Legal Counsel Salary
Legal Counsels receive generous compensation in the United States — earning an average of $104K per year, their standard salaries shoot well into the six-figure range. Total incomes of Legal Counsels incorporate potential for, in a few cases, more than $30K from bonuses and close to $36K from profit sharing; these performance components cause packages to range between $64K and $189K. Residence and experience level each impact pay for this group, with the former having the largest influence. Male Legal Counsels are just a bit more common among those who completed the questionnaire than females ones, with male workers composing 50 percent of the field. Women make up a slight majority of Legal Counsels (50 percent) survey respondents. For the most part, Legal Counsels enjoy their work and report high levels of job satisfaction. Almost all enjoy medical while a large number get dental coverage. Vision coverage is also available to a majority. The data in this summary comes from the PayScale salary survey.
Job Description for Legal Counsel
Legal counsels, also called general counsels, are the chief lawyers of large corporations or government agencies. They advise departments on legal ramifications, ensure that the business is working in accordance with the law, and may represent the company or government agency in the case that a law suit is filed.Read More...
Legal counsels are usually included early in any company's decision making process. This helps ensure that there will be no room for error when it comes to working within the law. This may sometimes cause tension, since it is their responsibility to provide professional and sound judgments if they see any actions that aren’t in compliance with the law. Legal counsels also often attend important board and committee meetings. In order for legal counsels to be an effective and important part of the company, they need to have a close relationship with the board and stay up to date with what is happening.
Legal counsels are typically skilled in multiple areas of the law, including securities, compliance, labor and employment, compensation, risk and dispute management, litigation, class action suits and corporate governance. Depending on the company in which they work, other areas of expertise will be expected.
Legal counsels have law degrees and are typically targeted from outside corporations. They may already be working as attorneys at law firms and they may be approached by a company. Regardless of how they are hired, they are expected to be great communicators, hard working, and show leadership, firm and fair judgment, and a great deal of integrity.
Legal Counsel Tasks
- Manage disputes and litigations.
- Prepare and review legal documents including contracts, licenses, leases, sales and purchases, and real estate, etc.
- Advise business in legal affairs of the company including government regulations, taxes, and legal and human rights.
- Apply for registration and copyrights for the products, processes, and trademarks of the organization.
Common Career Paths for Legal Counsel
Legal Counsels often transition into Senior Counsel positions, for which compensation tends to be much higher. On average, Senior Counsels earn $169K per year. Given that the median pay is $81K, it may be surprising to find that an Attorney is the most common role for Legal Counsels to subsequently assume on their way up the ladder. Transitioning into a Corporate Counsel role — which pays $118K — is also typical for Legal Counsels, though less common by comparison.
Corporate Counsel Job Listings
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Popular Skills for Legal Counsel
Survey participants wield an impressively varied skill set on the job. Most notably, skills in Corporate Governance, Intellectual Property, Contract Management, and Regulatory Compliance are correlated to pay that is above average, with boosts between 12 percent and 14 percent. Those listing Legislative Policy as a skill should be prepared for drastically lower pay. Policy Analysis and Real Estate also typically command lower compensation. Most people familiar with Legal Compliance also know Regulatory Compliance and Legal Research. Most people who know Contract Negotiation also know Legal Research and Regulatory Compliance.
Pay by Experience Level for Legal Counsel
Median of all compensation (including tips, bonus, and overtime) by years of experience.
Survey participants with less than five years' experience pocket $90K on average, but those with five to 10 years of experience enjoy a much bigger median of $124K. On average, Legal Counsels make $148K following one to two decades on the job. Legal Counsels who have racked up more than two decades of experience report lower incomes overall; the average sum for this crowd comes out to only $146K.
Pay Difference by Location
For those looking to make money, Legal Counsels in Palo Alto enjoy an exceptional pay rate, 44 percent above the national average. Legal Counsels will also find cushy salaries in Hartford (+23 percent), Houston (+19 percent), Atlanta (+18 percent), and Boston (+16 percent). Legal Counsels in Austin take home the lowest salaries, earning a whopping 23 percent less than the national average. Employers in Seattle and Washington also lean toward paying below-median salaries (10 percent lower and 7 percent lower, respectively).