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Attorneys working for Atlanta corporations are the highest paid in-house lawyers in the nation based on a comparison of the cost of living in nine cities. A survey of 440 corporate law departments in those cities shows that a relatively high level of cash compensation and a low cost of living combine to give corporate attorneys here more buying power, says Rees W. Morrison, who gathered the 1999 data for Altman Weil Inc., a legal consulting firm. Morrison discussed his findings last week at a meeting of the Georgia chapter of the American Corporate Counsel Association. The median cash compensation for Atlanta in-house attorneys in the survey was $146,250. Adjusted for a national composite cost of living, that number represents buying power of $146,985. Elsewhere, buying power suffers. While salaries in the other cities surveyed are in the same range as those in Atlanta, higher costs of living leave attorneys in those cities with significantly less buying power, the survey shows. Attorneys in New York City came out the worst. The median in-house salary there was $151,000 but was reduced to $63,525 when adjusted for the city’s high cost of living. Atlanta hasn’t “made the transition into a high cost of living,” says Morrison. In the areas of Atlanta with ZIP codes starting with 303, Morrison says he surveyed nine law departments with a total of 63 in-house attorneys. For an Atlanta chief legal officer, the average cash compensation was $281,275, Morrison found. For a managing attorney, the average was $228,880, and for a senior attorney, the number was $139,531. The average cash compensation in the nine cities surveyed for a staff attorney within a corporate law department was $70,712. Around the nation, Morrison found that the boom in attorney salaries — what he calls the “dot-com surge” — has not trickled down to corporate legal departments. In Atlanta, for example, larger law firms bumped first-year associate salaries to upwards of $100,000 last year after Menlo Park, Calif.’s Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villenueve Franklin & Hachigian upped the ante for Silicon Valley associates. Also, Morrison notes, an “inside-outside gap” has developed for corporate counsel. While the overall pay differential between outside and inside corporate counsel has decreased, Morrison says that over time, in-house corporate lawyers have received more bonus money and more stock options than outside counsel. Also, companies engage in an increased use of performance-based incentive compensation for their in-house corporate attorneys. The survey also revealed that: � In-house legal departments have annual attrition rates as low as 3 percent or 4 percent. According to the National Association for Law Placement, attrition rates for first-year to fifth-year law firm associates ranged from 8 percent to 60 percent in 1999. � There is no correlation between increased spending on in-house counsel and decreased spending on outside counsel. � There is no evidence that higher compensation for in-house attorneys is correlated to a lower number of attorney staff members in a corporate law department. Related Charts: Average In-House Pay in Nine U.S. Cities What In-House Pay is Worth in Nine U.S. Cities

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