It's now or never...I think
June 7, 2012 9:01 PM   Subscribe

I am the sole assistant of a personal injury attorney. Like most personal injury attorneys, he makes money only if he wins or settles a case.

I know that in law firms with multiple lawyers, if they have a good year, the paralegals and secretaries get bonuses at the end of the year.

Recently, my boss negotiated two big settlements, for hundreds of thousands each. He couldn't have done it without me. Should I ask him for a certain percentage of his portion of the settlement proceeds, and if so, what would be a good percentage to ask for?

I really need the money, but at this time, I hate to ask because he's under a ton of stress in his personal life. This makes me want to ask for as little as possible. So it would help if you try to answer my question in two ways: what should I ask for under normal circumstances (such as a raise, a portion of all future settlement proceeds) and what should I ask for while I'm feeling sorry for him like I do right now.

I could wait until a better time, but I don't see a better time coming anytime soon, and I want to ask him before he's carved up all the things he's planning to do with the money.
posted by serena15221 to Work & Money (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So it would help if you try to answer my question in two ways: what should I ask for under normal circumstances (such as a raise, a portion of all future settlement proceeds) and what should I ask for while I'm feeling sorry for him like I do right now.

In either circumstance, you should not ask for anything. Unless you've got something in your contract that indicates an obligation of your employer to give you a bonus, you're wrong to ask for one. You sure might DESERVE it, but that's different. If he values the work you do, he'll probably give you the bonus since that seems to be the standard - but asking is not ok... and if I was in his position an you did, I probably wouldn't give it to you simply because you asked - it makes you seem like you've got a sense of entitlement that you shouldn't have.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:09 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unless you have an employment agreement which calls for you to receive a percentage of fees, which is almost certainly illegal in every U.S. jurisdiction as fee-splitting with a non-attorney, you have no basis to expect a share. If he chooses to pay a bonus as a thank you for work you have done and to share his success, that's his choice. Does he still pay you when he doesn't win? Do you offer to forego your salary?
posted by uncaken at 9:09 PM on June 7, 2012 [23 favorites]

If your question is about whether you deserve a certain portion of the money, i'd say no.

If he offered you a bonus, that would be great, but it seems to me like it would be awkward and uncommon practice to ask upfront for a percentage of his profits.

I think asking for a raise in general, based on your contributions, is a much much better way to go about it than asking for a % of current and future proceeds. Just be prepared to hear "no", even if you're sure you deserve it.

Feeling sorry for him re his personal life should not affect your actions at all.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 9:10 PM on June 7, 2012 [10 favorites]

Bonuses usually occur at the end of the year asking for one now (asking at all) would seem strange to me.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:10 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

i don't think it would be appropriate to ask for a percentage of the settlements. I do think it would be appropriate to ask for a raise, and a bonus. I would not frame it as 'percentage of the settlements' just because I perceive rights to receive a percentage of settlements as being something very ownership level and he probably would not appreciate you implying that you have any ownership in his settlements, even if he couldn't have done it without you. asking for a bonus and raise, however, in non-percentage terms is appropriate.

I'm not a lawyer and I don't work for one, but I was in finance for a few years and percentage of profit compensation is definitely a theme....for very senior people
posted by saraindc at 9:10 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

If I had a lot of personal problems I would sure be thankful my capable assistant was helping work go so smoothly. My answer to the second question is the same amount. The amount won't stress him out unless he is very attached to money as a score; it'll be the way you talk to him about it.

My sole practice lawyer friends in similar situations do not pay mid-year bonuses out like this to assistants, though. They give raises and they give Christmas bonuses. So, my suggestion is to ask for a raise but I hope you hear some good justification to ask for more in this thread.
posted by michaelh at 9:11 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

yea i should go back and say that asking for a bonus would be on the gutsy side- but asking for % of income is definitely too extreme. also ask yourself if another assistant would be happy to be in your seat, work as hard as you, and not get a bonus, before asking for one.

wait for a day he seems really smiley, you know he has no clients or hard work in the afternoon, and ask him for that raise!
posted by saraindc at 9:14 PM on June 7, 2012

Lawyers can't split fees with non-lawyers like that.

Normally the way it will work is that if the firm has a good year, your year end bonus will be better. I don't see a good way to ask for that -- and it's June.

