ALM Properties, Inc.
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Up, Down, Why?
June may be the month for graduations and weddings for lots of people. But here at Corporate Counsel HQ, if it's June, it's time to put together our annual GC Compensation Survey. (This magazine hews to a two-month lead time.)
Our data crew, led by research editor Rosemarie Clancy, combs through the proxy statements of the Fortune 500. If the general counsel or chief legal officer is among the top five compensated corporate officers, he or she appears in the survey. As far as surveys go, it's pretty straightforward. The proxies list names and numbers, and we capture them in a spreadsheet.
But still, there are wrinkles. For one thing, the nature of compensation changes. For those of you old enough to remember (or with long attention spans), we've tracked how the tech bubble of over a decade ago (yikes) made lots of instant dot-com millionaires. Not just the coder kids, but the grown-ups, like lawyers, who tried to bring some decorum to the Mountain Dewfueled proceedings. Options were de rigueur, and cashing out, for us at least, became a hugely popular spectator sport.
So why do we conduct this survey? Apart from the obvious voyeuristic delights, there's a lot of good information in this survey. For one thing, the ups and downs of various forms of compensation give us a good idea of executive compensation in general. And anyone with more than a passing interest in business (i.e., any sentient being these days) will want to know how leaders are being rewardedor not.
Our readers like to share, too. Or, at least, they like to see what others are doing. Seriously, all information about legal departmentssalaries, staffing, expenses, law firm rates, etc.isn't just interesting. It's also a way for chief legal officers and their corner-suite colleagues to assess how their own departments compare. Transparency does have its uses.
We have a mission at Corporate Counsel that is unique. Our sibling publications, like The American Lawyer and The National Law Journal, do concern themselves with business stories and economic trends. But their readers are in it basically as very interested outsiders. Their livelihoods depend on how businesses are faring, but mainly because of the work their law firms might or might not get as a result of economic trends.
Our readers, on the other hand, are affected by these trends every single minute of every day. It's much more up close and personal.
So this survey measures the pulse of where you spend most of your waking hours. Most years, we've found that the GC Comp survey is almost frightening in how accurately it tracks economic trends. This year's survey is no different. While many GCs have to contend with the legal ramifications of Dodd-Frank, say-on-pay resolutions are affecting them in their pay packets.
In her reporting, staff reporter Shannon Green came across anecdotal evidence of another economic trend. Some of the compensation experts she interviewed said that the law firm layoffs of the past few years are having a depressing effect on in-house salaries. I'm not quite sure of that, yet. Without a ton more reporting, we can't come up with anything but tales at this point.
So may I give you a homework assignment? With all the legal talent out there, has it become easier to find the right lawyer for your open positions? And has it had an effect on compensation? Write to me here. All responses are off the record, unless we agree otherwise.