What Do In-House Attorney
Learn more about what the typical
pay is for in-house attorney positions
If you work in a law firm, you have probably wondered what it would be like to
“go in-house” and take a position as an in-house counsel. There are many factors
to consider in taking a position in-house, including how it may affect your lifestyle
and future career mobility. But what about compensation? How much money can
you expect to make as an in-house counsel?
The answer depends on a number of variables, including the type of in-house
position you are applying for, the industry and city you will be working in, and the
size of the company you are joining. In-house counsel also sometimes receive
stock options as part of their compensation package, which can balance out a
lower take home salary.
Highest Paid General Counsels
The highest paid general counsel of a public company in 2014 was Alan
Braverman, the General Counsel of Walt Disney. According to Corporate Counsel’s
2015 General Counsel Compensation Survey, in 2014 Braverman earned a salary
of $1.374 million, a bonus of $5.325 million, and total compensation including
exercised stock options of $12.188 million.
The industries with the highest paid general counsel were the entertainment and
banking and finance industries. Along with Braverman, the top 10 highest paid
general counsel headed up the legal departments of General Electric, Time
Warner, Twenty-First Century Fox, The Blackstone Group, Bank of America,
Boeing, CBS, Google and Viacom Inc.
The highest paid female general counsel was Maryanne Lavan, of Lockheed
Martin, who earned $2.724 million in total cash compensation. Lavan’s
compensation placed her in the number eleven spot of the highest paid general
Other General Counsel and In-House Salaries
Needless to say, most attorneys do not earn the salaries described above,
whether they work in law firms or for companies and whether they are GC’s or
regular corporate counsel. But the good news is that most in-house attorneys still
make very decent livings. An attorney transitioning to an in-house position in a
major city can expect to earn a salary of over $100,000.
Entertainment Industry Has Highest Paid In-House Lawyers
As might be indicated by the way Braverman tops the GC salary chart at Walt
Disney, the entertainment industry as a whole has the highest paid general
counsel. According to one report, general counsel in the entertainment industry
earned median compensation (base salary plus bonus) of $550,500. General
counsel in the healthcare industry came in second, with median compensation of
$502,500. GC’s in the extractive/mining/chemicals industry came in third at
At the lower end of the spectrum, the median compensation for GC’s in the
health system industry was $235,000, and the not-for-profit industry $220,500.
When it came to the highest paying in-house positions in 2014 for attorneys who
were not general counsel, the entertainment industry again came out on top,
with median compensation of $294,000. GC median compensation for other
industries was as follows: healthcare $228,000, extractive/mining/chemicals
$198,000, technology $231,750, consumer products $235,000, financial services
$260,677, education $192,500, health system $150,000, and not-for-profit
New York, San Francisco and Seattle Have Higher Paying In-House Salaries
Another source of data for general counsel salaries is PayScale, a website that
tabulates salaries among various positions and industries based on voluntary
surveys. According to PayScale, the median general counsel salary in the United
States as of September 2015 was $149,717. The range started at $77,890
($79,636 including bonuses) and topped off at $238,766 ($285,326 including
Of those GC’s reporting, the highest paid were located in New York, with a
median salary of $195,013. New York was followed by San Francisco at $194,834,
and then Houston at $174,984, Boston at $166,334, Chicago at $154,380, Los
Angeles at $154,199, Seattle at $146,847, Salt Lake City at $131,789, and Austin at
The median salary for associate general counsel in all locations was $133,990,
with a range from $72,998 ($74,251 including bonuses) to $204,404 ($245,022
including bonuses). San Francisco AGC came out on top at $179,009, followed by
Houston at $157,168, New York at $151,389, and Chicago at $113,850.
Data is not available for Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Austin.
A third category classified by PayScale as “corporate counsel” netted a median
salary of $108,064, with a city breakdown as follows: Seattle at $142,631, San
Francisco at $140,205, New York at $128,803, Houston at $118,206, Boston at
$108,391, and Chicago at $110,778.
The Larger the Company, the Larger the Salary
Not surprisingly, in-house lawyers working for larger companies can expect to
earn more money than their counterparts in smaller companies, according to the
2016 Robert Half Salary Guide for the Legal Field. That survey projects that
lawyers with ten or more years experience working for large companies will earn
between $185,250 and $259,750 in 2016. For medium companies, the range will
be between $149,000 and $231,250, and for small companies, between $130,750
and $187,500. For lawyers with zero to three years of experience, the expected
salary range will be between $125,750 and $160,250 (large companies) and
between $82,250 and $112,750 (small companies).
If going in-house is right for you, you can expect to earn a decent living, especially
if you will be assuming the role of general counsel, working in an industry like
entertainment or healthcare, and in a major city like New York, San Francisco or
This article “What Do In-House Attorney Positions Pay?” first
appeared on LawCrossing is the world leader in “pure” monitoring and reporting
of legal jobs, through its active and growing research into all legal employers
throughout the world.