‘Tis the season when top in-house legal officers get a taste of what outside counsel go through every year when the Am Law 100 is published. There it is for all the world to see: “What’s in your wallet?” That’s because summer is the season when ALM, publisher of The American Lawyer, and the Association of Corporate Counsel drop their annual compensation reports on inside and outside counsel. Yes, it’s a bit crass, but it sure makes for juicy summer reading. We can’t do justice to all the data here – it’s voluminous – but these morsels should give you a taste. Note that both ACC and ALM now offer interactive charts that make it all-too-easy to drill into the dollars in search of deeper meaning. Spoiler alert: You won’t find it.
The ACC 2018 Global Compensation Report is an incredible resource. Drawn from responses from more than 5,000 in-house counsel across 65 countries, it is one of the most comprehensive surveys of its type ever done. In addition to providing comp data for eight in-house roles, ranging from top legal dog (CLO/GC/Head of Legal) to counsel, we also get significant data on compliance roles, corporate secretaries and legal operations professionals. Smartly, ACC offers a 12-month subscription to an online interactive dashboard so you can slice and dice the data yourself and create custom reports. Check it out here. As you check out the survey, keep in mind that ACC is a broad-based association. Many of the law departments surveyed are smaller – 75% have budgets under $3M – and half are private companies.
General Counsel to Partners: I’ll Get the Check
Even the highest paid Big Law partner can only dream of the princely and princessely sums commanded by their corporate counterparts. According to The American Lawyer, average partner compensation (equity and nonequity) at the top 10 U.S. law firms is $4.99M. That’s a tad less than the $4.62M average cash comp of the 10 most highly paid public company GCs, according to a study by Law.com. (It’s a world away from the broader ACC survey, which is 45% private companies and mostly smaller law department. The ACC average is $381,000.) For U.S. public company GCs, the number skyrockets to $7.5M when you roll in stock-based compensation, with the top 3 pulling down a gaudy average of $22.M – an impossible dream for even the most gold-plated big-firm partner.
Taking Stock: GCs Pile Up the Pay
The 2018 GC Compensation Survey, compiled by ALM Legal Intelligence, uses 2017 Fortune 1000 proxy statements to ferret out info about the best-paid GCs in the U.S. ALM ranks the GCs by total cash compensation, which rolls in salary, bonus and what it calls “nonequity incentive pay,” which covers discretionary, incentive payments not included in the bonus number. ALM also provides, via its interactive survey tool, information on options exercised and total value realized on vesting, rolling these together with cash comp to come up with a total compensation metric. It then breaks out and publicizes subsets such as the 10 highest paid GCs and the 10 highest paid women GCs (see charts below). Only three women make the top 10 list for cash + stock comp, with Laura Schumacher of AbbVie ranking #2 among public company GCs with total comp of $19.91M, which is still $10M behind Gregg Winiarski of IAG-Interactive, Barry Diller’s media/ Internet holding company with brands such as Tinder, Angie’s List and The Daily Beast.