Getting Ahead at Work: Negotiating Your Salary

As a paralegal in a large law firm, I haven’t received a raise in several years. Now that the economy is gaining steam, I think it’s time I asked for more money. What’s the best way to approach my boss and make the case for a higher salary?

 Now is definitely a good time to talk numbers with your supervisor. In a recent Robert Half Legal survey, 29 percent of lawyers said that their law firms and companies are adding legal positions. This hiring trend means law practices anticipate more clients, which means more work and greater job security for legal staff.

Before you bring up a raise, however, do some planning and research. Here are some things to consider as you collect data and prepare your case:

1. Why do I deserve more money? Raises are generally based on merit, as well as the number of years you’ve worked. So to justify an increase in your paralegal salary, point out all the ways you’ve excelled in your position. These may include:

  • Extra tasks you’ve taken on
  • Money- and time-saving initiatives you’ve implemented
  • Praise from clients, lawyers and other legal staff
  • Your ability to work a file from intake to closure without mistakes
  • How you’ve upgraded your skills by taking CLE courses or other classes

Also ask yourself: Have you demonstrated real value to the firm? For example, have you been an exceptional employee who works well in team settings? Do you exhibit professionalism and an excellent work ethic? When covering for a staff member on leave, are you cheerful or grumbling? Do you stay up to date on legal trends and technological shifts?

2. What about timing?Don’t approach your boss at a high-stress moment or just before vacation. Wait until any major project has been finished and there are no pressing matters at hand. One appropriate time to ask for a raise is on or around your work/service anniversary.

3. How much should I ask for?
Great question. Before you ask for a raise, you definitely need to approximate what you’re worth. That means learning the going paralegal salary for someone with your level of experience. The Robert Half Legal Salary Guide is an excellent starting point for deciding what you should request. Then use our Salary Calculator to customize the salary range for your city, years of experience and the size of your firm. When your request is realistic and well researched, you increase your chances of getting what you want.

4. Should I be willing to take on more work?
You’ll have to if you want to move up. Even if you get the raise you’re requesting, start now asking about taking on more responsibilities so you can continue your climb up the career ladder.

The bottom line: Prepare an airtight argument for an upgrade to a new salary or job title. By seeing clearly why you deserve more money — and bringing supporting numbers and data to your meeting — you can gain from today’s improving economy.