Ask Kathy Corner
Make 2017 the Year for a Raise!
Q It is January 2017 and I want to start the year off right. I have been working tirelessly in my practice and have not received a significant raise in five years. It is time to see some movement in my paycheck. I just don’t know how to go about broaching the topic with my boss. What should I do?
A It’s always good to get a raise. However, it’s especially opportune to receive a raise when the economy is in transition, as I believe it is now. It is not difficult to secure a raise in the best of times, but how do you go about increasing your compensation in uncertain economic times?
Admittedly, your odds of getting a raise depend greatly on the climate and health of your company and for law firm partners the health of your practice. However, there are some general pointers that will help tip the scales in your favor, no matter where you practice.
One of the first things you need to do is determine whether you actually deserve a raise. If you don’t truly believe that you deserve a raise, convincing others you deserve one will be nearly impossible. If you aren’t sure, take an inventory of all you achieved in 2016. Devote time this January to go through your old emails and reviews and acknowledge your positive impact. It’s better to present your case when it’s most convincing and the first person who needs to believe you deserve a raise is you. It may be that in six months you’ll have logged some additional accomplishments that will make you a much better candidate for a raise. Remember that while hard work is important, it is only one element that influences your compensation. A high profile and strong reputation as a team player may be equally important and for partners, it is increasingly all about that book.
If you do, in fact, believe that you deserve a raise, you need to enumerate why. Quantify and qualify your accomplishments. Has your work positively impacted the company’s bottom-line? Have you shielded your company from liability or helped implement new and innovative practices in the legal department? Did you land a big client or negotiate a favorable settlement?
After you’ve made your list of accomplishments and compiled the supporting data (including praise, thank you notes and positive client feedback) practice your pitch. Plan precisely what you will say to your boss to sell them on the idea of giving you that much-deserved raise. Practice your speech, prepare copies of any relevant projects, data, reports, or other aids that can visually drive home your request.
Think about the best time to talk to your boss. Is it Monday when the week is young? Or Friday when your boss is always in a good mood? Whatever day you decide to meet with your boss, plan it in advance. Schedule a specific time so that you can minimize the possibility of unwanted distractions or interruptions. Nothing will kill your pitch for a raise more quickly than being interrupted mid-way through and not actually being able to present your whole ask. Wear your favorite shoes and know that your confidence and emotional tone are as important as your supporting data.
If you decide to wait a little while to ask for a raise, there are some steps you can take now to help increase your odds of receiving a raise when you do request it. Work on your personal branding to bolster your reputation and public image. That may mean keeping a brag file with all the kudos and positive feedback that you receive or expanding your networking efforts and looking for public speaking or writing opportunities that help establish you as an expert. Marshall both your internal and external allies to advocate on your behalf. The more your name comes up positively in conversation, the easier it will be to convince your boss that you are in-demand and deserve a raise.
Remember, fortune favors the bold and 2017 is your year for a raise!
Kathy Richardson is the Founder and Principal of HR Legal Search. She is a Texas-based Legal Recruiter with a national practice. She supports in-house lawyers and law firm partners in their career development and has successfully placed hundreds of lawyers nationwide.
If you have a strategy, please share with us how you navigated the situation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will share your tips (and not disclose your name if you would like).