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26 June 2020

Four in every 10 US in-house counsel considering job switch in next 12 months, survey finds

In-house lawyers at healthcare and tech firms most likely to move; gender pay gap continues, especially at senior levels

By Ben Edwards

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Some 40% of in-house counsel in the US said they were thinking of searching for new jobs over the next year, with the impact of Covid-19 likely to impact those decisions, according to BarkerGilmore’s 2020 In-House Counsel Compensation Report.

In-house lawyers in the healthcare and technology industries are more likely to be on the look out for new positions due to compensation issues, as is the case for counsel with practice areas focused on litigation and IP. Some 44% of male managing counsel were mulling switching employers in the coming 12 months, compared to 35% of women, the survey found.

The survey also found that male lawyers were likely to earn slightly more at managing and senior counsel levels, but even higher at GC level. For every $100 a male GC earns, women GCs only take home $81. Bonus and long-term incentive awards accounted for most of the disparity, the data showed.

BarkerGilmore stated in the report: 'In 2019, the record-setting economy and stock market afforded most in-house counsel to reach new highs for total earnings. The majority achieved target cash bonuses and long-term equity awards. While starting 2020 with cautious optimism for similar returns, the Covid-19 crisis immediately created uncertainty.

'The effects of this crisis on 2020 compensation are likely to be disparate based on industry. Many bio-medical, financial, manufacturing, e-commerce, and technology companies are seeing unprecedented growth. Whereas travel, energy and food services struggle with consumers who are forced to stay home.'

Despite the steady salary increases seen across the market, almost four in 10 in-house counsel believe their compensation is below or significantly below that of their peers in other organisations. Lawyers working in the insurance, litigation, banking, finance and IP practice areas were most satisfied with their pay, with more than a fifth reporting that their compensation was above or significantly above average. 

The survey showed that compensation for in-house counsel working at publicly traded companies is significantly higher than private companies, with general counsel at listed companies earning 51% more.

In April, a survey by Major, Lindsey & Africa found that female GCs and CLOs earn $455,796 on average, more than $60,000 lower than men in the same positions.

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