General Counsel Salary Falls By Almost Every Measure

By Andrew Lu on July 24, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The average pay for general counsel at Fortune 500 companies fell by almost every metric.

The average general counsel's salary fell by 1.8 percent this past year. More significantly, the average stock award and stock option award fell by 10.8 percent and 18.7 percent respectively. In total, a general counsel's pay fell by 5.7 percent on average.

But before feeling too sorry for them, it should be noted that the average general counsel at one of these big companies still took home about $1.7 million in pay.

The average base salary for corporate counsel was $611,411, reports the ABA Journal. The average stock award was $1.4 million and the average option value was $732,453. Though it should be noted that not every corporate counsel surveyed received stock awards and most did not receive any options.

Reasons given for the decline in general counsel pay include the economy, poor share performance, and perhaps most importantly, increased shareholder scrutiny, reports the ABA Journal.

In 2010, the Dodd-Frank financial reform law was passed that required companies to submit executive compensation plans to nonbinding shareholder votes at least once every three years, writes Businessweek. As a result, the millions of shareholders of Fortune 500 companies now had a chance to review company/stock performance relative to the awards given to executives; including, corporate counsel.

It wasn't reported if these "say-on-pay" laws directly led to shareholders slashing general counsel salaries. However, executives may have given a second look to generous compensation packages as stock prices stagnate.

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