General Counsel Compensation

July 21st, 2011 by Altman Weil

Corporate Counsel magazine has released its 2011  survey of the 100 highest paid GCs in the US.  The top earner was Altria Group GC, Denise Keane, with $6.5 million in total cash compensation.

The survey found:

“Stock options continue to fall out of favor (even though some lucky in-house lawyers are still getting those fat options), and cash remains king. Instead of getting bonuses just for being there, chief legal officers are getting extra cash, or, in the latest parlance, nonequity incentive compensation, which is tied to corporate performance goals. These payments, which rose by double digits, make up an increasing part of a chief legal officer’s pay packet. And restricted shares remain the most popular way to reward high performers with equity. In all, the word is diversity, rather than any one type of compensation.”


“Total cash payments surged 18 percent in 2010. Ninety-three of the 100 top-paid general counsel received nonequity incentive compensation, while the number getting discretionary bonuses dipped from 23 to just 20.

That doesn’t surprise compensation experts, who have seen traditional bonuses cave in recent years under the weight of a battered economy. “During challenging economic times, companies are much more likely to require that compensation be earned through performance rather than granted based on past work,” says James Wilber, a principal of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania-based Altman Weil, Inc. “When that happens,” he says, “the at-risk component of compensation increases, and base compensation stagnates or even decreases.”

Read it at Corporate Counsel

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