Notable Findings from the ACC’s 2018 Global Compensation Report - Latitude


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Notable Findings from the ACC’s 2018 Global Compensation Report

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The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) just released its 2018 Global Compensation Report. This is the first report of its kind to be published by the ACC, and it is based on survey responses from over 5,000 lawyers and legal operations professionals in corporate legal departments from 65 countries and 39 different industry sectors. Here are a few notable findings:

  • General Counsel (GC) total compensation is highest among the following industries (in rank order):

    • biotechnology/life

    • technical/R&D

    • accommodation/food services

    • agriculture/forestry/fishing/huntin

    • fast-moving consumer goods/consumer services

  • The mean total compensation package for GC is $243,000, with the 95th percentile earning over $1.1 million a year.

  • The mean total compensation package for entry-level in-house counsel positions with no management responsibilities is $125,000 a year.

  • Overall, median base salary for in-house counsel is $172,000, with median total compensation coming in at $205,000.

  • More than three-quarters of survey respondents expect a salary increase in the next year.

  • In-house counsel for public companies earn more than those lawyers working in privately owned companies (across all levels of the legal department) by a difference of approximately $48,000 when comparing total compensation.

  • In-house counsel specializing in capital markets, securities and finance earn a median total compensation of $280,000, which is 37% more than the median of all in-house counsel responding to the ACC’s survey.

  • The Legal Operations field is growing in popularity and hierarchy among larger companies in the U.S.

  • Heads of Legal Operations earn a median total compensation of nearly $190,000 a year, with the top 5% earning at least $464,000.

  • The legal department is not immune from gender bias, with the widest compensation gap at the top. Male GC earn a median of $270,000 in total compensation, while women GC with similar experience and responsibilities earn just 78% of that total at $210,000. The compensation gap shrinks (but doesn’t disappear) for those in-house counsel graduating after 2009.

  • Fifteen percent of those lawyers surveyed started their legal careers in-house.

  • It pays to work at a law firm before moving in-house. Those attorneys who had 2 to 5 years of outside experience (either at a firm or in government) before moving in-house reportedly make $50,000+ more than their contemporaries who began their careers in-house.


A free Executive Summary of the ACC 2018 Global Compensation Report is available to download on the ACC website. 

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