Want To Work In-House? Get Ready For A Change In Compensation

Amy Goldstein

Ready to work more closely with the client.  Check.

Ready to leave billables behind.  Check.

Ready for your compensation to be completely restructured with a substantial drop in base salary.  Ch…wait, what?

Yes, transitioning from BigLaw to in-house means a change in the way compensation is paid.  There are some companies that pay salaries competitive with BigLaw, but they are few and far between.  The more likely scenario is that your base salary will drop and sometimes dramatically. This is true whether you are interested in a start-up, tech, middle market or Fortune 500.  Companies are well aware of the increases law firms have paid over the years but are not willing to restructure the compensation for entire departments because law firms have been off and running with raises.

What does in-house compensation typically look like?

Most in-house compensation packages are tied to both your individual as well as the company’s overall performances.  As I mentioned, the base salary rarely competes with large law firm pay but in addition to the base at a company, there usually is a cash target bonus that is often in the 20-30% range and long-term incentive compensation such as equity grants that vest over time.  Ultimately, these packages compete or may be even more lucrative than law firm compensation but you have to be flexible initially and patient to reap the financial rewards.

To get a sense of what different industries pay at various levels of seniority, you can find in depth analysis in the annual in-house compensation surveys published by Barker Gilmore and Major Lindsey & Africa.  There is no charge for receiving the information.

What if you feel stuck because you can’t figure out how to pay your bills on a lower salary?

I have good news for you.  There is a way out.  If you need help creating a roadmap that will restructure your finances so you can afford a position with a lower base salary, reach out to Jessica Medina.  Jessica is a former BigLaw associate turned Accredited Financial Counselor who paid off over $200,000 of law school debt while raising twins as a single mom.  Learn how she did it and how she can help you develop a transition plan so you can pursue your dream job even if it doesn’t come with a dream salary.

Need help with other aspects of your in-house search?  Reach out for a complimentary consultation.

Amy Goldstein is the founder of Grayson Allen, Inc., a New York based executive legal search and career consulting firm.  She has been providing career coaching and recruiting attorneys for in-house and law firm positions since 2000.