Monday, February 25, 2008

General Counsel in Food/Beverage Industry the Highest Paid, According to Survey

In its March issue, Inside Counsel magazine published the results of recent surveys of in-house attorney compensation.

The survey results included salaries of Chief Legal Officers and General Counsel pay by industry. The Food/Beverage and Retail Trade industries led the pack with median total cash compensation exceeding $500,000.

The results also included a summary of Median Total Cash Compensation for in-house lawyers generally, which ranged from $208,100 for the Technology industry, to $230,300 for the Biotech, Pharma & Medical Devices industry. Of potential interest to readers of this blog, median total cash compensation for other industries included:

Consumer Products $222,900

Food & Beverages $217,900

While corporate law departments are concerned with the rising salaries of associates of large law firms (which can exceed $180,000 for first-year associates, including bonuses), salaries for in-house counsel have also been rising quickly. General Counsel's cash compensation reportedly rose 19% from the previous year.

Going forward, some reports suggest that the rise in legal costs will slow in 2008, with an expected 5% increase in outside legal fees. In part, this may be attributed to the fact that corporations have been trying to control costs, and have brought more legal work in-house. There may also be more price competition among law firms for legal work, with corporations offering more work to outside counsel with lower billing rates.

While salaries of in-house counsel and billing rates of outside counsel are a visible element of costs, they are only one component of legal costs and expenses related to litigation, and it is often a mistake to sacrifice quality for price. Though high rates are not necessarily indicative of quality, even if consumers are likely to make that assumption, as discussed here.

The survey results were also summarized on Legal Blog Watch.


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