New Yorkers Top List of Nation's Highest-Paid General Counsel

New York was well represented in ALM’s 2018 General Counsel Compensation Survey, with the top six highest-paid legal leaders in the state also ranking among the top 10 in the nation.

In all there were 33 GCs from New York-based companies on the national survey’s list of 341 top-paid GCs.

The survey, from affiliate ALM Legal Intelligence, used 2017 proxy filings from Fortune 1000 companies that disclose GC pay to rank general counsel by their total cash compensation. The total cash package includes base salary, cash bonus and other nonequity incentives—stock and options are not factored into the rankings.

Pocketing nearly $6.95 million, Morgan Stanley chief legal officer Eric Grossman ranked first in New York state as well as the nation. Grossman’s pay included $1 million in salary with the rest in bonus pay.

Grossman, like five other GCs in the top 10 on New York’s list, works in the financial services industry. Laureen Seeger ($6.7 million), who leads the legal department at American Express Co., ranked second on both the state and national lists.

The entertainment sector was also well represented on the state and national levels. Gerson Zweifach, of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc., ranked third on both lists. Lawrence Tu of CBS Corp. ranked fifth in the state but sixth on the national list.

Andrea Bricca, a partner with legal recruiter Major, Lindsey & Africa’s in-house practice group, said the higher pay for financial industry general counsel holds true across the country, and at all levels of experience.

“But media is a surprising one,” she said. “Getting into media is usually one of the lower-paying jobs for lawyers, but when you rise to the top—especially in New York—it can become one of the higher ones.

Bricca noted that of the 33 New Yorkers in the rankings, eight were women—“about the same representation that women have in legal roles in companies,” she said. “So, in a sense, that is a good thing.”

However, only two women, including Seeger, were among New York’s top 10.

Bricca said studies show women are often shorted when it comes to bonuses. She recently wrote about the problem in Today’s General Counsel, “Although female general counsel [nationally] have a base salary that is, on average, 6.3 percent lower than their male counterparts, it is in their bonuses that the real disparity comes to light. Male general counsel bonuses were 31 percent higher than those of their female counterparts, according to a 2017 survey on in-house compensation.”

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