According to the 2022 In-House Counsel Compensation & Career Survey conducted by The Counsel Network and the CCCA, the national base salary for in-house counsel increased significantly, female in-house counsel continued to earn less than their male counterparts, pay for racialized and disabled lawyers is still a challenge, and natural resources, mining, and forestry remains the highest paying industry. Satisfaction with work-life balance decreased during the pandemic. The survey was conducted between January 25, 2022 to March 3, 2022, shortly after the peak of the Omicron variant.
Gender wage gap increases
The results showed that women continue to be paid less than men in the same roles in the legal profession. In 2022, female in-house counsel report an average base salary $24,000 less than male inhouse counsel, a steep rise compared to the $19,000 reported in 2020 (pre-pandemic). The most substantial gaps continue to be seen at higher wage levels with 42% of males receiving a mean salary of over $200,000 compared to 19% of females who earn the same amount.
“It is disappointing to see that the gender pay gap has increased, and we’ve made no progress to reduce the gap in the last two years,” commented Dal Bhathal, Managing Partner for The Counsel Network. “There is still a long way to go before we can achieve equal pay for women and men.”
Diversity and compensation
This was the second year additional information was collected on compensation for racialized and nonracialized lawyers. Just under one-quarter (22%) of the group identify as racialized lawyers and report a mean salary $8,000 below that reported by non-racialized lawyers, a $4,000 decrease from 2020.
Results also showed persons with disabilities report a mean salary $17,500 less than non-disabled persons, a slightly reduced gap ($1,500) from 2020. Workplace appears to be a factor in this finding – most lawyers with disabilities work in government or not-for-profit sectors, which report lower mean base salaries.
“The legal profession continues to identify the need to build diversity, and the survey results back up that need with these statistics,” notes Bhathal. “The slight reduction in the pay gap between racialized lawyers and non-racialized lawyers, as well as lawyers with disabilities and those with none is encouraging. Nevertheless, it highlights the need for continued efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion. Reporting on the gaps regularly is necessary to achieving equal pay. The Counsel Network is proud to be assisting in these efforts.”
Significant national average base salary increases
The results show that national average base salary stands at $180,000, which is noticeably higher compared to the $167,500 reported in 2020. Ontario respondents report average base salaries above the national average. British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec are close to the average, while Central and Atlantic Canada lag behind the national average.
“The increase in the national average base salary compared to previous years is considerably higher,” remarks Bhathal “It is not surprising given the competition for strong legal talent remains high.”
Financial services, insurance, and banks continue to be the sector most represented by in-house counsel, followed by Government. This year, the highest average base salaries are found in the resources/mining/forestry ($233K); retail/hospitality, food and beverage, consumer products ($212K); manufacturing/automotive/aerospace/chemical ($206K); oil & gas ($200K); information technology ($190K); and pharma/medical ($184K).
The largest gains in annual base salaries are in retail/hospitality, food and beverage, consumer products (up $38K); information technology (up $20K); and pharma/medical (up $20K). Among the top twelve industries, there were no notable down shifts.
The 2022 results, conducted during the pandemic, showed that 65% of in-house counsel are very/somewhat satisfied with work-life balance, a near 10% decrease from 2020’s pre-pandemic score of 74%. Most respondents expressed a decline in mental health and wellbeing due to the pandemic.
In total, more than half of respondents have some sort of additional care responsibilities. Of those, 81% have shared these responsibilities and 19% have handled them alone. Twenty-four percent of females are taking sole responsibility for added responsibilities, vs. 14% of males.
“The impact of COVID-19 has been widespread. The results highlight the need for all organizations to focus on talent management strategies to not only recruit, but also manage and retain the best legal talent.”
The majority of in-house counsel reported that their legal department has either stayed the same size (44%) or increased (45%) over the past two years. The highest likelihood of reporting increases in size of legal departments is Legal Counsel and Senior Counsel at 45%, followed by Assistant/Associate GC at 45%. Satisfaction with career mobility within the organization stayed at the same level as 2020 (35%).
Sixty-five percent of respondents were very/somewhat optimistic about the future of their organization’s legal department, a very consistent number across the most recent three surveys; however, a smaller proportion (56%) are optimistic about their own future within their current organization. Moving forward into 2022, 65% predict that they will be using a hybrid work model.
About the survey
The 2022 In-House Counsel Compensation & Career Survey was commissioned by The Counsel Network in partnership with the CCCA. This is the seventh wave of this research, with previous studies conducted in 2020, 2018, 2016, 2012, 2010 and 2009. The survey was conducted by Bramm Research between January 25, 2022 to March 3, 2022, shortly after the peak of the Omicron variant. The 1,009 respondents represented a good mix of in-house counsel from all major cities across Canada and included a variety of sectors and titles.
The report has become a go-to resource for in-house counsel and HR professionals seeking reliable compensation data for the Canadian in-house counsel market. Sixty-three percent of this year’s survey respondents named the survey as a key source of information for industry compensation. The survey provides key information on compensation, benefits, work hours, and job satisfaction for in-house counsel.
Tarra Hartel is the Marketing & Business Services Coordinator at The Counsel Network