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In-House Legal Pay Bounces 15% From Pandemic Start, Survey Finds

July 27, 2022, 9:00 AM

In-house legal leaders in the U.S. on average earn $578,446 this year, up 15% from 2020, a legal search firm survey shows.

The energy and public utility industry industry has the highest pay for U.S. general counsels and chief legal officers, with the average topping $900,000, the Major, Lindsey & Africa findings show.

That was followed by banking and retail sales, which finished above $700,000, according to the firm.

“Since 2021 in particular was a successful year for many companies, financially, it made sense to give out generous bonuses to retain top talent across all levels,” said Michael Sachs, a partner on the in-house recruiting team for the firm.

The findings dovetail with other research that shows compensation for in-house lawyers has bounced back from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

The data is based on survey responses of 3,300 lawyers, according to the firm. The pay cited in the survey includes base salary plus bonuses and commissions.

For general counsels and chief legal officers, bonuses rose 16% from 2020 and comprise 40% to 50% of general counsels’ overall pay — consistent with others in the C-suite, the survey found.

The pay gap has grown between chief legal officers and general counsels and the next-highest law role at companies, according to Major, Lindsey & Africa. That gap was $125,000 in 2022, up from $78,000 in 2020.

Legal chiefs and general counsels typically earn more than $500,000 regardless of their ethnicity, the search firm said. Male chief legal officers and general counsels earned more than female counterparts, however, the survey found.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Olson at egolson1@gmail.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com