If you need and deserve a raise, ask for a raise.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:14 PM on June 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

IANAL & my corporate admin experience is in private equity, but basically what everyone else has already said, don't ask. Bonuses (& typically raises) for assistants come at the end of the year and usually after some sort of evaluation process. Even if you don't have a formal evaluation process, you really shouldn't expect anything until the end of the calendar year. That said, he may still feel compelled to do something nice for you. You can't expect it or ask for it, but random generosity to express appreciation happens, too.
posted by katemcd at 9:32 PM on June 7, 2012

Just to clarify things a little, I looked up "fee splitting with a non attorney" and it talks about things like staging accidents, etc., which is obviously not how I helped my boss. Also, it talks about fees like 20% and higher, while I was only thinking between 1.5% and 3%.
posted by serena15221 at 9:36 PM on June 7, 2012

i would personally take it as extreme rudeness to be asked for a cut like that, legal ethics/rules aside. normal etiquette demands that you pretend like you don't know how much these settlements were worth - otherwise it's basically you looking over his shoulder into his bank account: "hey, i know you have a lot of money, you should give me some of it." even though it's probably not in a lot of ways, you have to pretend like this is like any other corporate job, with layers of rules and bureaucracy insulating the earning from the subsequent distribution of profits. frankly if i were a sole practitioner and my assistant asked me that it would probably be so awkward i would replace them - it's a squeeze play, and it also implies that he's an ingrate who won't take care of you unless you badger him.

asking for a raise is a different story, in my book. if he's not a complete idiot, dropping the word "review" would probably be enough. and if he's not a total jackass he's probably already mentally set aside a fat bonus for the end of the year.
posted by facetious at 9:38 PM on June 7, 2012 [12 favorites]

You say he couldn't have done it without you, but all that means is you're doing your job competently. If he could do the work just as well, without you, you would not only not deserve a bonus but should be laid off.

I have never heard of an LA or paralegal being paid on a percentage basis. I think you would really sour the apparently good relationship you have by asking.

Keep being indispensable, and you will likely be rewarded at year-end bonus time. Ask for a cut of the business, and you may not make it to year end!
posted by Pomo at 9:41 PM on June 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

Never mind bonus, this sounds like a good time to ask for a raise.
posted by LarryC at 9:41 PM on June 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, it talks about fees like 20% and higher,

What the what?! I don't know any big firms that operate that way, not even as bonuses for their own lawyers. Good lord. Standard practice in large companies, law firms or not, is certainly to tailor christmas bonuses around a combination of company performance and individual performance.

But no lawyer of my acquaintance, and certainly no paralegal, has ever received 20% of the fees when they don't own the firm etc.

Just ask for a raise, you do good work, and you've earnt it. Forget about the other stuff, that just risks difficulties.
posted by smoke at 9:53 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're an employee. You don't ask for a bonus, certainly not in the middle of the year. You get a bonus if your employer chooses to give you one. You can ask for a raise, you can quit if you don't like the salary, but asking for a bonus - no, asking for an immediate cut of the settlement - is so off-the-charts not appropriate that it's stunning you'd consider it. Oh, and the fact that you could really use the money doesn't change that.
posted by Dasein at 9:57 PM on June 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

Actually, I was going to suggest to him either giving me a raise OR a small percentage of his share of the proceeds. Is this somehow different from profit sharing? Don't employees have to ask for profit sharing, if they want it in their firm?
posted by serena15221 at 10:03 PM on June 7, 2012

Fee splitting with non-lawyers is prohibited in your jurisdiction (assuming your profile location is correct). You are asking for a cut of the profits, which is logically the same thing as profit sharing as far as i can tell. Just ask for a raise, it will be very difficult if not impossible for your boss to share these proceeds with you directly without risking trouble with the state bar.

I am not your lawyer, this is not legal advice, etc.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 10:16 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

If he had lost the case, would he have cut back your salary?

If I were him, I would rather give you a one time payment than a raise. A raise goes on forever. A bonus is a one time payment and will not affect your compensation going forward. I would be sure to give you a bonus come year-end time. What if he has a bad rest of the year? Do you only want a cut when he does well and not if he has a long dry spell?

