Asking for a raise

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SpeshulSnoflake

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Asking for a raise

Postby SpeshulSnoflake » Fri Jul 22, 2016 10:22 am

I'll try to keep this brief. I am finishing up my 1st year as an associate at a small firm (3 attorneys including me). Not to be cocky, but I am VERY good at my job. I do whatever is necessary, get results, and put in long hours. I am consistently working to improve my skills beyond just the required CLEs. My bosses love me and have no complaints about my work product. One of the partners here has severely cut down the amount of time they spend at work and I have picked up the slack. My performance is not an issue (seriously, I'm not being delusional here). The only problem is I am severely underpaid.

My base salary is $40,000 a year. I get some bonuses but those have not panned out as expected due to no fault of my own (long story). With bonuses and my base, I pull about $45,000 a year total. I want more, and feel like I deserve more.

My question is, how high is too high of a raise request? I was planning on scheduling a performance review for mid-August (i.e. a year since my hire date). The median salary for an associate in a small firm in my region with 1 year of experience is about $61,000 base. I would be very happy with this salary. My only issue is this is over a 50% increase from my current salary, and I don't want to seem absurd by making such a request.

So, my question: what would you do? How much would you ask for? How would you go about it? I really want to be prepared here and any input is appreciated. Thank you in advance.

Just to add: I feel blessed to be employed, and my heart goes out to those of you still looking. Good luck.

ruski

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Re: Asking for a raise

Postby ruski » Fri Jul 22, 2016 10:34 am

SpeshulSnoflake wrote:I'll try to keep this brief. I am finishing up my 1st year as an associate at a small firm (3 attorneys including me). Not to be cocky, but I am VERY good at my job. I do whatever is necessary, get results, and put in long hours. I am consistently working to improve my skills beyond just the required CLEs. My bosses love me and have no complaints about my work product. One of the partners here has severely cut down the amount of time they spend at work and I have picked up the slack. My performance is not an issue (seriously, I'm not being delusional here). The only problem is I am severely underpaid.

My base salary is $40,000 a year. I get some bonuses but those have not panned out as expected due to no fault of my own (long story). With bonuses and my base, I pull about $45,000 a year total. I want more, and feel like I deserve more.

My question is, how high is too high of a raise request? I was planning on scheduling a performance review for mid-August (i.e. a year since my hire date). The median salary for an associate in a small firm in my region with 1 year of experience is about $61,000 base. I would be very happy with this salary. My only issue is this is over a 50% increase from my current salary, and I don't want to seem absurd by making such a request.

So, my question: what would you do? How much would you ask for? How would you go about it? I really want to be prepared here and any input is appreciated. Thank you in advance.

Just to add: I feel blessed to be employed, and my heart goes out to those of you still looking. Good luck.



honestly the best way to improve your salary is to get another job that pays more, and start a bidding war. if you are good as you say you are, your boss will match whatever you are offered

SpeshulSnoflake

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Re: Asking for a raise

Postby SpeshulSnoflake » Fri Jul 22, 2016 10:36 am

You are 100% right, but I'm hesistant to do that because it's a small legal community here and there is a very good chance that my bosses would hear about it even if I just put the feelers out about a new position. I appreciate your advice, and it's something I've considered and still might do (definitely if I don't get a raise here without it) but there are some serious drawbacks to this approach.

Aside from that, any other input?

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zot1

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Re: Asking for a raise

Postby zot1 » Fri Jul 22, 2016 10:47 am

But I don't see that necessarily as a bad thing. Your bosses will realize you're trying to go somewhere and they will offer the raise right away because they won't want to lose your talent.

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2014

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Re: Asking for a raise

Postby 2014 » Fri Jul 22, 2016 10:55 am

If you are as good as you say you are a 40k to 60k raise seems like a reasonable ask, especially if it's only median for your market/firm size. Looking at it as a percentage is the wrong way to go about it.

There's a ratio of billings to salary that is quoted around here sometimes that could also guide you - look at how much revenue you've brought in (presumably just servicing partners clients since if you were originating your bonus would be higher I'd think) and figure out what the resulting salary using the appropriate ratio of that would be.

SpeshulSnoflake

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Re: Asking for a raise

Postby SpeshulSnoflake » Fri Jul 22, 2016 10:56 am

That's a very good point. I'm probably not going to be able get an offer sheet from another firm within the timeline I'm thinking (i.e. by mid-August) but I'm probably being paranoid about this and putting out some feelers with my contacts at other firms probably wouldn't hurt. What do you think about legal recruiters? My impression is they generally don't deal with non-Big Law attorneys and prefer associates with 2-3 years experience at least. I just want to put myself in the best negotiating position I can, as I really don't have a desire to leave my current firm. Other than the money I am exactly where I want to be, employer wise.

EDIT: This was a response to Zot1.
Last edited by SpeshulSnoflake on Fri Jul 22, 2016 10:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

SpeshulSnoflake

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Re: Asking for a raise

Postby SpeshulSnoflake » Fri Jul 22, 2016 10:58 am

2014 wrote:If you are as good as you say you are a 40k to 60k raise seems like a reasonable ask, especially if it's only median for your market/firm size. Looking at it as a percentage is the wrong way to go about it.

