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Most large U.S. law firms employ in-house counsel and pay them an average of 34% more than in 2006, according to a new Altman Weil Inc. survey. The 2008 Altman Weil Flash Survey on Law Firm General Counsel found that 85% of large U.S. law firms have a general counsel. A similar percentage of large firms had a designated general counsel in 2006. Eighty-two percent of the general counsel are also partners in the firm and 83% have a litigation background. Litigation experience is “appropriate for their risk management role,” said Altman Weil principal Ward Bower. Participating law firms identified professional liability and professional responsibility issues, such as conflicts and client privilege, as top areas of responsibility for general counsel. Full time general counsel earn an average salary of more than $750,000, while part-time general counsel collect an average of $665,000. “These compensation levels affirm the importance attached to the general counsel position in law firms,” Bower said. In February and March, Altman Weil contacted 195 of the AmLaw 200, a ranking of the nation’s top revenue-producing firms compiled by The American Lawyer, a National Law Journal affiliate. Altman Weil reported that 44% of the firms it contacted by e-mail participated in the online survey.

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