Don't ask.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:18 PM on June 7, 2012

There is a legal issue here and a practical issue here. People are letting the legal issue get in the way of answering this question for two reasons. First, it's not a foregone conclusion that the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct even prevent what you're describing. RPC 5.4(3) says that, "a lawyer or law firm may include nonlawyer employees in a compensation or retirement plan, even though the plan is based in whole or in part on a profit-sharing arrangement." This is the same rule that people are citing to you to shoot your idea down before it even gets off the ground. I'm not offering any legal advice here; I'm just saying that there's good reason to look further into this. Second, your ultimate goal here is more money, not some profit-splitting arrangement with the lawyer where you're always going to get a cut of his take. When your boss makes money, he can share some of that money with you. If a lawyer makes $10,000 on a settlement and then decides to give his legal assistant a $500 bonus, he hasn't violated RPC 5.4 (this is very likely along the lines of what RPC 5.4(3) means, btw).

But that leads into the practical aspect of things. It's not going to be, as others have mentioned, a good idea to ask for a percentage of his business--both because that presents potential legal entanglements, and because you could expect it not to be received very well.

So, maybe you can just ask yourself, "What do I need to do to make the case to my boss that I deserve a raise?" Then go about making convincing evidence why a raise is appropriate. Bear in mind that "You just got a big settlement" and "I could really use some more money" aren't compelling reasons. More persuasive reasons are "This is a measure of the value I add to your office" and "Here are things that I can do that other legal assistants can't," and "The going market rate for other legal assistants of my skill set is $__." Remember, you have to give reasons that make it work for him, not reasons why it works for you.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:30 PM on June 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

I should clarify to say basically that while it's very likely true that you can't structure your pay so you get a strict percentage of the lawyer's legal fees, I think that's neither here nor there. There's nothing wrong with a lawyer paying his legal assistants bonuses or raises. To the extent people were saying, "Hey, go ahead and ask for a bonus or raise if you want, but just make sure you don't phrase it like you want a percentage of what he takes in, because that kind of arrangement violates the RPCs," I actually agree. I just feel that if the thrust of your question is really "How do I get my boss to give me more money," there's no reason to look at that RPC that prevents fee-splitting and stop dead in your tracks and give up on the idea of getting paid more.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:40 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't think asking for a cut of the settlement proceeds or a random bonus in June will have the result you are hoping for. Every law firm has support staff that the firm couldn't function without, and I'm not sure why you feel you're in an especially unique position. I work for a law firm too, one with accounts worth millions and millions of dollars, and it has never occurred to me to ask for a portion of the firm's billings. As others have said, it's not reasonable or appropriate to do so.

On the other hand, asking for a raise would be totally appropriate. Have you done any research on the going rates for legal assistants at personal injury firms in your city? How many years of experience do you have, and what is the breadth of your experience? Do you have any specialized skills that might be particularly sought after? With these factors in mind, you should be able to gauge whether you might be worth more, either to your current boss or to another firm. You might also contact a legal services recruitment agency and see what their evaluation of your experience and qualifications says of your earning potential.

Be prepared with a well thought out, reasonable request for a raise and your boss is much more likely to consider it. Whatever you do, don't say anything to the tune of, "You couldn't have won all that money without me and I need some of it."
posted by keep it under cover at 12:19 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

> I really need the money, but at this time, I hate to ask because he's under a ton of stress in his personal life. This makes me want to ask for as little as possible. So it would help if you try to answer my question in two ways: what should I ask for under normal circumstances (such as a raise, a portion of all future settlement proceeds) and what should I ask for while I'm feeling sorry for him like I do right now. I could wait until a better time, but I don't see a better time coming anytime soon, and I want to ask him before he's carved up all the things he's planning to do with the money.

You don't want to open the can of worms which is "I get paid when you get paid." When he loses a case but you worked your ass off for it, should your salary get cut?

I get the timeliness issue, but it might be best to find a graceful way to infer that you hope this will be reflected positively in your annual review, instead of aiming to get paid now, which could imply that you don't trust him to be able to plan ahead with money.

Try to forget that you know anything about his personal life when you're thinking about money. Would you want him jumping to conclusions about your personal life and basing compensation decisions on those assumptions?
posted by desuetude at 12:26 AM on June 8, 2012

Just ask for a raise.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:58 AM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

I suppose this could be the time to jokingly/casually say "Guess they'll be christmas bonuses this year!" (even if you're the only employee.)

