consideration was consistent between both genders.

  4. Public vs. Private: Consistent with the last 4 years, 2018 reveals that the compensation of those at publicly traded companies is significantly higher than at private organizations. The gap is most significant at the general counsel level, with a 51% disparity in total compensation, but it is less noticeable as position level decreases.

    Across all position levels, restricted stock units (RSUs) continue to be the most common form of LTI compensation at public companies. In private organizations, if LTI is offered, the structure is much more variable and may come in the form of stock options or restricted cash.

  5. Gender Pay Trends: Both female and male in-house counsel base pay increased at a median rate of 3.0% across all positions in 2018. At both the managing counsel and senior counsel level, male and female median base, bonus, and total compensation are consistent, with males slightly more in each category. However, at the general counsel level females earn 81% of what male general counsel earn, with LTI and bonus accounting for most of the disparity.

  6. Industry Highs & Lows: This year saw some interesting changes and new industry leaders. Download our report to see the industries that pay the most and the least!

To view the full study, visit 2020 In-House Counsel Compensation Report.