There's a ratio of billings to salary that is quoted around here sometimes that could also guide you - look at how much revenue you've brought in (presumably just servicing partners clients since if you were originating your bonus would be higher I'd think) and figure out what the resulting salary using the appropriate ratio of that would be.



We generally don't do billables here, it's flat rate services (i.e. crim and bankruptcy). I only do billables for extensive trial work, like murders and serious felonies, so it doesn't really affect by bonus. Kind of a weird structure.

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Toni V

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Re: Asking for a raise

Postby Toni V » Fri Jul 22, 2016 11:06 am

You are obviously past your probationary period (if one existed) and you have proved yourself. If you are looking for an icebreaker regarding $$, bring up your student debt as why you need assistance.

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LeDique

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Re: Asking for a raise

Postby LeDique » Fri Jul 22, 2016 11:32 am

It sounds like you're in the same kind of position I was in last year. I work at a similarly small firm in a similarly small community – leveraging a job offer from someone else is just not really an option. I did up a budget, what I'd like to live on, and ended up with that number. Then I pulled up the salary data from the state bar assoc, highlighted all the relevant lines. The numbers were a pretty close match. I also had some sense of what my predecessor was making, which was a bit lower. I know her and obviously look at her work from old cases from time to time, so I know my work level is at least as good as hers (nony don't tell her I said that). Is there a prior associate's salary you can use as a basis? The other thing I did was make it clear I didn't really care how the raise amount was paid – if it was paid out as bonuses as money came in, that was fine. In the end, we bumped my base up about to half of what I asked and should make the rest with bonuses. And think about mutually beneficial ways to handle the raise so the bottom line impact of the raise isn't as much. i.e., putting most of the bonuses into the SEP means I don't have to count it as income for PAYE and firm doesn't have to pay taxes on it. At a small firm, being able to structure compensation to your individual situation is one of the upshots.

And yeah – if you have access to the firms accounting, that can help you see what might be fair.

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2014

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Re: Asking for a raise

Postby 2014 » Fri Jul 22, 2016 11:44 am

SpeshulSnoflake wrote:
2014 wrote:If you are as good as you say you are a 40k to 60k raise seems like a reasonable ask, especially if it's only median for your market/firm size. Looking at it as a percentage is the wrong way to go about it.

There's a ratio of billings to salary that is quoted around here sometimes that could also guide you - look at how much revenue you've brought in (presumably just servicing partners clients since if you were originating your bonus would be higher I'd think) and figure out what the resulting salary using the appropriate ratio of that would be.



We generally don't do billables here, it's flat rate services (i.e. crim and bankruptcy). I only do billables for extensive trial work, like murders and serious felonies, so it doesn't really affect by bonus. Kind of a weird structure.

Less applicable but the point still stands - somehow figure out how much revenue you can reasonably attribute to your being there and base your ask around that. At the very least it is probably good to frame your mindset around what your actual tangible value add is.

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LeDique

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Re: Asking for a raise

Postby LeDique » Fri Jul 22, 2016 11:46 am

I did omit that. It was also relatively easy for me to total up money coming in from "my cases" and even absent being able to just look at our accounts, I could total up most money coming in the door.

SpeshulSnoflake

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Re: Asking for a raise

Postby SpeshulSnoflake » Fri Jul 22, 2016 12:35 pm

LeDique wrote:I did omit that. It was also relatively easy for me to total up money coming in from "my cases" and even absent being able to just look at our accounts, I could total up most money coming in the door.


Yeah, that sort of calculation will be tough for me to do. I know how many clients I do initial consultations for, and a rough percentage of how many retain me as their attorney, but I have no idea what the support staff makes, what profit distributions the partners take, or anything like that.

anon3030

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Re: Asking for a raise

Postby anon3030 » Fri Jul 22, 2016 1:37 pm

It also depends on what the firm can afford if you are as valuable as you say. If you don't already have access to your firm's financials and how much the attorneys are taking home, get that information. If you know they are taking home a ton, push for a big raise knowing they can afford it. The time and effort to find a good lawyer that only makes $45,000 will cost them. If they like you, I am sure they would give you up to $65,000. But if they are barely making anything, then don't push too hard as they simply can't help you out.

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LeDique

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Re: Asking for a raise

Postby LeDique » Fri Jul 22, 2016 6:35 pm

Still though - if you're flat fee, can't you ballpark it? What I mean is, I could sit down and go "here are the major cases that I did 80%+ of the work on, that's $_____ for the firm. I can also add up $____ from the cases I did significant work on. That more than covers and justifies my additional salary." Like, can't you be like "ok I did 3 DUIs @ $2000, an assault @3500, a marijuana possession @ $2500 in January…"

Don't think about it how you phrased it, that it's about how much support staff make, etc. Of course that's part of it. But in terms of justifying your salary, if you're do the work that results in those fees and it's six figures, asking for $65k is fine.



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