As for asking for profit sharing: for companies who don't offer it, someone does need to get the ball rolling. But i don't think it really would go over well in a situation like this - asking right after a big win could seem in bad taste or a bit predatory.

I'd suggest that at the end of the year, or if you have a performance review, that would be an appropriate time to discuss changing the terms of your employment to include profit-sharing or annual bonuses. (At most employers, the possibility of getting a bonus is baked into your employment contract, it doesn't happen spontaneously because business is good.)
posted by Kololo at 3:09 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am the sole assistant of a personal injury attorney. Like most personal injury attorneys, he makes money only if he wins or settles a case.

But you are one of his fixed costs, right? The assistant, the rent, the electricity all have to be paid regardless of whether he wins cases. Ask him for a raise if you'd like, but it is insulting to think about asking him for profit-sharing when you don't share any of the risks.
posted by arnicae at 4:17 AM on June 8, 2012 [9 favorites]

Partners at law firms, let alone sole practitioners who rely on big wins to get through lean years, are notorious for hoarding their profits and not sharing with the associates, let alone the staff. And even the generous ones give bonuses at the end of the year. Even at very large firms where paralegals can make close to six figures, if six figures in some situations, I have never heard of this.

If you want a raise, ask for one, highlighting the quality of your work, not the fact he just got a big pay day. He took the risk and he got the reward. You get paid regardless. I would keep this fact in the back of your mind because I'm sure he does and you need to be very careful to not convey any sense you are "owed" a portion of his profits because I know some lawyers would not take kindly to that.

You don't say how long you've worked for him, but I would be very curious to know. If it's less than 5-10 years, I would up your level of caution accordingly.
posted by whoaali at 5:14 AM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Asking for a review, and a raise is within your purview. Asking for a bonus is going to be seen as grasping -- I would not go there. It's totally his prerogative to give you any money above and beyond your salary if you have no legal agreement ie profit-sharing, spelled out in an employment contract.

I've been a boss to a lot of people over the years, and no one has ever asked me for a bonus, and I'd be pretty nonplussed if someone did.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:31 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree: do not ask for any kind of percentage. Besides the other reasons, it opens the door to seeing you as a partner of sorts, which opens the door to things like you never seeing a raise again or late paychecks when times are lean.

On preview, what whooli said.

If you have been there for a long time, and have a really good relationship with him, and year end bonuses are normal for you, you *might* be able to say "hey boss, if you were thinking of an end-of-the-year bonus, would it be possible to split that in two and get half of it early?"

Actually, I was going to suggest to him either giving me a raise OR a small percentage of his share of the proceeds. Is this somehow different from profit sharing? Don't employees have to ask for profit sharing, if they want it in their firm?

1- His commission on settlements is not profit. It is revenue. After he pays all the costs of getting that settlement, and then costs like rent, utilities and your salary and other overhead, then it is gross profit. At the end of the (fiscal) year, when he closes up the books for the year, whatever is left is actual (net) profit. In places where they do profit sharing, that amount is what you get a cut of.

2- If the settlements are hundreds of thousands, then his commission is tens of thousands. That's not really all that much money. He might have had to take out loans to get his degree, or get the business started, or to cover overhead while he was working on these big projects, or not taken a salary during that time, and so on.

Small allegory: I drive for work. I get an expense check. People who accidentally see my expense check almost always seem jealous. "Wow, it's like you get almost another whole paycheck each month! You can pay for dinner, lol!" What they don't see is the hundreds of dollars I have to spend on gas and maintenance and excess depreciation every month that the expense check barely covers.
posted by gjc at 5:38 AM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

I work in a small law firm as a sole assistant to an attorney that I have had a great working relationship with for years. I would NEVER think it would be appropriate to ask for a portion of what he makes from a settlement. I agree with everyone saying that asking for a raise would be far more appropriate and you'd be less likely to step on anyone's toes. Whatever you decide, do not go in with a sense of entitlement. He pays your salary and that's all he really has to do. If you have made yourself invaluable, then, hopefully, he will be wise enough to increase your pay. I think that is the best your can hope for here.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 6:05 AM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you were an associate, I would suggest that this would be a spectacularly bad idea.

You're staff.

You want to get fired?

Seriously, you don't seem to understand how this thing works. He gets paid if he wins. You get paid either way. He's thus exposed to an enormous risk that you don't share. Why should you be able to participate in the rewards without participating in the risks as well?

