In-house lawyers believe they should be paid more according to a recent Legal Week ‘Big Question’ survey. The greatest source of discontent appears to be disgruntlement about how bonuses paid to in-house lawyers, reflecting legal team performance rather than overall company performance.
The survey has reported that in comparison to other senior executive roles, in-house lawyers are ‘slightly underpaid – 42% of the 133 respondents said this; 19% of the respondents said there was a substantial gap between in-house lawyers and other comparable roles. 7.5% said they felt overpaid while 31.5% said they were paid appropriately.
In-house lawyers have become increasingly important to many companies following the 2008 credit crisis, which has seen companies looking at legal as a significant potential cost-cutter. In-house lawyers have been appointed to help companies cut costs here through increasing the company’s own legal efficiency and managing external costs to private practice lawyers better.
In-house lawyers clearly feel they are doing well enough within this remit to be viewed as having a more intrinsic role in the company than their salary apparently represents. But perhaps, in order to show their companies this value, in-house lawyers need to be able to demonstrate their value to the company more obviously, whether through data, tangible cuts or through significant examples of the value they’ve provided. Furthermore, in-house lawyers can perhaps show their value to the company as a whole by becoming more visible throughout the company’s various departments, working collaboratively with finance, IT, communications and so on. While, this is not to say that in-house lawyers shouldn’t be paid more, it would perhaps have been interesting to see a concurrent survey showing how in-house lawyers rate their own efforts and savvy towards attaining greater salaries.
Senior lawyers at large corporates can still get significant salaries, while share purchase schemes and awards are common across in-house legal teams. There does, however, seem to be a lack of consensus about how bonuses should be given out to in-house lawyers. 53% of in-house lawyers have said that bonus schemes should be tied to company performance rather than team performance, with a third of respondents saying the opposite.