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We recently teamed up with In-House Connect to get a clear picture of the salaries in-house legal counsel make in the US. 

Our compensation survey reached over 850 folks, including over 200 General Counsel (GC)

In this post, we're breaking down the average pay for a General Counsel. We'll look at how things such as experience, gender, where they work in the US, the type of industry, their office setup, and the stage of the company they work for can affect their salary. 

Let’s dive into the world of in-house General Counsel salaries and discover what we found.

On average, a General Counsel makes USD 675,775

This number contains base pay, bonuses, and equity options—influenced by location, experience, gender, industry, workspace, and the company's funding stage.

In comparison, a Chief Legal Officer’s compensation touches USD 1,307,405 and a Head of Legal Operations’ compensation reaches USD 259,306, on average.

Salary components

Average base salary: USD 274,392

At USD 274,392, a General Counsel’s base salary is 43% higher than that of a Head of Legal Operations and 21.4% lower than the average base salary offered to a Chief Legal Officer.

Average target bonus: USD 81,326

A General Counsel’s target bonus is 246% higher than that of a Head of Legal Operations and 38.4% lower than the average bonus component offered to a Chief Legal Officer.

Average equity component: USD 320,057

Equity grants form a big part of a General Counsel's pay, rewarding their contributions to the company's long-term success.

The average equity component for a General Counsel is 618% higher than that of a Head of Legal Operations and 61% lower than what is offered to a Chief Legal Officer.
Average General Counsel Compensation
As per our survey, the highest salary for a General Counsel was found to be USD 4,925,000—including all components—in San Francisco.

Salary data by years of experience (YOE)

Greater experience not only leads to a higher base salary but also substantially influences bonuses and equity, as illustrated below:

Gender Counsel Salary by YOE
The average work experience among General Counsel stood at 20 years.

Gender-based compensation for a General Counsel

Exploring the gender-based compensation landscape for General Counsel reveals intriguing insights into base pay, bonuses, and equity components, as detailed below.

On average, male General Counsel make 5% more than their female counterparts.
Gender Counsel Salary by Gender

Geographic locations play a role in determining a General Counsel’s compensation

The data showcases how geographic location is a pivotal factor in shaping a GC’s total compensation package, reflecting both the local cost of living and the demand for legal expertise across various cities.

Gender Counsel Salary by Location

Industry influence on a General Counsel’s salary

The impact of industry sectors on a General Counsel’s compensation is strikingly evident, with the Consumer Goods and Services industry leading in base salaries at $412,200.

The Energy sector showcases the highest equity component at USD 675,000—highlighting the diverse compensation landscape across different fields.

Gender Counsel Salary by Industry

The impact of office setup on a General Counsel’s salary

Hybrid work models boast the highest average base salary at $309,690, in contrast to on-site General Counsel, who earn a base of $246,446. This disparity extends to bonuses and equity options, where hybrid positions yield greater financial rewards.

General Counsel Salary by Office Setup

Compensation based on the financing stage of a company

As companies progress from the Seed stage to Public, the average base salaries of a General Counsel rise, reflecting the dynamic evolution of compensation structures alongside organizational growth and development.

General Counsel Salary by Company Financing Stage
Average Base Compensation by Company Financing Stage

Average bonus component

  1. Seed: USD 65,000
  2. Series A: USD 21,000
  3. Series B: USD 56,987
  4. Series C: USD 48,045
  5. Series D: USD 26,544
  6. Late Stage/Growth: USD 76,768
  7. Private: USD 78,629
  8. Private Equity Owned: USD 114,376
  9. Public: USD 139,005

Average equity component

Late Stage/Growth and Series B companies stand out for their high equity offerings.

  1. Seed: USD 376,000
  2. Series A: USD 305,893
  3. Series B: USD 729,467
  4. Series C: USD 549,600
  5. Series D: USD 336,040
  6. Late Stage/Growth: USD 883,631
  7. Private: USD 98,272
  8. Private Equity Owned: USD 470,926
  9. Public: USD 231,229

Maximize your earnings as a General Counsel

This report aims to shed light on the salary landscape for General Counsel within the US, offering clarity and insights into the components of their compensation.

With this information, GCs and those on the path to becoming one can strategically navigate their careers, equipped with an understanding of the salary trends and how to leverage their position in a dynamic market.

Our analysis highlights the critical role of factors such as years of experience, gender equity initiatives, location across the US, industry sectors, work environment preferences, and the financial stages of companies in determining the compensation packages of a General Counsel.

We hope this comprehensive summary will serve as a valuable resource for existing GCs and those aspiring to this senior legal position, offering a transparent view of the salary framework in the United States.

For those interested in exploring compensation for other roles within the in-house legal teams such as Chief Legal Officer, Head of Legal Operations, Associate General Counsel, etc., click here.

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