Top Apple lawyer earns 10 TIMES more than magic circle partners

By on

Kate Adams took home nearly £20 million in total compensation last year

Apple’s top lawyer earned ten times more than the average magic circle partner last year, taking home nearly $27 million (£20 million) in total compensation.

Kate Adams, 57, who currently serves as Apple’s general counsel and senior vice president of legal and global security, earned a whopping $26.97 million (£19.82 million) in 2021, according to the bigtech giant’s annual proxy statement filed this month with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Partners at magic circle law firms made a fraction of what Adams was awarded last year; profit per equity partner (PEP) at Freshfields stands at £1.91 million, according to our 2022 Firms Most List, while Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance partners pulled in £1.9 million and £1.85 million, respectively.

PEP at only a handful of US firms surpasses the £3 million mark, which is still nowhere near the eye-popping sum Adams is reported to have earned.

The 2022 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

The bulk of Adams’ earnings came from stock awards valued at nearly $22 million (£16.17 million). She also earned $5 million (£3.67 million) in cash last year, including a base salary of $1 million (£735k).

Adams reports to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who himself made $98.7 million (£72.5 million) last year, according to the filing.

In her role, Adams oversees all legal matters, including corporate governance, intellectual property, litigation and securities compliance, global security and privacy.

She joined Apple from tech and manufacturing company Honeywell in 2017, where she worked for 14 years, most recently as general counsel and senior vice president. She spent a decade working at Sidley Austin in New York where she was an associate and then a partner.

Adams holds a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Brown University and a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School.

Legal Cheek reported last year that Google’s chief legal officer Kent Walker, 60, raked in $51 million (£37.5 million) in 2020.

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter



General counsel of one of the most important companies in human history makes more than a ten-a-penny partner at a British law firm.

Some nice investigative work here.



Where’s the Kirkland, lambo bloke?



Paging Kirkland NQ 😀



She’s one of the 12 most senior people at a company with turnover of 365 billion dollars.

Surprising really she earns more than one of 308 partners at Links, a firm turning over 0.4% the amount Apple does.



She’ll have beefy dividends too. Dream legal job


Inhouse pleb

It will be a lot (lot) more stressful than being a partner at a shop like Linklaters or even Slaughters. This sort of job is obviously exceptional, but inhouse roles can pay quite well especially with the bonuses and the share options. Because salaries inhouse are opaque and not lock step, many people don’t know other than the advertised salaries for entry level positions, but if the right people like you and the company does well it can be very lucrative. PE houses and funds obviously pay exceptionally well and it is possible to out earn even US firm associates at a young age, but those roles are rare and you’ll likely come an elite firm background for those roles, although miracles do happen via the compliance route.



interesting – What are these inhouse roles where you do better than US associates?


Inhouse pleb

I know two people (one ex MC and one ex Herbies then MC) making circa £150k basic and then up to 200% of salary as bonus plus benefits and a signing on bonus. This was a few years ago and both were recruited through personal relationships. Anecdotal but as I said this is rare but does happen. Stressful jobs though and the guys deal side are very demanding but you can move some of the stress on to external counsel. One said his boss cleared over £2million as bonus one year, so that is pushing him above most private practice lawyers apart from those in finance and high level m&a.



Why would it be more stressful? No timesheets, stress about winning pitches and work, getting yelled at by clients over the weekend. All the grunt work delegated out to law firms and juniors in the team. At that level it’s all about ability to make important decisions fast.



1. Reporting to Tim Cook and the board – I doubt they are exactly cuddly as internal clients (I’m pretty sure they don’t say to their GC at 5.30 on a Friday night “let’s speak Monday, just don’t bother checking your emails”).

2. At that level every decision made will be v business-critical, because it will probably have been through a raft of lawyers before it reaches the GC’s desk. GC will need to make decisions and come up with recommendations / strategy to a v demanding board on the basis of probably limited information.

3. Needing to manage and take responsibility for the whole legal function of a massive company (albeit I’m sure there are country heads / direct reports).

4. Public and political scrutiny of a company like Apple.

LOL at the idea a job like that would be an easy ride.



