Compensation trends from the 2018 In-House Counsel Compensation Report

April 19, 2018

Our in-house compensation survey results are now officially available, and we are travelling the country to speak with in-house counsel across Canada about our findings from the latest In-House Counsel Compensation & Career Survey.

Here are a few of the emerging trends I noted in my Vancouver presentation on the survey, for those of you who were unable to attend:

  • 2018 marks the first-time average annual compensation for in-house counsel saw a decline since we first began conducting the survey in 2009 (down from $165,000 in 2016 to $163,000 in 2018 per annum). This is likely influenced by two key variables – first, an increase in retirement of senior practitioners in the market (who typically had higher average annual salaries) and, simultaneously, an increase of more junior counsel entering the market. These are trends we expect to continue for the foreseeable future.


  • British Columbia saw the greatest increase in average annual salary for in-house counsel since 2016 but is also the only market in Canada that has continually increased in average compensation relative to the national average. BC has now pulled even with the national average, after having trailed the average in previous iterations of the survey.


  • Compensation remains the #1 reason why counsel may consider a lateral move in the market. When you consider 62% of those surveyed indicated they received an annual increase to salary of less than 3%, this highlights that meaningful increases to compensation beyond cost of living can only effectively be achieved either through a material internal promotion, or a lateral move in market. We see this as a key driver for lateral movement in the in-house counsel market.


  • The average tenure of in-house counsel is slightly less than 5 years, and the average tenure of junior counsel is less than 4 years. For those managing other in-house counsel, this is a relevant factor to consider when you may have some risk exposure to lateral mobility, particularly if you are unable to create career progression and/or meaningful promotions for those on your in-house team.


  • Finally, for those counsel who may be considering a move, our survey found the majority (53%) of respondents would actively consider a move if a new opportunity yielded a 20%+ increase to base salary. Something to consider for those managing a legal team when trying to assess when compensation disparity with market can become a live consideration in your talent retention strategy.

For those interested to learn more about the in-house counsel compensation survey and how it might apply to your career, legal department, or company, you can access your free copy of the full report here.

We still have several upcoming dates where we will be presenting on the survey. Stay up-to-date on upcoming presentations here.


Warren Smith, Managing Partner