Thursday, August 2, 2012

Paralegal Advice: How NOT to Ask for a Raise

Paralegal Angles for Raise: A peeved paralegal wrote to "Dear Amy" with this question. You may have seen it on the Internet:

DEAR AMY: I've been working for a small law firm for six years now. I'm a paralegal and work up all the attorneys' documents.

I've made a lot of money for the firm. Recently because of all my hard work, the firm has hired two new attorneys (one is part-time).

By accident my manager gave me the part-time attorney's paycheck, and I was floored. She makes way more than I do!

What do you think I should do? Should I find another job or talk to my manager about getting a larger raise?

I don't want to get the manager in trouble, but it's just not fair that this other person is part-time and making more than I am. -- Peeved Paralegal

Here is Amy's answer -- please note that The Paralegal Mentor DOES NOT agree with Amy...see my advice below.

DEAR PEEVED: I appreciate your confidence and self-assessment, but it's possible that your firm's success is due to more than your efforts alone.

Regardless of your opinion of your own worth, you seem to have the idea that the pay structure in your workplace should be fair -- according to your calculation and relative to your own compensation.

This is not the case. The marketplace determines your worth. You are comparing apples to wheelbarrows.

Even if you could easily perform the lawyering tasks your part-time colleague performs, you and this lawyer have different educational qualifications and credentials. This lawyer's ability to negotiate a generous compensation package for herself has nothing to do with your relative worth to the firm.

The way to negotiate for more money is not through competing with your co-workers, but by receiving an offer for a paralegal job from another firm and leveraging that into an offer for more money at your home firm.(which, by the way, would not be my answer...check back next week to read what I would say.)  Amy

Dear Peeved Paralegal: In retrospect, I wish you did not have this information. Is difficult to work when you do not feel you are being treated "fairly".  No one has promised "fair" but what we are paid is directly related to our feelings of value.

Remember, though, that you are not comparing this information to what another paralegal is being paid. You should never compare your value to that of an attorney, part time or not, because (as Amy says), you are comparing apples to wheelbarrows.

I do not agree with Amy's advice to look for an offer from another firm and then leverage that into an offer for more money at your current job.

Instead, I urge you to compile information about your value to the firm -- number of billable hours? certification? education? longevity? skill set? If that information demonstrates you deserve a raise, schedule a meeting with your manager and use your informationto ask for an increase. If you do not get what you want, you have 2 choices: remain at your current job or look for another,

DO NOT give your employer an ultimatum you will quit if you do not receive more money unless you're willing to make good on the ultimatum. You do not want to find yourself out in the apple orchard without a wheelbarrow!  Vicki


What is your opinion regarding this paralegal's situation? Should she follow Amy's advice or mine? Or do something else? Let me know.


Courtney said...

Using another job offer to leverage a raise is a good way to burn a bridge while you are standing on it!

There are many tools available for determining the market value for your position and skill set--salary surveys from legal placement firms and paralegal associations, and online tools such as are good places to start. Using that data in addition to documenting your accomplishments at the firm can help "make the case" for increased compensation (money or more vacation time, if money is tight.)

If you are unhappy enough in your current position, looking for a new job is another solution. But if you are going to seek new job offers, genuinely seek them. Even if your current firm matches or beats the new offer, they won't trust you anymore. If the firm making the offer finds out you used them, you will have a bad reputation with them.

Karen McElroy, PP, PLS said...

Vicki I totally agree with your advice and approach. It seems many today compare different fruits and are way too concerned about fairness. Focusing on value is much more appropriate in this situation.

Lady Jessop said...

Thumbs up for Vicki. Although I'm not sure why Peeved Paralegal is even peeved. Attorneys are paid more than paralegals, plain and simple. If a paralegal wants to make the same rate of pay as an attorney they can go to law school, pass the bar and receive a license to represent clients in a court of law.


Grumpy Humbug said...

The Lawyer spent 3 years in Law School (on top of 4 years in College), accruing enough debt in student loans to buy a decent house. Then they had to spend months studying for the Bar, one of the most difficult tests imaginable short of losing body parts. Not to put our own profession down, but simply put we haven't been through the training the attorneys have, don't have the education they have, and can't do their jobs. If you want to make lawyer money, become a lawyer.

cbrenneman24 said...

I do NOT agree with Amy's advice either. I have had the best success with being honest with the administrator about my disatisfaction and negotiating for higher salary/benefits. It also gets everyone to contribute to the process (paralegal, administrator and lawyer) and takes away any of the "what ifs" if you end up leaving the employer. If the employer is unable to offer more salary/benefits, they will likely still provide a very positive recommendation for your next employer.