US in-house counsel lose out on bonuses

US-based general counsels have seen their base salaries rise by an average of 8 per cent during 2006, according to the latest survey of corporate legal counsel salaries.

Deputy general counsels fared almost as well, seeing their average base salaries rise by 7 per cent during 2006.

The change in base salary saw US general counsels draw in an average of $280,000. Deputy general counsel positions drew $140,000 on average, while newly qualified in-house lawyers earned an average starting salary of $65,000.

But bonuses paid to both general counsels and their deputies for 2006 were lower than in the previous year. The average bonus for a general counsel was $132,000, while their deputies averaged a $104,000 bonus.

According to the survey conducted by legal consultancy Altman Weil, heads of legal managing departments of 25 or more lawyers in the IT sector were most likely to be the highest earning in-house lawyers in the US.

By comparison, junior in-house counsel reported only a modest 2 per cent pay rise, on average. However, they did report a year-on-year bonus increase of an average 62 per cent.

The survey analysed 277 US-based in-house departments comprising some 6,255 legal counsel. The results were published in the 2006 Altman Weil Law Department Compensation Benchmarking Survey, in conjunction with LexisNexis.