General Counsels Take Major Pay Hit, Now Only Make Avg of $1.7M

By Andrew Lu on July 25, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In some dire news for general counsels, their average pay fell to only $1.7 million this year. Corporate counsels' base salary, non-equity bonuses, stock awards, and stock options all took a major hit, says a survey of Fortune 500 corporate counsels.

After experiencing double digit percentage gains in salary and pay last year despite the economy stagnating, general counsels' total pay fell by a whopping 5.7 percent this year, reports the ABA Journal.

Just how will these corporate counsel survive? If the average salary is only $1.7 million, it's conceivable one of these poor attorneys will have actually made less than a million last year.

As we cry a river for those with cushy lawyer jobs, we should still pay homage to lawyers like David Bernick of Phillip Morris and Donald le Brier of Occidental Petroleum. These two general counsels still managed to take home $6 million and almost $9 million respectively, despite the dip in pay to their colleagues. Cigarettes and oil pays, apparently. The top dog on the list was the general counsel for CBS, Louis Briskman, who took home a cool $14.6 million, writes Above the Law's David Lat.

So what accounts for the dip in pay? The continuing bad economy, decreased stock prices, and more shareholder oversight of executive pay may all be to blame.

As a final note, it's interesting to see that Ted Ullyot, general counsel for Facebook, did not make the list. His stock options were estimated in the hundreds of millions, writes Above the Law. His absence can provide some hope to attorneys everywhere that general counsel pay is not as bad as this particular survey indicates.

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