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New ACC Survey Finds 'Dramatic' Gender Pay Gap for In-House Counsel

A new report from the Association of Corporate Counsel draws “a dramatic picture of gender pay disparity” for women in-house lawyers, while it shows their male colleagues may be sitting in denial.

The “Global Perspectives: ACC In-House Trends Report,” released Tuesday, indicates that a higher percentage of women than men occupy lower-level categories when it comes to in-house salaries.

“In fact, there is a higher proportion of men in six of seven tiers beyond $199,000— yet only 8 percent of male respondents believe that [the disparity] even exists,” the report stated.

That data corroborates another recent finding about the lawyer pay gap among millennials.

In other “bad news” for women working as corporate counsel, according to the report, over one-third of female respondents have had trouble finding satisfactory jobs after an absence of six months or less.

And 65 percent of female lawyers found it difficult to find a new position after a two-year or more absence from the workforce.

In the survey, which was based on responses from 1,800 in-house counsel in 53 countries, 58 percent of respondents agreed that they now enjoy the same elevated status as outside counsel in terms of how they are perceived as legal and strategic advisers.

The report said a greater number of in-house counsel now serve on companies’ strategic and operational teams. They are working with C-suites and boards to manage growth, plan for the future and find solutions to business as well as legal problems. This trend was recently highlighted in a Corporate Counsel feature on the Clorox Co.

The report stated that lawyers in Africa and the Middle East, Asia Pacific, Latin America, and the United States are “more or less unanimous in their agreement” that members of the legal department are getting a status comparable to that of outside counsel.  But in-house lawyers in Europe vary somewhat in their perception, with just over 10 percent reporting they do not enjoy the same status as outside counsel.

Here are other findings from the report:

  • One in four companies reported being targeted by regulatory inquiries, so it’s “not a surprise that one in three chief legal officers reported that their company made changes to policies and market plans.”
  •  In-house counsel are highly mobile, willing to consider new positions and looking to master nonlegal skills. For example, the report said that nonlegal education on topics like management and finance is important to respondents.
  • Over 80 percent of respondents described their relationships with law firms as generally positive.
  • Six percent said their legal departments track diversity among their outside service providers while 20 percent said their companies have a formal program to advance the careers of diverse employees.
 Contact Sue Reisinger at sreisinger@alm.com

Contributing Author

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Sue Reisinger

Sue Reisinger is a Senior Reporter for Corporate Counsel. You can read more of her articles here or email her at

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