Shining a Light on Pay Equity: Salary Transparency in Legal Operations
The Importance of Understanding Legal Operations Salary Discrepancies
The survey revealed that “pay for female legal ops professionals lags behind their male counterparts at all job levels except Director and Senior Director.” This finding was especially striking because more than half of the survey respondents identified as female—and because legal ops is a predominantly female industry.
Five years later, new legal operations salary data from Brightflag suggests that the gender pay gap persists in our industry. By making salary data more transparent, we hope to illuminate:
- Why compensation ranges are so wide
- How the diverse career backgrounds of legal ops professionals impact pay
- Which roles and experiences are considered valuable—and which are lagging behind in terms of pay equity
Legal operations salary transparency can ultimately improve our industry as a whole, and help our colleagues at every level eliminate the gender pay gap.
3 reasons why pay transparency in legal operations is crucial to industry success
Brightflag’s recently released 2023 Legal Operations Compensations Survey received more than 400 responses, and was submitted by people in roles across 29 countries and 34 U.S. states. A total of 75% of responses to the survey are gender-diverse, giving us a broad picture of salary data in the field.
This valuable data also underscores the importance of pay transparency in a growing industry, where the salaries of women legal ops professionals still lag behind the salaries men receive for the same work.
Ultimately, pay transparency helps all legal ops professionals:
Recognize the gender disparity between the number of men and women who work in the industry
Despite being a predominantly female industry, legal operations has a widening gender pay gap. Pay transparency and continued advocacy are the only way to create more equitable legal operations salary packages.
The data is more promising in leadership roles, though still unequal. For gender-diverse heads of legal ops, pay is 9% less than their male peers, an improvement since last year.
Unfortunately, however, the pay gap is significantly wider for other legal ops roles. The gap has risen as high as 23%, increasing over the past year.
Understand how professional background influences pay
Legal operations attracts people from diverse professional backgrounds, and these various levels of experience have an impact on pay.
Overall, the survey found that 61% of respondents had 11 or more years of professional experience, including management experience.
While paralegal is the most common career path to legal ops, former paralegals and administrators are paid as much as 29% less than legal ops professionals with other backgrounds.
In fact, pay is 30% higher for legal ops professionals with a law-practicing background. Despite legal expertise not being required for the role, it remains a significant factor in commanding a higher legal operations salary.
Expand the legal operations industry in a more equitable way
Legal ops is still in its infancy. In order to grow the industry in a more equitable way, leaders at every level must advocate for pay equity, clarify the impact of specific career experiences on starting salaries and raises, and embrace efforts to increase pay transparency.
In a recent interview, Linda Hovanec, the senior product manager at Wolters Kluwer, suggested that the C-Suite can do more to address the pay gap.
“The directive has to come from senior management,” Hovanec said. “Once they mandate it and train employees and managers, it’ll spread throughout the organization.”
Hovanec was ultimately hopeful that the diversity of legal ops would support its continued evolution. “Managers and co-workers need to acknowledge that everyone’s different—and that’s a good thing,” she added. “Be open to those differences and embrace them, because those are the things that move us forward.”
In a fast-growing field like legal operations, pinning down a fair salary range can be difficult. After all, no two legal ops roles are exactly alike. Factors like prior legal experience and geographic location ultimately have a big impact on the pay scale.
Fortunately, there is a way to gain insight into the legal operations salary landscape: Brightflag’s 2023 Compensation Survey. Featuring more than 400 responses from fellow legal ops professionals, this up-to-date resource will help you identify average compensation ranges and advocate for change. Check it out today.