What is the Role of an Executive Compensation Lawyer?

Contracts setting out executive compensation do more than simply define an individual’s role and expectations in an organization. They also establish key contractual and legal obligations between an employee and their employer. In almost all cases, an employer will use a lawyer to draft the contract. An experienced executive compensation attorney helps employees protect their best interests and negotiate the best possible contract.

Whether in North Carolina, New York, or South Carolina, The Noble Law is prepared to assist on matters of executive employment. Go here to schedule a consultation with an attorney or start with our overview below.

There are three key moments when an executive compensation attorney is a particular asset: negotiations before entering the position, when something goes amiss during an employee’s active employment, and right before and after an employee separates or is terminated from the organization.

Entry to Position Negotiations

At the outset, executive employees should put less energy towards the precise language of the contract, and more towards the key components they’d like to see reflected in the final draft. Some individuals may want their compensation to include Restricted Stock Options (RSOs), while others may feel less inclined to take on the elevated risk profile. Regardless of the individual specifics, all executive employees should consider how to best structure their pay for tax advantages.

Other elements to keep at the forefront of executive entry negotiations are termination clauses, non-disclosure agreements, and non-competes. These are often complex, but it is critical not to let the complexity obscure your goals. For example, when outlining cause v. non-cause termination in the contract, there should be guaranteed compensation for any non-cause termination. Ideally, actions that would lead to termination for cause would be defined narrowly.

Non-disclosure agreements and non-competes are obviously very important to an employee’s present and future employment situation. For a deeper dive into these issues specifically, we recommend heading over to our subject matter page on non-disclosure agreements and non-competes.

Hold on, something’s wrong here…

At some point during an executive employee’s tenure, they may notice their job status and security shifting. It is imperative that the employee stay ahead of a situation like this. Documentation never hurts, and a paper trail may be an excellent resource should the situation escalate. It may make sense to confer with an executive compensation attorney at this point for some coaching on how to best proceed.

If it becomes obvious that the situation is coming to a head, an executive employee should consider what is most important to them. Is it:

  • Accrued but unpaid PTO?
  • Continuation of medical benefits?
  • Options and restrictions on stock units?
  • Outplacement? Non-disparagement clause?
  • General release of liability?


Once you’ve outlined what you hope to accomplish or maintain in a separation from your company, an executive compensation attorney often begins by writing a letter that outlines the practical leverage you have in the situation. It’s a sweet spot for the attorney, as they get to do what they love to do – talk. Their comprehensive understanding of the contract and NDA allows them to produce satisfactory separation results. An attorney can manage the timing of a separation, the way it is announced, monetary and non-monetary considerations, and help set out a path for the future. If the best possible outcome involves an alternative form of settlement (like annuities, deferred compensation, or stock), an executive compensation attorney can make that happen as well.

Negotiating employment contracts can be challenging and stressful, but an executive compensation attorney will help. Head to our subject matter page for additional information or reach out to schedule a consultation by going here or by calling (919) 917-9421.

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