Altman Weil Releases Law Department Compensation Survey

Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - 00:00

The Altman Weil Law Department Compensation Benchmarking Survey of U.S. corporate law departments has just been released.The survey, published in partnership with the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), shows healthy increases in total cash compensation for most in-house lawyers.

Salaries for senior positions in law departments, including Chief Legal Officers (CLOs), Deputy CLOs and Division General Counsel, were up between 5.3 percent and 7.8 percent this year. Lawyers in more senior non-management positions also saw increases, with high-level specialist, senior attorney and attorney positions reporting increases from 3.9 percent to 5.2 percent. Staff attorney and recent graduate salaries were down 3.5 percent and 1.9 percent respectively.

The survey reports national median salary for chief legal officers in 2004 at $275,000. The high-level specialist position drew $138,105, while a new law school graduate earned a salary of $60,000.

Nationally, all in-house positions reported increases in median annual bonuses this year. CLOs reported the smallest relative increase - up 4.9 percent - perhaps reflecting the fact that their bonuses have increased steadily for the last several years.Other positions showed bigger increases, from 14.5 percent up to 45.4 percent, coming back from two prior years of declining bonus awards.

The national median bonus for chief legal officers was $120,000, according to the Survey. Division general counsel (a mid-level management position) received $78,750 in bonus dollars, and senior attorneys with eight or more years of experience took home a $22,000 bonus.

After dramatic decreases in stock option values last year, option values rebounded in 2004.The survey reports CLO options up 12.5% to $618,800 in value, deputy CLO options up 60.2 percent to $367,200 and division GC options up 57.9 percent to $248,300.

The survey found a correlation between industry sector and compensation for the top three officer positions in corporate law departments. CLOs, deputy CLOs and division general counsel in the finance/insurance sector earned between 9.6 percent and 10.4 percent more in total cash compensation than their peers nationally.

Size of law department was also a factor in the top officer compensation. Chief legal officers in departments with over 25 lawyers took home 55 percent more than the national median in total cash. Deputy CLOs earned 11 percent more, and division GCs earned 9.7 percent more than their peers in smaller departments.

Regionally, Chief Legal Officers in the New York/Northern NJ/Long Island area took home 17.3 percent more than the national median in total cash compensation. CLOs in Washington, DC/Baltimore earned 8.7 percent more, while top in-house lawyers in San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose received 8.5 percent less in total cash compensation.

The complete Altman Weil Law Department Compensation Benchmarking Survey, Fall 2004 edition contains data from 302 law departments providing compensation data for 7,654 lawyers.Information on an additional 60 one-lawyer departments is included separately.

For additional information visit the Altman Weil website at