New Major, Lindsey & Africa Study Shows Strong Gains in Compensation for General Counsel in 2016 as the Position Gains Prominence

Major, Lindsey & Africa, the world’s largest legal search firm, today released the results of their In-House Compensation Report, revealing that general counsel saw a 9.6% increase in total compensation between 2015 and 2016. While base salaries for GCs increased by only 1.3%, bonuses grew 38% in that same period. The study examined compensation data of 2,207 in-house counsel, both GCs and non-GCs, at companies across a range of industries and sizes between 2015 and 2016.

“These increases in compensation point directly to the GC’s growing sphere of influence, reaching beyond legal functions into other matters of business,” said Mike Sachs, Partner in Major, Lindsey & Africa’s In-House Practice Group. “Rather than simply overseeing the legal department, GCs have become an integral partner to the C-Suite. As a result, their compensation is reflecting their new roles as strategic decision makers and trusted advisors to the CEO.”

In-house counsel at other levels saw their compensation decrease slightly, with average base salaries dropping from $210,000 in 2015 to $208,000 in 2016. Similarly, the average bonus for non-general counsel decreased from $71,000 in 2015 to $68,000 in 2016.

The report also explored differences in compensation between genders. In 2016, total compensation for male in-house counsel outpaced female in-house counsel at all levels. While base salaries for male GCs was 6.3% higher than female GCs, male GCs bonuses were 31% higher than those of female GCs. The maximum bonus reported for a male GC was $3 million, while the highest female GC bonus was only $675,000. However, it’s important to note that the disparity in bonuses may be in part due to the disproportionate sample size: there were 42 female GC bonuses reported vs. 126 male GC bonuses reported. Female GC bonuses represented 25% of the bonus data pool. In the Fortune 500, 26.8% of GCs are female, a similar female to male ratio as that represented in the report data. At the non-GC level, female in-house counsel made 8.2% less overall than their male counterparts in 2016.

“In some cases, female GCs may assess themselves more critically than their male counterparts assess themselves, and thus rank their performance lower on various metrics that determine their bonus,” said Andrea Bricca, Partner in Major, Lindsey &…

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