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Study Reveals Law School Rank and Am Law 100 Experience Increase In-House Counsel Compensation

BarkerGilmore LLC - June 3, 2020

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2021 In-House Counsel Compensation ReportFairport, NY (June 3, 2021) — BarkerGilmore, a boutique executive search firm recognized for helping companies build world-class legal and compliance departments nationwide, released their annual 2021 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 March 2021.

“We are deeply appreciative of the growing number of lawyers willing to share compensation data to support the survey. This year, we are especially excited to share new insight into the impact of law school rank and law firm experience on compensation. We place top talent with excellent credentials every day, and we’ve known that their experience commands a higher compensation package. It is great to have data to show our clients that the top quality candidates we recruit are worth the higher cost,” said John Gilmore, Founding Partner of BarkerGilmore.

Key trends revealed by the report include:

  1. Annual Salary Increase Rates: The average annual salary increase for all positions across industries was down this year to 3.5% from 4.4% in 2019. The energy, financial, and technology industries all averaged 3.7% salary increases and the consumer, healthcare/life sciences, industrial/manufacturing, and professional services industries all averaged 3.5% or less salary increases.

  2. New Positions: Eight percent of respondents obtained a new position in 2020. Thirty-five percent of new legal positions received sign-on bonuses. Managing Counsel were the most likely to receive a sign-on bonus at 44%. General Counsel were the least likely to receive a sign-on bonus (32%); however, the General Counsel median sign-on bonus was significantly higher than that of Managing Counsel and Senior Counsel.

  3. Law School Rank: Respondents at all levels had higher total compensation if they went to a Top 100 law school. Total compensation averaged 25% higher for General Counsel, 15% higher for Managing Counsel, and 19% higher for Senior Counsel if the respondent obtained their J.D. from a Top 100 law school. Respondents that went to a Top 100 law school and had prior experience at an Am Law 200 law firm had a 10% higher total compensation package than respondents with the same law firm experience who did not attend a Top 100 law school.

  4. Law Firm Experience: Across all positions, respondents that worked for an Am Law 100 ranked law firm had higher total compensation packages than those with Am Law 101+ experience or no law firm experience. On average, in-house counsel with Am Law 100 experience had total compensation packages that were 35% greater (41% General Counsel, 32% Managing Counsel, 27% Senior Counsel) than those with no law firm experience. The impact of Am Law 100 or Am Law 101-200 law firm experience was observed to have the greatest impact at the General Counsel and Managing Counsel levels.

  5. Public vs. Private: Consistent with the last 5 years, 2020 revealed 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 52% disparity in total compensation. Across all position levels, restricted stock units (RSUs) continue to be the most common form of long-term incentive (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.

  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, download the 2021 In-House Counsel Compensation Report.