Salary gap narrows for in-house lawyers

A report released earlier this month reveals that the earnings gap between lawyers working in-house in US corporations and private firms has continued to narrow.

The findings are contained in US consultants Altman Weil Pensa's Law Department Compensation Benchmarking Survey, which has been conducted annually since 1974.

According to the report, almost one in 10 chief legal officers (CLOs) now earns over $500,000 a year. And it reveals that in the manufacturing and financial industries “the CLO's average cash compensation increased by approximately 13 per cent”.

Charles Huxsaw, who was in charge of the survey, said there was a growing similarity in salaries between corporate law departments and law firms in the US.

“At the higher end there has been a lot of migration from law firms to corporate law departments, which has narrowed the gap in earnings,” he said.

Huxsaw added that specialist attorneys in areas like intellectual property, taxation, mergers and acquisitions and environmental law were in particular demand.

Huxsaw said that the report showed that at entry-level corporate law department jobs were “shunned by recent law graduates. Now there is a buyers' market with entry level staying flat at around $50,000 for the last few years.”

Dan DiLucchio, principal of Altman Weil Pensa, said the convergence between in-house and law firms' lawyers was especially apparent at the top end where CLOs have seen a disproportionate increase in the bonus element of their salary.