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In-house attorney salaries and bonuses continued their upward trajectory with base salaries climbing 2.2% to 9.5% and bonuses climbing as much as 71%, according to a new survey from legal consultant Altman Weil Inc. As competition for legal talent heats up, the salary increases are filtering down to rank-and-file attorneys in corporate legal departments, said James Wilber, a principal at Newtown Square, Penn-based Altman Weil. “We’re seeing people farther down the ranks catch up,” Wilber said. “It’s a natural reflection of the fact that we’re in, or going into, a sellers’ market.” Competition for talent is particularly lucrative for lawyers in some specialties and industries. Lawyers with patent and mergers and acquisitions expertise collect higher paychecks, and chief legal officers in the information/telecommunications sector collect 39.9% more in median cash compensation than other corporate legal chiefs. “That’s a reflection of where the juice is in our labor market these days,” Wilber said. Altman Weil teamed up with LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell of New Providence, N.J., to collect data on 6,255 lawyers in 277 law departments. The survey compared salaries as of March 1, 2006, to those as of March 1, 2005, and bonuses collected in 2005 to 2004 bonuses. Large bonus jumps Although recent graduates enjoyed only a 2.2% salary bump and staff attorneys collected only 3.5% more in their paychecks compared with 8.5% for senior attorneys, 9.5% for high-level specialists and 8% for chief legal officers, lower-level corporate lawyers reaped massive bonuses. Bonuses for senior attorneys jumped by 14.4% for senior attorneys, 62.5% for junior attorneys and 71% for staff attorneys. Division general counsel collected 20.3% more in bonus money, while managing attorneys pulled down an additional 25.3%. Bonuses for chief legal officers dipped to a median bonus of $132,000, compared with $104,000 for division general counsel and $29,200 for senior attorneys. Favorable economic conditions and the growing importance of compliance and legal oversight to corporate governance contributed to the salary and bonus upswing, Wilber said. “Law departments are probably in a role of more prominence and higher stature than they were pre Sarbanes-Oxley [Act of 2002],” Wilber said. “The more the function is valued, the more likely there’s going to be increased compensation as people compete for the best people.” Larger corporations, much like larger law firms, pay more than their smaller counterparts. Chief legal officers with at least 25 attorneys under their supervision collected 88.9% more in cash compensation than the national median. Deputy chief legal officers also gained, by 57.5% more than the median compensation, by working in large law departments.

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