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New Survey Finds U.S-Based General Counsel and Chief Legal Officers Earn 45% More than their Counterparts Outside the U.S.

The gender pay gap persists globally as men at all levels reported higher total compensation than their female counterparts

Hanover, MD – April 21, 2020 – General counsel in the U.S. significantly out-earn non-U.S. General Counsel, a difference that is attributable in part to an increase in responsibility that the role of General Counsel has assumed in the U.S., according to the 2020 Global In-House Compensation Survey released today by Major, Lindsey & Africa, the world’s largest legal search firm. The survey also found that men’s compensation still largely eclipses that of their female colleagues for in-house legal positions at all levels. The survey was fielded in partnership with Western Management Group and based on responses from 3,900 respondents in 36 countries. The respondents include Chief Legal Officers, General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officers, Regional/Country General Counsel, Deputy/Assistant General Counsel, Senior Counsel, and Counsel.

Men hold the vast majority of top positions, and despite efforts to promote diversity and pay equity, globally, male Chief Legal Officers and General Counsel reported higher average compensation than their female colleagues. Men’s total annual cash compensation averaged $501,000, compared to $444,000 for women, a pay differential of 11.4%. However, men reported an average base salary of $326,000, compared to $307,000 for women – indicating that the majority of the gender pay discrepancy derived from bonuses. 

“Much of this differential may be able to be explained by the fact that fewer women hold Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel positions than men, said Melba Hughes, Partner in the In-House Counsel Practice at Major, Lindsey & Africa. “Though there’s still a lot of work to be done, we’re optimistic that this disparity will shift in the coming years as a result of efforts to promote diversity in the C-suite.”

There are notable exceptions to the gender pay gap. On a global basis, females in regional and country General Counsel positions reported higher average pay than men at every point of measurement. Additionally, outside the U.S., women in the Deputy/Assistant General Counsel position out-earned their male colleagues, earning $263,760 compared to $245,430 for men.

“We were surprised to see that females in regional and country GC positions consistently out-earn their male counterparts,” said Naveen Tuli, Managing Partner in the In-House Counsel Practice in EMEA and APAC at Major, Lindsey & Africa. “It’s the first time we’ve looked at that particular data set, and we are eager to continue tracking this group to see if the trend stands over time.”

Not surprisingly, compensation for GCs and CLOs in complex, highly regulated industries was higher than in nonregulated industries. Globally, Banking, Financial/Professional Services and Agriculture reported the highest average compensation at $725,970, $617,018, and $609,720, respectively. The high compensation for legal professionals in the agriculture field may be due to a number of high-value multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology companies in this sector. Globally, GCs and CLOs in Education and Government sectors earned the lowest average compensation at $350,018 and $218,980, respectively.

Other notable findings of the survey include:

There is a clear correlation between compensation and geographic area. General Counsel working in metropolitan areas of the largest cities – such as New York and Los Angeles – earn higher total average compensation across the board than those working in the metropolitan areas of smaller cities like Denver and Miami. 

Globally, there is also a correlation between compensation and size of company in terms of revenue. For instance, General Counsel at companies with revenues above $10 billion earn about 30% more than their counterparts at companies with revenue between $1 billion and $10 billion. 

Company size (in terms of revenue) plays a role in determining whether the CLO/GC is a member of the senior leadership team. The data shows that the larger the company (up to approximately $10 billion) the more likely the CLO/GC will be a member of the leadership team. This trend falls off for companies with revenue at or above $10 billion.

The full text of Major, Lindsey & Africa’s 2020 In-House Compensation Survey is available here.

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