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Denise Keane.


As part of our 2017 General Counsel Compensation Survey, Corporate Counsel affiliate ALM Legal Intelligence broke down the data to reveal the top earning female legal department leaders. The GCs were ranked by total cash compensation, which includes salary, bonus and other non-equity pay. The rankings are based on company proxy filings from fiscal year 2016.

This year, the list of top paid women is led by Denise Keane of Altria Group, who was also the highest compensated GC in our overall rankings.  Unfortunately, despite Keane’s place at the top, women are still underrepresented on the overall general counsel list– only one other female legal department head cracked the broader top ten.

We can hope for better compensation for women legal department leaders next year, but for now, let’s count down the ten best paid female GCs on our list:


Denise Keane

Denise Keane of Altria Group Inc., who also topped the overall GC compensation rankings, brought home an impressive $9,000,500 in total cash compensation.  A great deal of her pay came in the form of bonuses that may have been tied to her departure from the company after more than 40 years

Laureen Seeger

American Express Company legal boss Laureen Seeger came in behind Keane this year with a total cash haul of $6,193,000. Seeger joined American Express in 2014 from McKesson Corporation and succeeded Louise Parent, another notable female legal department leader, who had been with the credit card company for 37 years.

Maryanne Lavan

Maryanne Lavan of Lockheed Martin Corporation earned $2,791,248. Lavan is now the queen of legal at Lockheed, but during her tenure at the company, she hasn’t always even been a part of the law department. She served as vice president for ethics and business conduct as well as vice president for internal audit at the company before becoming GC in 2010.

Laura Schumacher

Behind Lavan in this year’s rankings is Laura Schumacher of AbbVie Inc. Schumacher made $2,605,369 for overseeing a whole host of areas at the pharmaceutical company besides just legal. The buck stops with her for government affairs, corporate responsibility, and brand and communications, just to name a few.

Marianne Short

The next highest earner on the list is Marianne Short of UnitedHealth Group, a lawyer who already made it to the top of the law firm world, as managing partner at Dorsey & Whitney, before trying her hand at the GC game. She moved over to UnitedHealth at the start of 2013 and has done quite well for herself, bringing home $2,598,100 and rounding out our top five.

Sandra Leung

Sandra Leung joined Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, in 1992 as a litigation department staff attorney. She only climbed higher from there, reaching associate counsel, counsel and corporate secretary, then general counsel in 2007, with an executive vice president title added on in 2014. Along with her upward trajectory has come a healthy pay package of $2,134,577 in total cash.

Deborah Long

Deborah Long of Protective Life Corporation is proof that the insurance industry can pay out well. She brought home $2,002,904 in this year’s survey. Long  joined the company as GC in 1992 and had previously been an attorney at Maynard, Cooper & Gale law firm in Alabama, the state where Protective is based.

Suzanne Rich Folsom

Next on our list with a total cash pay of $1,974,000 is Suzanne Rich Folsom, a veteran legal department leader who is currently general counsel  of  United States Steel Corporation. Folsom announced in November that she will leave the company at the end of the year, but with a resume that includes roles at  American International Group, Academi and the World Bank, there’s little doubt she will be able to find another top notch gig.

Elisa Garcia

According to this year’s survey, Elisa Garcia of Macy’s Inc. made $1,934,899. She only joined the company recently, in September 2016, but brought with her a wealth of law department experience. She was previously the general counsel of Office Depot Inc., and before that, Domino’s Pizza. She also held a prominent in-house position with Philip Morris International.

Kim Rivera

Last but most certainly not least is Kim Rivera of Hewlett-Packard Inc who made $1,893,254 this year. Aside from her notable appearance in our survey rankings, Rivera made headlines when she announced back in February that HP Inc. would withhold invoiced fees from many outside law firms if they did not meet set diverse staffing standards.


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