From Morgan Stanley to Microsoft: the best paid in-house lawyers in the US

Netflix, American Express and Disney GCs among top 10 best-paid US in-house legal heads

1. Eric Grossman, Morgan Stanley. Grossman came in at number one his first year on the charts with total cash compensation of $6,948,750. The Morgan Stanley chief legal officer raked in $1m in salary and an impressive $5,948,750 in bonus cash.

2. Laureen Seeger, American Express. Like Grossman, this year’s runner-up comes from the world of finance, but unlike Grossman, Seeger has been on Corporate Counsel’s top paid list for years. She’s also the only woman in 2018’s top ten. This year, she earned total cash compensation of $6,718,385.

3. Gerson Zweifach of Twenty-First Century Fox. Zweifach had the highest base salary of any GC on Corporate Counsel’s list, at $3m. That cushion was almost doubled with $2.5m in non-equity incentives.

4. Alan Braverman, Walt Disney. While Disney's legal leader Braverman has moved down the ranks - he was the top paid GC in both 2015 and 2016 - he is still paid handsomely in 2017, earning $5,165,000 in cash compensation, $1m less than he brought home the year before. (Photo: Dustin Snipes)

5. Michael Sharp, Leucadia. Grossman isn’t this year’s only newcomer. Leucadia GC Michael Sharp earned his way into the top ten this year with total cash compensation of $5m. The company has since renamed itself Jefferies Financial Group and shifted its focus towards finance, with Sharp still serving as legal leader.

6. Lawrence Tu, CBS. Last year, Tu made the top five, but this year, he’s been pushed to the list's latter half. But don't feel too sorry for him - he received total cash compensation of $4,564,808 in 2017.

7. Robb Voyles, Halliburton. Oil company Halliburton’s GC made his compensation list debut at number seven, with total cash pay of $4,473,780 after a year in which he stepped up as interim CFO.

8. Brad Smith, Microsoft. The software company’s CLO jumped up the ranks this year, moving from 17th to eighth with cash compensation of $4,027,376. Smith’s not just Microsoft’s legal leader - he’s also the company’s president.

9. Eshan Zargar, HRG Group. Zargar is also a new addition to the rankings. The holding company’s GC took home $3,400,000 in cash compensation last year, $3,000,000 of which was from bonus and non-equity incentives.

10. David Hyman, Netflix. Many GCs on the top-paid list are from entertainment companies, and a few are from tech - Hyman is a combination of both trends. Netflix’s legal leader earned $3,369,538 in cash compensation last year. He also held more than $12m in option exercises and stock value realised on vesting.

Every year, Legal Week affiliate ALM Legal Intelligence carries out its GC Compensation Survey, which ranks the best-paid in-house legal leaders in the US.

This year, a new face is at the pinnacle of the pay charts, alongside a number of in-house veterans who have made the top 10 list for a number of years.

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