Top-paid general counsel

July 20, 2011
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A list released by Corporate Counsel,  an ALM National publication, ranks the compensation of general counsel around the U.S. and there are some highly paid attorneys out there. The top-paid in-house attorney is Denise Keane of Altria Group Inc., the parent company of Phillip Morris USA and other companies. For the first time in the history of this list, a woman was the top-paid general counsel. She was listed as having more than $6.4 million in compensation.

It’s interesting to see that Keane went from being ranked 34th in 2010 to first this year. Donald de Brier with Occidental Petroleum Corp. went from 63rd last year to second this year.

Robert Armitage, the general counsel at Eli Lilly and Co., ranked No. 33, with more than $1.78 million in total compensation. He was ranked at No. 24 last year. Armitage’s salary is listed at just under $848,000. John Cannon II, general counsel at WellPoint Inc., came in at No. 63. He didn’t even make last year’s list. His salary is listed at around $550,000, but he took home more than $1.3 million.

The list breaks down compensation to show salary, bonus/nonequity incentive compensation, total cash, option exercises and stock value realized, total cash plus stock value realized, stock awards, and option awards. The rankings are based on the total cash the general counsel received.

The publication noted that this survey shows more of an “undoing of damage of the previous year than any great leap in compensation levels.” It writes that the worst seems to be over regarding the economy, and corporations are rewarding executives for getting them through the tough days of the recession.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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