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The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is the world's largest organization serving the professional and business interests of attorneys who practice in the legal departments of corporations, associations, nonprofits and other private-sector organizations around the globe.

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Inaugural ACC Global Compensation Report: Outside Experience Leads to Higher Total Pay

WASHINGTON (July 10, 2018) —  The compensation gap between men and women is significant at the highest levels of law department leadership, and smallest among entry-level in-house lawyers, the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), a global legal association representing more than 43,000 members in 85 countries, announced today. 

The ACC 2018 Global Compensation Reportincludes salary and benefits data from more than 5,000 in-house counsel and legal operations professionals in 65 countries. The survey is the most in-depth, self-reported global compensation survey available for in-house lawyers, featuring benchmarking data in the areas of base salaries, performance-based bonuses, total compensation, equity-based pay, benefits, and retirement/pension plans.   

At the chief legal officer (CLO) and general counsel (GC) level, median total compensation for women is $210,000, which is 78 percent of the median total compensation earned by men holding these titles ($270,000). However, the gap may be shrinking; the disparity in median compensation among GCs who received a law degree after 2010 is less than half of the gap among GCs who graduated law school prior to 2000.   

"While it was not a surprise, it was certainly disheartening to see the extent of gender pay disparities in the in-house community," said Veta T. Richardson, president & CEO of ACC. "Yet we are optimistic that the gap appears to shrink for newer generations of corporate counsel leaders and hope the data in the survey will yield more transparency."   

While 15 percent of all survey respondents said their first job after law school was in a corporate legal department, the findings show that even two years of outside experience in a law firm, government, or other setting equates to higher compensation. Overall, entry level in-house lawyers have the most gender parity in compensation, with women earning 91 cents on the dollar compared to their male colleagues. The pay gap peaks for lawyers who have 11 to 20 years of in-house tenure; female in-house lawyers receive 69 percent of their male counterparts' compensation.   

Other positions in the corporate law department featured smaller gaps in compensation, from director of compliance (95 percent gender compensation parity) to head of legal operations (the only job category without pay disparity). The median total compensation for head of legal operations is $189,063; the median total compensation for manager of legal operations is $120,000. Notably, more female than male respondents serve as heads of legal operations, and half of all survey respondents said their companies have a distinct legal operations function.   

Worldwide, the largest gender pay gaps are in Latin America and the Middle East/Africa, where women in-house lawyers made between 38 and 45 percent of what their male colleagues earned, respectively. The United States, Canada, and Australia, had the smallest gaps (85, 83, and 81 percent, respectively).  

Just over three-quarters of all respondents (75.4 percent) received a performance-based bonus in 2017, and the median amount of this bonus was $33,000. Medical insurance was the most common employee-provided benefit, and a mobile phone was the most common employee-provided perk. Nearly half (46 percent) of respondents receive 25 or more days of paid time off; 43 percent have flexible work schedules.   

Other notable findings from the report include:  

  • More than three-quarters of respondents expect a salary increase in the next year. The largest category expects their increase to be between 1 and 2.9 percent. 
  • Overall, median base salary is $172,000; median total compensation is $205,000. 
  • Two percent of respondents are expatriates. Median total compensation for expatriates is 24 percent higher than that of respondents working in their home countries. 
  • The top three highest-paid practice areas are capital markets/securities/finance, mergers and acquisitions, and antitrust/trade regulations. 
  • Biotechnology/life sciences, technical/research development, and accommodation/food services are the highest paying industries for GCs and CLOs. 
  • Base salaries, performance-based bonuses, and total compensation are higher in public companies than in private companies. The median difference in total compensation is $48,000.

For more information on the ACC 2018 Global Compensation Report, visit

About ACC: The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is a global legal association that promotes the common professional and business interests of in-house counsel who work for corporations, associations and other organizations through information, education,networking, and advocacy. With more than 43,000 members in 85 countries employed by over 10,000 organizations, ACC connects its members to the people and resources necessary for both personal and professional growth. By in-house counsel, for in-house counsel.® For more information, and follow ACC on Twitter:@ACCinhouse.


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