8 important in-house compensation statistics

An overview of in-house lawyers' average base salaries, raises, top-paying practice areas and more

compensation data

Want to know what the average GC is earning these days? Interested to know what the top-paying practice areas are? Read on to view data outlining the current in-house compensation climate and see how you stack up.

average base salary

According to HBR Consulting’s 2012 HBR Law Department Survey, which reports on data from 2010 and 2011, compensation among in-house lawyers is on the upswing.

average base salary increase

HBR Consulting’s 2012 HBR Law Department Survey found that the average base salary increase among all legal department staff levels was 3.4 percent, up from an average increase of 3.3 percent that companies reported in the 2011 survey.

factors determining salary increases

Vanessa Vidal, president of ESQ Recruiting, says part of the reason there has been a steady increase in compensation is because in-house counsel are striving to prove their worth to their companies.

top-paying practice areas

HBR Consulting’s survey found that the five top-paying practice areas, based on average total cash compensation, are antitrust/trade regulation, intellectual property (licensing), mergers and acquisitions, government relations, and companywide compliance.

cash bonuses

Bonus levels are similar to those that companies reported in HBR Consulting’s 2011 survey. CLOs saw an average cash bonus of $518,035, which is a 5.1 percent increase. GCs saw an average cash bonus of $316,726. Although the amount is a 4.5 percent decrease from the astounding 18.3 percent jump companies reported in the 2011 survey, GCs still are seeing an increase compared with years past. The average cash bonus for all attorney levels was $62,465, a 3.4 percent increase.

long-term incentives

Lauren Chung, senior director and survey editor at HBR Consulting says respondents to HBR Consulting’s survey said they are dishing out a combination of deferred cash, stock options, restrictive stock and other types of company-specific long-term incentive plans.

long-term incentives 2

According to HBR Consulting’s survey, the average total value of long-term incentives that CLOs earned was $913,511, which made up 42.9 percent of their total compensation. GCs’ average long-term incentive value was $805,540, which accounted for 41.7 percent of their total compensation. Attorneys across all levels saw an average long-term incentive value of $93,039, which amounted to 19.1 percent of their total compensation.


Despite the fact that many law school graduates still face a bleak legal job market, hiring—albeit selective—is on the rise.

Ashley Post

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