General counsel pay soars post-Sarbanes

General counsel in the US are seeing their salaries rise as corporations fight to keep legal talent despite an increased workload.

In the post-Enron and WorldCom environment, compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley regulations is becoming increasingly burdensome, and in-house lawyers are demanding increased remuneration to reflect the workload.

Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) president Fred Krebs said: “It’s no surprise corporations and their directors recognise the value of in-house attorneys and compensate them accordingly.”

A survey of 297 law departments covering nearly 8,000 US in-house lawyers was conducted by law firm management consultancy Altman Weil in association with ACC.

In the past 12 months, base pay for chief legal officers (CLOs) had risen more than 4 per cent and bonuses were up nearly 40 per cent.

The survey found the average salary for CLOs was $280,000 (£159,000), while the average bonus was $150,000 (£85,000).

After a decline two years ago, stock options are back in vogue as a way of compensating in-house counsel, with top CLOs seeing the average value of options rise 44 per cent to $888,600 (£505,000).

The survey found that the best-paid CLOs work in the wholesale/retail sector, earning nearly 17 per cent more than the national average and nearly 60 per cent more than their lowest paid colleagues in the service sector.

CLOs working in New York were the highest paid, earning up to 24 per cent more than the national total package average, while the worst region for pay was Chicago, with top in-house lawyers there earning 1 per cent less than the national average.

Managers of in-house teams with 25-plus lawyers were on packages worth 68 per cent more than the national average.