Law firm experience boosts in-house pay

A couple of years’ experience in a law firm could result in a better overall pay package for in-house lawyers than going straight into an in-house role, latest sector research by a major international body suggests.

The Association of Corporate Counsel’s 2018 Global Compensation Report states that 15% of 5,026 respondents who completed the ACC’s survey went directly in-house after finishing law school. However, having at least two years’ experience before moving in-house ‘results in a considerable compensation increase over lawyers who have worked only in-house’.

The median total compensation of counsel who have worked only in-house is $149,000 (£112,950), compared to $160,000 (£121,289) for those with two years’ outside experience.

The report notes a ‘significant’ gap between men and women at GC level. Men earn a median of $270,000 (£204,675) in total compensation, compared to $210,000 (£159,202) for women, despite having similar experience. However, the gender pay gap shrinks among recent graduates. The disparity in median compensation for those who graduated after 2015 is $35,500 (£26,913), compared to the $85,000 (£64,442) gap found among GCs who graduated before 2000.

Three-quarters of respondents expect to see their salary increase this year. A quarter of general counsel expect their pay packet to increase by at least 5%. The report states: ‘This is likely because more senior positions often receive stock options and restricted shares, which on average have a potential growth value that is higher than one’s base salary.’

A quarter of GCs expect their compensation this year to remain the same. Lawyers in the biotechnology and life sciences industry overwhelmingly expect a salary increase; 31% of counsel in the entertainment and recreation sector predict at least a 5% rise.

Nearly four in 10 expat respondents say their compensation is similar to that of their local colleagues. However, only 11% of expats in the UK think they are compensated equally with their British colleagues.

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