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GC Compensation: 'Working Really, Really Hard,' and Getting Paid Well

David Gialanella LAW.COM

Compensation for top lawyers at New Jersey-based publicly held companies remains strong. And while gender diversity among this exclusive group hasn’t changed much year to year, there are more women at the top of the compensation list than in years past.

There was something of a change in the data: average salary, after five straight years of upward movement—yielding growth of about 20% over that five-year period—essentially flattened out. The average salary on this year’s list is $446,758, compared with $448,945 on last year’s.

The group, of course, changes each year. The data is gathered from fiscal 2018 federal securities filings by ALM Legal Intelligence, the affiliate data unit for the Law Journal and all ALM publications, and this year its survey of the documents turned up 27 general counsel for New Jersey-based public companies. Last year, the Law Journal listed 20 GCs. And there is turnover every year—so it’s worth noting that year-over-year comparisons aren’t perfect for this annual project.

Despite the blip in average salary, median salary was again on the rise: the $434,158 figure represents a 2.8% increase.

And like every year, there were some impressive compensation figures, particularly for those New Jersey GCs who cashed in on stocks and options holdings.

Attorneys and consultants have said that the steady rise in pay for general counsel, as well as others in corporate legal departments, is due in large part to those lawyers’ expanded roles and functions.

“The legal function has sort of been elevated in its stature in the organization,” said Lee Udelsman, managing partner of Major, Lindsey & Africa’s New Jersey office, who places in-house counsel. “In-house lawyers are working really, really hard.”

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