Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Paralegal Dilemma: Should Mary Demand a Raise?

A plea for advice came to me this week from a paralegal I’ll call “Mary.” Here’s the story (note, the names have been changed to protect the innocent!):

"Mary" graduated from an ABA approved paralegal program and has worked at Mega Lawyers in Anytown, USA for five years. Her title: paralegal.

“Susie” is Mary’s co-worker. Susie graduated from the same ABA approved program as Mary. She has worked at Mega Lawyers for 3 years. Her title: paralegal.

The issue? Mary knows she and Susie receive the same compensation, even though she (Mary) feels Susie spends more time on the telephone and Facebook than she does working. Also, Mary thinks she has more responsibility than Susie and her additional experience should translate to her making more money than Susie.

Mary is frustrated, unhappy, angry, annoyed, and irritated because she doesn’t believe this is fair. She thinks she should make more money than Susie. She asks, “Do I have a right to complain about this? Should I demand a raise?”

Does she? Should she? Here’s my answer:
“No, Mary, you don’t have a right to complain. You agreed to the pay you are getting and you are doing your job according the way your character and integrity dictate.  The fact that you believe Susie is a slacker doesn’t mean a whole lot in terms of your compensation. Susie is the firm’s problem, not yours.
"Demanding a raise is never a good idea. 'Demand' translates to 'ultimatum.' Be careful what you wish for and always be prepared to follow up with your ultimatum. Employers usually do not like 'demands' or being backed into a corner. If you say you will leave if you don't get a raise, be prepared to do just that."
If Mary sincerely feels she deserves a raise because of her value, effort and performance she should meet with the appropriate person in her firm and make a logical, rational, and reasonable argument as to why she deserves more money. For example:
  • Has she met or exceeded her billable hour goals for every year she’s been with the firm?  
  • Is she the go to person for the firm’s technology issues?  
  • Has she drafted user manuals for the new software the firm recently purchased?  
  • Is she able to prepare a trial notebook with little or no input from her supervising attorney?
During this discussion, May should not bring up Susie and what she earns or what she does/does not do. The only relevant topic is Mary's worth and the value she brings to the firm. Mary may be able to get a bump in her salary, but only on her own merits. Complaining about a co-worker (I work harder than that lazy Susie!) should never enter the picture.