5 Tips for Paralegals to Help You Ask For and Receive a Raise

You have been with the company for a good while. You are a top performer, have contributed to the bottom line of the company substantially, even had a superior performance review. Yet your paycheck has remained unchanged. A raise should happen automatically, shouldn't it?

Not necessarily. Bosses aren't in the business of handing out large pay increases, even to top performers. They want to get the most work out of employees for the least amount of pay. Most businesses try to obtain services as inexpensively as possible, including labor. It's yet another way for the business to maximize profits. Chances are good that at times you will only receive more money if you ask for it, however, if you are lucky enough to get a yearly review with the boss you may get a raise then. 

But what is the best way to ask for a raise and receive it? The following are some tips to follow to help you ask for a raise and increase your odds of receiving it.

1. Choose your moment wisely. 

Monday mornings are generally not the best time to ask for a raise. Send an email requesting a meeting in advance. Consider your boss's schedule and body clock. If the boss needs 3 cups of coffee before becoming coherent, odds are mornings should be avoided. Likewise the busiest time of the day or month is not good. But, have you just received a commendation or accolade? Just worked on a winning trial? Or recently presented extraordinary research or work product?  Strike while the iron is hot and your successes are fresh in your bosses mind. 

2. Do your research. 

Before asking for that raise, investigate the financial health of the company or firm. What do the quarterly earnings reports say? Have there been recent layoffs? Is the firm growing and hiring?  Check into what other paralegals in your city are earning based on the years of experience they have and compare that to your earnings.  Temper your expectations and raise request accordingly.

3. Build your case with numbers. 

Show your value and worth to the company by creating a list of your accomplishments in the past year, especially those that have impacted the bottom line. Document cost saving measures you have implemented, new accounts you have brought in, or clients you have brought in.  Note any successful case outcomes such as a winning trial or any team or individual projects that did well. I would also suggest mentioning extra time worked on projects or trials as a way to show your commitment.  

4. Plan in advance how you will respond if you are turned down. 

Whining, sulking, storming off or quitting probably are not appropriate responses. Ask your boss a few questions such as  "What do I need to do to get the raise I think I deserve?" or "How can I improve upon my work here at the firm?" Do not feel like it's the end of the world.  If timely raises for work well done aren't coming, there is the alternative of looking elsewhere for work. 

5. Keep an open mind and come with alternatives. 

Extra vacation time, tuition reimbursement, childcare and healthcare expense reimbursement, flextime, and telecommuting options are viable replacements to a raise when money is tight. For example, I personally would rather have a few extra days off with pay than get a raise, and that is exactly what happened on my last job. I asked for an received 3 extra paid days off per year.  Suggest to your boss those alternatives to a raise that you find appropriate for the type of job and position you are seeking. 

During the meeting, remember to stay focused and calm.  Be confident about the good work you have done for the firm.  Keep eye contact and remember to be courteous.  Remember, if you are performing above standard, the timing is good and the company is doing well, you should easily be able to get the raise you want. 

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