General Counsel Pay Trends 2021

Featuring commentary from BarkerGilmore


General Counsel Pay Trends, an Equilar publication, analyzes the compensation of General Counsel (GC) disclosed in the SEC filings by Equilar 500 companies for the last five fiscal years. The data points and figures in the report highlight trends in the compensation of General Counsel, and how companies decide to compensate the position, including in relation to gender. BarkerGilmore has provided an independent analysis to illustrate the crucial nature of the role.

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Key Findings

  • The GC is rising in the ranks. Since 2016, the number of GC reported as one of the highest-paid company employees in annual proxy statements has grown from 158 to 171 among Equilar 500 companies, an increase of 8.2%.
  • GC pay across the Equilar 500 grew by double digits over the past five years. Median total reported compensation for General Counsel increased 15.5% to reach $2.8 million in 2020, up from $2.4 million in 2016.
  • Communication services and technology led the way in GC pay. These sectors were the only industries to pay their GC more than $4 million at the median. The top legal executive role in the basic materials and industrials sectors saw double-digit losses in median pay packages year over year.
  • Women are inching toward parity in the GC role. Women held 36.3% of the top GC roles at Equilar 500 companies in 2020, up from a share of just 24.1% in 2016.
  • For the first time, women GC were paid more than their male counterparts. In 2020, women GC were awarded $3 million at the median, in comparison to $2.7 million for men.