You want a shot at a share of settlement proceeds? Go to law school.
posted by valkyryn at 6:30 AM on June 8, 2012 [14 favorites]

Seconding MoonOrb, in that PA rules appear to mostly track the Model Rules, and PA-RPC/MR 5.4(a)(3) can allow compensation of employees based on profit sharing. Otherwise yearly bonuses themselves would be suspect.

Rotunda & Dzienkowski (Prof Resp: Students Guide, ABA 2010) note that some interpretations of the rule indicate that such compensation must be based on net profits and not the outcome of any specific case(s), although this does not appear to be a requirement intended by the drafters. They also note that practically speaking, bonuses to associates and employees "that worked on the case" in the event of large verdicts are not unusual.

However, also seconding valkyryn that it is a terrible idea to approach this from an attitude of entitlement, and seconding others that bonuses typically come at the end of the year, or seasonally. (i.e. after the next quarterly review of the financials after a big settlement.) A small/sole practice might be more flexible, but you really need to be careful here.

Also keep in mind that a plaintiffs' attorney needs to build up a war-chest to both expand the practice and to survive lean times and setbacks. As others have said, you get paid no matter what. If the practice continues to grow, you should be rewarded in due course. If that doesn't happen, then it's time for a conversation.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:33 AM on June 8, 2012

Whatever you do, do not let your boss know that you "really need the money." Your boss may think you are the best, most trustworthy legal assistant in the world, so this may not apply to you, but if I were a solo practitioner distracted by "tons of stress" and a huge trial, and my only employee said "I really need the money," my trust in you to keep my books and safeguard my clients' money would evaporate.
posted by hhc5 at 7:47 AM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Valkyryn said exactly what I was thinking and sort of danced around in my answer, but yeah at a lot of firms such a request would get you fired.
posted by whoaali at 7:59 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, this:

He couldn't have done it without me.

Is false. He absolutely could have. What you mean to say is that he couldn't have done it without a legal assistant, and that you just happen to be his legal assistant.

Do not fool yourself into think you're irreplaceable, because you're not. Replacing staff is a pain in the ass, but it's absolutely a buyer's market for labor right now. Odds are decent he could be set up with a ten-year veteran by the end of next week.
posted by valkyryn at 8:06 AM on June 8, 2012 [9 favorites]

...if I were a solo practitioner distracted by "tons of stress" and a huge trial, and my only employee said "I really need the money," my trust in you to keep my books and safeguard my clients' money would evaporate.

This is a very good point, especially if your boss gets any sense that you feel deserving of, or entitled to, the money. There are many employers who run background/credit checks on new employees exactly for the reason that they want to avoid hiring people who are struggling with money and may feel tempted. This is doubly important in a law practice where it's not just your boss's money that's exposed to risk, but also the clients' funds in trust.

So to summarize the points that have been made in this thread, asking for a percentage of the settlements or a bonus based on the recent wins will likely affect your employer's opinion of your professionalism and good judgment, may affect your employer's belief in your trustworthiness and integrity, will almost certainly be met with a solid "NO", and may result in you being replaced right quick. Perhaps you wrote this question thinking, well what's the harm in asking? It seems unanimous that it's not worth risking your job over something that has such a minute chance of going over well.

Ask for a raise and hope for a Christmas bonus, or start hunting for a better paying job. Those are really your only options here.
posted by keep it under cover at 10:50 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Unless you went well above and beyond in order to make these particular cases happen, than I don't see a reason why you should get paid more just because things went well. If you are doing the job you signed up to do, and are getting a steady paycheck, than it shouldn't matter how much money he is making. If he had lost all of those cases, would you expect him to start paying you less?

If I play the lottery I have to pay a dollar to the guy selling the tickets. I can't win unless he does his job in selling them to me. He get's paid regardless of the outcome. Just because he hands me the winning lottery ticket, I don't see why I should then pay him more. Now, if he valet parked my car, made sure I had a glass of water while I was scratching off the numbers, and gives me a back massage while I double check my winnings, than he has gone above and beyond, and I would likely give him a tip. If he were to ask for a tip, though, I would probably leave and start buying tickets from someone else.
posted by markblasco at 1:15 PM on June 8, 2012

You've probably gotten the message already that it's a bad idea, but I think people are being a little harsh in their responses. It sounds to me like you are either young or not experienced in the legal field, so it makes sense to me that you wouldn't know what to expect or if it's ok to ask. It's not like there are other staff around for you to talk to about these issues. I've worked in large and small firms so perhaps what I say will give you some insight.

