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General Counsel Pay Hits Five-Year High at $2.6 Million

Oct. 1, 2019, 3:49 PM

Pay packages for public companies’ top lawyers hit a five-year high last year as their role expands beyond the realm of lawsuits and compliance.

Median compensation for general counsel of the 500 largest-revenue companies in U.S. stock markets reached $2.6 million in 2018, a 7.4% increase since 2014, according to an Oct. 1 analysis by data firm Equilar and executive search firm BarkerGilmore.

General counsel have traditionally overseen a company’s litigation and legal compliance. Their increased pay reflects added responsibilities in setting corporate strategy and managing risks, the report said.

“The report brings to light the expanding role of the GC and the increased compensation associated with their seat at the table,” BarkerGilmore managing partner John Gilmore said in a statement.

The year-over-year median pay raise for general counsel in 2018 was about half as big as chief executive officers’ pay increase at the 500 companies analyzed in the report. GCs in the healthcare sector received the highest total compensation, while the largest year-over-year increase went to those in the financial sector.

The analysis also showed a gender pay gap. Male GCs’ compensation was 18.6% more than female GCs’ compensation in 2018. It was the widest pay discrepancy over the years studied.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Vittorio in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Roger Yu at; Seth Stern at