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Compensation report reflects importance of health, science sectors

BarkerGilmore, a Fairport, New York-based legal industry consultant and executive search consultant, has released its first-ever study of in-house compensation for attorneys specifically in the health care and life science industries.

While BarkerGilmore’s annual survey of in-house counsel compensation overall is a widely anticipated report, the new study recognizes the growing importance of the narrower health care and life sciences sectors.

The new report was in response to a growing demand for data specific to those fields. BarkerGilmore officials said 35 percent of their work in the past three years has involved recruiting candidates for legal counsel positions in those two sectors.

The report considers health care to be providers, such as hospitals, clinics, home health services, dental providers, health plans and insurers, and health technology. Life sciences includes pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology organizations.

The report covers compensation for three job categories: general counsel, managing counsel and senior counsel. General counsel refers to the lead in-house lawyer for an organization. Managing counsel is an in-house lawyer with at least one direct report who is not the lead lawyer in the organization. And senior counsel is an in-house attorney considered to be an “individual contributor,” according to the 27-page report.

The report, designed to help job candidates and employers with benchmarking and identifying pay trends, was conducted in 2019 and assessed pay trends for 2018.

Key findings in the survey include:

  • Median total compensation by gender for all in-house counsel positions in health care was $285,000 for women and $328,250 for men. In life sciences, the medians were $340,000 for women and $420,000 for men.
  • For senior counsel in health care, the median total compensation was $285,000 for women and $328,250 for men. In life sciences, it was $340,000 for women and $420,000 for men.
  • Based on organization revenue, total median compensation for all general counsel in health care ranged from $288,000 for nonprofits with less than $500 million in revenue, to $2.12 million for public companies with revenues of more than $5 billion.
  • In life sciences, median total compensation ranged from $437,500 for private companies with revenues under $500 million, to $5.61 million for public companies with revenues of more than $5 billion.
  • The median total general counsel compensation by gender was $401,500 for women and $464,000 for men. In life sciences it was $560,000 for women and $713,500 for men.
  • The median total managing counsel compensation by gender at health care organizations was $382,000 for women and $323,000 for men. For life sciences, the median total managing counsel compensation by gender was $390,000 for women and $396,000 for men.

The survey found that 38 percent of respondents said they would consider a new position “due to compensation issues.” Attorneys working in health care are more likely to look for a new job, with 42 percent reporting a high or very high probability of a job search.

But attorneys working in life sciences are less likely to look for a new job. More than 65 percent of attorneys in life sciences said there was a low or very low probability of a job search in the next year.

Salaries for female attorneys are significantly less than their male counterparts overall in the two business sectors. Female in-house counsel at health care organizations earn 87 percent of what male in-house counsel earn. At life sciences companies, females earn just 81 percent of their male counterparts’ salaries.

The disparity reverses at the managing counsel level, with females in health care earning 18 percent more than their male counterparts. In life sciences, men earn less than 2 percent more than their female counterparts.

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