General Counsel Salaries Continue To Increase While Bonuses Shrink
The upward trends—after general counsel salaries stagnated or even declined due to the 2008 recession—are "explained in part by the improving economy and perhaps a desire to make up for past years where compensation remained flat," says David Garber, president of Princeton Legal Search Group.
The increases are "likely reflective of a desire to retain top GC talent and remain market competitive," he adds.
Companies continue to hire in-house lawyers in an attempt to get outside counsel fees under control, targeting lawyers who can handle multiple functions. The richest corporations might even have some specialists on staff, such as intellectual-property or antitrust practitioners, says Garber.
The news wasn't all good, as average bonuses for the 20 executives in the survey group continued to shrink.
Average bonus payments—whether discretionary or tied to company performance—shrank 9.3 percent in 2012, to $315,419 from $347,657.
For the group of 16 surveyed for three years, the average bonus was down 27.3 percent since 2010, to $289,889 from $369,008.
Smaller bonuses often are coupled with increases in equity compensation. The average equity compensation among the 16 ($519,706) is 15.8 percent higher than in 2011 ($448,800). Still, both averages are lower than in 2010 ($666,241).
The other less-encouraging news is that salary increases for 2012 over 2011 are by no means across the board.
The average 2012 base salary was $374,287 for the 31 lawyers in this year's survey. That's 6.2 percent less than the $399,074 salary average for the 30 counsel on last year's list.
As for bonuses, the dropoff was even more dramatic when looking at the full lists. The $301,114 average for bonus compensation in 2012 (including discretionary and incentive bonuses) was 38.6 percent lower than in 2011 ($490,026).