Making a Case for Raise

I’ve been working harder than ever these last few years but when it comes to pay, most salary increases at our firm seem to have stalled. Do you think it’s still OK to ask for a raise?

There’s certainly nothing wrong with discussing the prospect of a raise with your boss. But  understand that in a business environment that remains mixed with caution, you’ll need to make a strong case, particularly if you’re hoping for an above-average raise.

If you expect to have a salary discussion with your boss soon, these tips can help you prepare:

Emphasize Your Value

Mentioning that you haven’t had a raise in years isn’t the foundation of a strong case. Instead, talk about your increased value to the firm in recent years. Cite the contributions you’ve made and, as much as possible, quantify how they’ve saved your firm time or money or otherwise added to the bottom line. In addition, point out other ways you’ve been indispensable at work — for instance, are you the office expert on litigation management software? If so, say so.

You also need to do some research to support your request. A good place to start is the2014 Salary Guide from Robert Half Legal. Although average starting salaries for legal professionals are projected to increase 2.7 percent overall in 2014, raises for current employees may be higher because firms generally factor in performance considerations. Also, if you have expertise in an in-demand area, such as litigation, you’re more likely to see higher-than-average salary gains.

Keep the Focus on Work

Your request for a pay increase should be tied strictly to your professional value, not the fact that you have to start paying college tuition for your oldest child. Keep your request focused on what you’ve done for the firm and what your skills are worth. If you start making an emotional appeal based on your personal situation, you’ll take the focus away from the real reason you should get a raise: You’ve earned it.

Mind your Manners

Even if you feel you’re long overdue for a raise, don’t approach your manager with a sense of entitlement. While it’s fine to exude confidence, it’s never a good idea to give ultimatums.

Timing is Everything

Timing is key to a successful salary negotiation outcome. Don’t ask for a higher salary right after the firm has experienced a disappointing case or lost an important client. Try to find a time when you’ve just done something to “save the day” around the office.

Many firms are increasing their focus on retention to guard against losing top performers to other firms, so you may be in a good position to receive a healthy raise. Still, it’s essential to make a well-reasoned case for the increase you want. And even if you don’t get exactly what you’re hoping for, a candid discussion with your manager will likely provide the insights you need to evaluate your earning power at your current firm and possibly weigh other career options.