Didn’t say it wouldn’t be stressful but certainly not ‘a LOT LOT more stressful’ as the OP dramatically stated

Inhouse pleb

@Anon If you don’t see how sitting on the board of one of the largest organisations on planet Earth, and being responsible for the legal function of said function, is more stressful than being a partner at Linklaters or Clifford Chance then I don’t really know what to say to you. This is a company with more clout than most countries, facing legal and regulatory challenges on many different fronts. I wonder how many partners from the magic circle have hearings with the CEO before the US Senate on a Tuesday before a call with the French Home Secretary on a Wednesday and then meetings with California Labour Unions in the afternoon, a meeting in Ottawa with competition regulators on a Thursday, a board meeting on a Friday and then have to fly to Beijing the following week to discuss access to market issues with senior civil servants there. But of course pitching for work at KKR or Blackstones in their London office or trying to get on the panel of Barclays is a lot more stressful.

Junior Chancery Barrister

Yes, I wouldn’t want to touch it… Your entire life basically belongs to that company. I imagine it is not quite that bad even for those working at elite firms.


Try doing all that a complex business needs to do with less than half the budget that you asked for and constantly being perceived as a cost centre, and not being in control of your remuneration because that is tied to commercial performance – which does not really correlate with the quality of lawyering…


In-house lawyer

In-house life isn’t an easy ride, but I cannot stress enough the HUGE difference between working for external clients in a law firm, and working WITH your colleagues (as your clients) in-house. The things that are stressful – involvement in business decisions, sussing risk appetite / making calls on risk decisions, navigating business changes, working with internal clients who yes, can be very demanding, but ultimately you’re under the same roof so the level of understanding and collaboration is entirely different – are all infinitely more interesting and motivating than many of the stressful things you experience in a law firm (demanding external clients, billable hours, billing targets, winning clients etc.).



I think part of it is down to the fact that in private practice you advise your clients what you think might work for them, but that is all caveated and ultimately the commercial decision is down to them. If it goes wrong unless your advice was clearly negligent or wrong it’s not really your problem, and you carry on with other clients. in this type of GC role you are much closer to the decision making process and have to contribute to it. Giving the board a lengthy memorandum that sits on the fence isn’t really sufficient.

Being a partner in a big law firm has many stresses I’m sure but they are different and I’d think probably less than being the GC of Apple.


Archibald Pomp O'City

“Why would it be more stressful?”

The fact that you ask this question demonstrates why you will never find out.


Apple In-House NQ

Where’s Kirkland NQ now?



Water is wet.



not surprised by this. it has been well known that GCs can make as much as if not more than partners in private practice.

for those interested do take a look at this:



I’d personally like to see LC report more on in-house opportunities and comp. Sure it’s cheaper at the junior end, and not a great place to cut your teeth compared to private practice, but once you’re senior and experienced enough, you can lateral into some fairly juicy roles. Even better if you can invest in some eye watering stock options. General counsels in Silicon Valley are laughing at this point.


Kirkland NQ

Lol, pauper. Come back when you earn proper money.



Davis Polk & Wardwell Partners RN🤑



Legal cheek, chambers students and others need to start advertising in-house TCs roles more.

There’s a lot of opportunities out there, but for some reason, they are not readily disclosed.



Would a Desmond from UWE get me in there? I’m very enthusiastic and have brilliant extra curriculars!


Qui Gon Jinn

There’s always a bigger fish.



In house is for second rate people who can’t hack it in private practice.



This is a stereotype that’s well past its sell-by-date.

Many in-house lawyers move for lifestyle reasons (traditionally better work/life balance, no billable hours), or even because they’re more motivated to work in a single business rather than serve many different clients (as per private practice). In-house obviously comes with its pros and cons, but it’s less about not being able to “hack it” and more about people deciding what they want and value in a legal career.

Besides, the above comment also does not account for the fact that some lawyers have moved from in-house to private practice. In-house lawyers who have kept their legal brains sharp, have deep sector knowledge and are able to bring business from their former employers will often be attractive to recruiting law firms.


Random passer by

You shouldn’t bite with trolls. Life is much easier when you ignore stupid comments on Legal Cheek.


Comments are closed.

Related Stories