Many senior-level in-house lawyers believed they would be getting something special under the Christmas tree in 2004--a big fat raise.
And it wasn't a far-fetched assumption. Most had been working nonstop trying to deal with the myriad of new responsibilities brought forth by Sarbanes-Oxley, and have been doing so with smaller budgets and fewer staff. In addition, they were under pressure from board members, shareholders and their CEOs to ensure regulators had no reason to pry into their businesses. On top of that, the GC role has morphed into one of the most important positions in corporate America.
"There is no way GCs are going to get huge raises by going into the CEOs' offices and saying, 'Hey, the economy is better and we are making more money, so we should get a 10 percent raise,'" says Jonathan Bellis, a director at Hildebrandt and the author of its benchmarking study. "That isn't going to happen. Just because the economy is getting better, it doesn't mean the pressure is off GCs and their law departments."
Although senior-level in-house counsel haven't benefited from the economic resurgence, it appears mid-level in-house attorneys have. According to various compensation reports, median total cash compensation for mid-level lawyers increased anywhere from 6 percent to 10 percent.