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Women General Counsel Make $125K Less Than Male Colleagues

Nov. 27, 2018, 9:46 PM

The role of the general counsel has expanded greatly over the last several years, but the compensation that comes with increased prestige still tends to reach men in the GC position more than women, according to a new study.

The report from the Association of Corporate Counsel and contract review tech company Law Geex was released Nov. 27 and shows a persistent gender gap in general counsel pay, with male GCs making 39 percent more on average than their female counterparts.

Susanna McDonald, ACC’s general counsel, told Bloomberg Law that the overall growth in the GC role is “unparalleled.”

Companies are facing significant legal issues involving cybersecurity, labor and employment, antitrust, and data privacy, she said. In order to handle these issues, they need a GC who understands legal issues as well as the company’s internal structure and how to manage within it, she added.

But despite these changes, the study indicated that at least in some ways, the general counsel’s office is still a man’s world.

The statistically typical GC today is a man between 35 and 54 who lives in California, works in the financial sector, and earns $480,000 per year, according to the report titled, The 2019 General Counsel Landscape.

The report’s findings are based on analysis of 34,000 U.S. general counsel on the professional social network LinkedIn, alongside job listings and compensation surveys.

Women are underrepresented in the world of general counsel, the study found. Only 31 percent of those GCs in the LinkedIn data were female, and within the Fortune 500, the proportion of female general counsel dropped even lower, to 29 percent.

The average pay for a general counsel in the U.S. is $408,000, including both salary and performance-based bonuses, according to the report. But male GCs earn an average of $453,625 a year in the position, and women GCs an average of $326,477.

It’s “very disappointing” that women’s salaries are still lagging behind men, McDonald said.

Women GCs “could wait a very long time” for their salaries to catch up with their male counterparts, so they need to arm themselves with the salary and job data when they go to salary negotiations or job interviews in order to make the change happen, she said.

Other findings from the report include:

  • California is the top state for general counsel, home to 13 percent of all GCs in the United States, followed by New York, which has 10 percent.
  • Based on 2017 proxy filings from Fortune 1000 companies, the two highest-paid general counsel are based in New York. Morgan Stanley’s GC Eric Grossman is paid $6.95 million in salary, followed by Laureen Seeger, who heads the legal department at American Express and makes a salary of $6.7 million.
  • Fortune 500 GC salaries approach seven million dollars annually.
  • The GC jobs with the lowest average pay are found in the construction and engineering sectors ($294,945); educational services ($290,221); trade associations ($245,888); holding companies ($231,438), advertising and public relations ($215,096); and charity and not-for-profit organizations ($212,415).

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at