What is the Average Associate General Counsel Salary?

As integral parts of their in-house counsel teams, associate general counsels are well-compensated for their overall value. But the real question is – what’s the average associate general counsel salary figure in the United States? And how does it vary from state to state?

In this article, we’ll share the average base salary figures collected, along with additional compensation data, sourced from trustworthy websites. 

Whether you’re a recruiter who wants to create a market-compatible compensation package or an associate GC who wants to see how they fair against most of their industry peers, keep reading.

Let’s jump right in.

Associate General Counsel Salary: Who is an Associate General Counsel?

An associate general counsel is one of the two main in-house attorneys in an organization. By working together with the general counsel, the associate GC furnishes legal advice, oversees contract agreements, handles litigation, and engages in providing any other legal services required by their employer.

In almost any company, the associate general counsel reports directly to the general counsel, who, in turn, reports to the chief executive officer. 

However, the associate general counsel job title, by itself, is a senior-level position with significant autonomy over handling legal issues for the company. You can think of them as the vice presidents of the corporate counsel department.

Are Associate General Counsels Senior to Assistant General Counsels?

In corporate compliance, job titles tend to vary significantly from organization to organization. 

People often use the terms “assistant general counsel” and “associate general counsel” interchangeably, which is a mistake. While their tasks and responsibilities may be similar, they differ in terms of the authority they have.

In some companies, the associate general counsel is senior to the assistant general counsel, whereas in others, it’s the other way around.

However, at the end of the day, they’re both accountable to the general counsel (or a senior associate/assistant general counsel – again, this depends on the company’s unique organizational structure).

Associate General Counsel Salary Estimates

As mentioned earlier, full-time associate general counsels are compensated rather handsomely, especially in the United States where they are high in demand.

The national average salary for this position makes it the next big career leap for novice attorneys.

However, the figures may vary greatly across different US cities. This is due to the difference in cost of living, industries, and supply of talent.

To give you the most accurate estimate, we’ve collected salary data for this position from the following websites:

  • Glassdoor
  • Indeed
  • PayScale

Let’s have a look at what they are.

1. Glassdoor

Glassdoor is one of the most comprehensive online recruitment platforms out there, designed for both employees and employers.

Their salary estimates are calculated using reports collected from hundreds (sometimes thousands) of employees all over the US.

As per the current data available on Glassdoor, the average associate general counsel salary is $162,125 per year, with the complete range starting from $93,000 and going all the way up to a whopping $246,000.

These figures are based on 468 different salaries, submitted by actual associate general counsels working at organizations such as AIG, Fannie Mae, Facebook, Capital One, and the US Department of Justice.

Unfortunately, Glassdoor doesn’t have any refined data for additional cash compensation (those are just the base salary estimates).

You can also dig deeper and filter out salary estimates by location (city or metro area) and employer.

2. Indeed

Indeed is a massive job board and a directory of informative content for both recruiters and candidates.

Compared to Glassdoor, the salary data on Indeed is far more refined.

According to the website, associate general counsels, on average, earn $130,727 per year in the United States. Again, this is only the base salary.

There’s no solid data on the additional cash compensation, however, the website does list employee stock options, commuter assistance, and loan forgiveness as the top benefits.

This data is based on 441 salaries reported by actual employees working in different organizations.

As per the 5 reports collected from its employees, the highest paying employer right now is Genentech, where the associate general counsel salary can go up to a staggering $382,459 per year.

Furthermore, the 8 highest-paying cities for this position include (in order):

  • Boston, Massachusetts 
  • Washington DC
  • Brooklyn, New York
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Seattle, Washington
  • New York city, New York
  • Houston, Texas

Candidates who manage to land the role of associate GC in these cities should consider themselves lucky.

Indeed also has a built-in tool that lets you compare the average salaries for two locations. 

3. PayScale

PayScale specializes in providing a cutting-edge compensation software, salary surveys, career advice, and much more.

It’s easily one of the most trustworthy sources to get estimates about salaries for almost every job title.

Right now, according to the platform, associate general counsels earn $142,876 per year on average in the United States. 

The salary range, however, starts from $78,000 and goes up to $218,000.

On top of that, reports suggest that associate general counsels can receive up to $19,963 as bonuses and up to $6,725 in profit-sharing, bringing the total compensation to $169,564 per year – almost the same as the estimate on Glassdoor.

PayScale also lets you view salary estimates based on location, and see the pay difference in up to 7 cities. Right now, according to the survey conducted on this platform, associate general counsels in San Francisco, California earn around 40% higher than the national average, making it the top US city in terms of compensation.

Typical Duties and Responsibilities of an Associate General Counsel 

What exactly do associate general counsels do that justifies their above-average compensation packages?

Here’s a brief job description, including broad duties and responsibilities that capture the essence of this role:

Providing Legal Counsel

In any organization, industry, or sector, if there’s one thing that an associate general counsel is responsible for, it’s providing expert legal advice in their organization.

In doing so, they ensure compliance with the various state, federal, and international laws applicable to their employer.

The associate GC does that by assisting the general counsel (and the chief compliance officer, if there is one) to establish company policies, create compliance programs, and furnish advice whenever needed.

This entails conducting legal research, assessing risk areas, and providing training.

Managing and Overseeing Business Contracts

Another major responsibility of an associate general counsel is to oversee all large, potentially game-changing business deals.

Examples of such deals include buying new real estate, acquiring the right to use certain technology, coming into strategic alliance with another company, etc.

The associate GC is tasked with negotiating better terms, ensuring everything is in accordance with the law, and drafting contracts.

Oversee Company Litigation

As the company’s attorney, the assistant general counsel is also responsible for providing legal representation to their employer.

While the company may not get involved with a lawsuit every day, it is a major responsibility which every assistant general counsel must be well-equipped to take on.

Liaising with Outside Counsel

A company that has in-house legal counsel may also elect to hire an external attorney if needed.

This usually happens when the in-house team is dealing with an area that’s not their expertise.

In such cases, the assistant general counsel is tasked with liaising with the outside counsel to ensure they have everything they need to do their job.

How to Become an Associate General Counsel?

Since the average assistant general counsel salary is higher than most positions, it’s safe to say that it’s not easy to become one.

There are certain academic and professional criteria that you must fulfill before you can qualify for this position.

Here’s what most employers are looking for:

  • Academics – all assistant general counsels are attorneys. This means that the candidate must have a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school. Furthermore, they must have passed the state bar examination.
  • Professional Experience – employers typically demand 3 to 5 years of experience at a law firm, government position, or some other similar role.
  • Skills – great leadership, negotiation, communication, critical-thinking, and organizational management skills are mandatory. 

In addition to the above, you must possess ample industry-relevant knowledge to provide effective legal advice to your employer.

Wrapping it Up

There’s no shortage of general counsel jobs in the United States, but there is a shortage of capable talent to fill those roles.

That’s why associate general counsels typically earn over $160,000 on average, and rightly so, given the challenges of the job.

By Josh Fechter

Josh Fechter is a partner at Corporate Compliance HQ and has founded several companies in software and training.