Feeling Underpaid? How to Ask for — and Get — a Raise 


I love my job, coworkers and law firm, and I’ve worked hard since I was hired. But despite my best efforts and the strong economy, I haven’t gotten a raise since joining the firm two years ago. How do I approach my boss about it? 


Requesting a salary increase can be awkward, as many people don’t want to come across as being ungrateful or demanding. But in life, we often won’t get the things we want unless we come right out and ask for them. The same is true of a raise. But you must first have a solid strategy. Here are four suggested steps:  

1. Research salary data. Don’t just guess at what you think you should be making. Use trusted resources like the Robert Half Legal 2019 Salary Guide to help pinpoint what legal professionals with your job title, skill set and years of experience are earning nationwide. Our Salary Calculator allows you to customize the figures based on your location. With this information in hand, you’ll be in a stronger position to convince your boss you’re overdue for a raise.  

2. Gather supporting evidence. Salary figures are good, but it’s better to bolster your case even more with documentation that demonstrates how you’ve gone above and beyond. Jot down all the extra assignments you’ve taken on, as well as the continuing legal education and professional development courses you’ve completed. Received kudos from colleagues and clients? Add those to the file, too. Your goal is to demonstrate how valuable you are to the firm. 

3. Be strategic in your timing. The “when” of asking for a raise is as important as the “how.” Don’t approach your boss about a salary increase if they’re getting ready to go on vacation or your firm has just lost a major client. On the other hand, if you were instrumental in winning an important case, take advantage of the good timing and request a pay hike.  

4. Have a fallback plan. No matter how meticulously you prepare your case, the ruling may not be in your favor. Decide in advance what you’d say in the event of a “no.” Perhaps you could negotiate additional employee perks, such as flexible scheduling, telecommuting options or additional vacation days. If your boss balks at the recurring expense of a salary raise, request a one-time bonus. The important thing is to have counterproposals at the ready. 

Legal managers understand the need to keep top performers happy and motivated, but sometimes they need a gentle nudge about how to do that. So, prepare your arguments and make the case for a raise. Good luck.