First, even in firms where there is profit-sharing (which is different from fee-sharing, which is what taking a cut of the settlement would be), it generally occurs at some set time, usually at the end of the year or early in the next. In my experience, even though it's called profit-sharing, for staff the bonus is typically calculated as percentage of the staff person's base salary, not as a percentage of the firm's profits. So asking for a bonus in June would seem odd and make your boss feel very uncomfortable.

Second, in my experience, when a big case settles, the partner-level attorneys typically make a token gesture to the staff that worked on the case soon after the settlement is signed. Maybe a modest office party, or small gifts like Starbucks or Amazon gift cards enclosed in a thank you card. If your boss didn't even do that, I wouldn't hold my breath for a Christmas bonus.

Third, in any job, you make your boss feel good about you by making him or her feel that you deeply understand their needs. Including their need to tightly hold onto their cash. Attorneys are especially weird about both money and human resources issues, so going to your boss with your hand out is likely to backfire in an ugly way. And as mentioned above, sole practitioners in PI litigation operate under a significant amount of financial pressure. They frequently take a big cut on their fees in order to settle a case. Hoarding a "war chest" is what keeps the lights on and staff salaries paid.

If I were you, rather than saying anything about the money, mention thoughtfully at some point in the next couple of weeks, "You know, I am so glad that we were able to get a good settlement for Client. We really stuck it to the evil Dr. Slice'n'Dice (or, insurance company, or mediator, or whoever your boss viewed as the "bad guy" in the situation)." You want your boss to know that he or she has your buy-in to the cause. (For some attorneys, it's doing right by the clients; for others, it's hammering opposing counsel ...) Then, in a couple of more months, float the idea of establishing an annual review system. Tell him or her it's for your career development, you heard that it's done at other small firms now. If your boss is not an idiot, s/he will understand that you are laying the groundwork for a raise. Just don't ask for a raise right after a settlement.

Here's a related anecdote: at my last small law firm job, year-end bonuses were an established thing. One year, it was the Friday before the holiday, and the receptionist and I were the last staff left in the office with one of the partners. Bonuses and holiday cards still had not been distributed to staff. Receptionist asked me nervously if I knew if the bonuses were coming that day. She was poor and needed the money. She asked the partner if she could please have her bonus before the weekend. It was such a massive faux-pas on her part that the partner sent her home early, without the bonus. And to be extra punitive, they made sure I got my bonus before I left that day. Ugh. So even if it's an expected thing, know that you are supposed to act super-grateful for the benevolent largesse ... still makes me cringe to think about it. And I felt awful writing the thank you email to my bosses (which was also expected).
posted by stowaway at 1:21 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ask for a raise, not a bonus.

If you want to make a clear connection to the big payments he just pulled in, your angle oughta be something like "I've been short on money for a while, but I wasn't going to ask because I didn't think you could afford it. Now business is going better, so that's why I'm asking now." There are more elegant ways you can phrase that, I'm sure, but the basic idea is to present yourself as generous and flexible (I didn't ask for a raise until you won a big case) instead of entitled and demanding (you won your big case; gimme my share).
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:40 PM on June 8, 2012

Seems very possible that his personal problems are keeping him from noticing that you've been doing great work and could use a raise. This happens a lot with bosses, who tend to take support people for granted even as the bosses shoulder a much larger share of the financial risk. Therefore, it is *always* within your right as an employee to remind your boss that raises are the normal, preferred way of rewarding long-term quality work. Just be gentle (but not a wimp) and for god's sake listen to the folks above who are telling you to avoid at all costs linking your request for a raise directly to his recent settlements.

Gently suggest to him that you'd like to set up a few minutes sometime next week during which the two of you could discuss your performance and perhaps a slight increase in your pay, which, if possible, would be most welcome. It's hard to raise the idea, I know, but if it's any consolation, the last time I did it the boss lady stopped, looked at me, and said, "You're right, I didn't realize it had been so long since you got a raise."

Sometimes bosses just need a friendly reminder to not take workers quite so much for granted. Here's hoping you get a similar result.
posted by mediareport at 7:31 PM on June 8, 2012

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