Lawyers in a few key practice areas are often treasured in corporate legal departments. While in-house departments almost always seek out good generalists, experts cite litigation and intellectual property as traditionally in-demand practice areas--so it should come as little surprise that Hildebrandt shows in-house lawyers with IP litigation backgrounds as pulling in the highest compensation.
Meanwhile, litigation specialists have become even more valuable as companies scramble to keep up with e-discovery, and regulatory and compliance lawyers have been essential since Sarbanes-Oxley passed in 2002.
In-house counsel have long griped about sky-rocketing associate salaries at top law firms. The bloated paychecks not only nudge up outside spending but make cynics wonder why--when an entry-level associate can make nearly as much as an in-house attorney with a decade of experience--anyone would choose to go corporate.
In 2008, a first-year associate at a law firm with more than 75 attorneys, on average, had a salary between $111,750 and $137,000, according to Robert Half Legal's 2009 Salary Guide. The Big Law standard starting salary remained around $160,000.