compensation data

Want to know what the average GC is earning these days? Interested to know what the top-paying practice areas are? Read on to view data outlining the current in-house compensation climate and see how you stack up.

For more insight on earnings and jobs, read InsideCounsel’s 2013 in-house compensation report.

average base salary

According to HBR Consulting’s 2012 HBR Law Department Survey, which reports on data from 2010 and 2011, compensation among in-house lawyers is on the upswing.

CLOs and GCs earned average base salaries of $521,238 and $427,402, respectively.

average base salary increase

HBR Consulting’s 2012 HBR Law Department Survey found that the average base salary increase among all legal department staff levels was 3.4 percent, up from an average increase of 3.3 percent that companies reported in the 2011 survey.

CLOs saw the highest average base salary increase at 5 percent, with GCs right behind at 4.8 percent. 

“We’re not seeing dramatic increases in base salary, but the increase we did see this year is very positive, considering where we were two years ago,” says Lauren Chung, senior director and survey editor at HBR Consulting.

factors determining salary increases

Vanessa Vidal, president of ESQ Recruiting, says part of the reason there has been a steady increase in compensation is because in-house counsel are striving to prove their worth to their companies.

“When they can show true value, either in actual dollar amounts with cost reduction or efficiency by improving processes, then their roles are much more appreciated, and they can leverage that in demanding compensation that reflects those efforts.”

top-paying practice areas

HBR Consulting’s survey found that the five top-paying practice areas, based on average total cash compensation, are antitrust/trade regulation, intellectual property (licensing), mergers and acquisitions, government relations, and companywide compliance.

Additionally, 39 percent of respondents to HBR Consulting’s survey said they planned to increase the number of specialist roles for specific practice areas in the next year.

cash bonuses

Bonus levels are similar to those that companies reported in HBR Consulting’s 2011 survey. CLOs saw an average cash bonus of $518,035, which is a 5.1 percent increase. GCs saw an average cash bonus of $316,726. Although the amount is a 4.5 percent decrease from the astounding 18.3 percent jump companies reported in the 2011 survey, GCs still are seeing an increase compared with years past. The average cash bonus for all attorney levels was $62,465, a 3.4 percent increase.

long-term incentives

Lauren Chung, senior director and survey editor at HBR Consulting says respondents to HBR Consulting’s survey said they are dishing out a combination of deferred cash, stock options, restrictive stock and other types of company-specific long-term incentive plans.


long-term incentives 2

According to HBR Consulting’s survey, the average total value of long-term incentives that CLOs earned was $913,511, which made up 42.9 percent of their total compensation. GCs’ average long-term incentive value was $805,540, which accounted for 41.7 percent of their total compensation. Attorneys across all levels saw an average long-term incentive value of $93,039, which amounted to 19.1 percent of their total compensation.


Despite the fact that many law school graduates still face a bleak legal job market, hiring—albeit selective—is on the rise.

“In-house hiring is robust for the first time in several years,” says Mike Evers, president of recruiting company Evers Legal Search Inc. “When it comes to headcount growth generally, it’s simply because the current in-house staff is maxed out. Options come down to adding nontraditional individuals, such as contract attorneys, sending more work to outside counsel or actually hiring. Companies are dabbling with all of those solutions, but thankfully we are at a place now where a number of companies are growing their law departments strategically and slowly.”