General counsel at major corporations saw their base salaries climb, even as cash bonus awards fell in the last year, according to the latest compensation benchmarking figures from the Association of Corporate Counsel.
The in-house trade organization, together with the consultancy Empsight International, surveyed the top lawyers at 190 companies with average revenues of $31.7 billion in its 2012 Large Law Department Compensation Survey. Survey participants included companies such as Nike Inc., The Coca-Cola Co., Kimberly-Clark Corp. and Time Warner Inc.
GCs saw their base salaries rise 1.9 percentfrom $557,112 in 2011 to $567,924 in 2012, according to ACC.
Annual cash bonuses, however, dipped 7.9 percent on averagefrom $590,040 in 2011 to $543,109 in 2012.
All in all, total direct compensation for general counsel fell 2.2 percent in the last year. While general counsel earned $1,148,313 in 2011, they took home $1,122,834 in 2012.
But GCs can still take heart in the value of their bonus opportunities, says ACC CEO and president Veta Richardson. "The lion's share of compensation, year by year, is at risk, meaning that it's tied to the performance of the company and performance by the individual executive," she says.
This year's average target incentive stood at 73.9 percent, down slightly from 76.5 percent in 2011.
That figure goes to show "that a significant opportunity exists to be paid based upon performance and delivering results in furtherance of the corporate objective," explains Richardson, "and what it says to me is that these general counsel, as a whole, were highly regarded by their corporations to achieve bonus levels of three quarters of base salary."