How much of a raise should I ask for?
February 3, 2017 11:09 PM   Subscribe

I work as a librarian in a law firm. I received a promotion today and need to negotiate my new pay. This has maybe less to do with libraries than with corporate pay, with which I have not much experience!

At my first-year evaluation last fall I was given a three-percent raise. As of Monday I'll be in charge of the tech lib staff (two people) and their work and processes.

Complicating this is that a colleague was let go last month - there are no plans to replace him - and the remaining on-site manager was reduced to four days a week. This means that on Fridays I'm a one-man band as far as in-house library research staff for the main post of this firm. Further complicating this is that one of the two people in the area I now manage is being let go and I'll have to train the replacement as I learn the job myself, having never done it here or for a library of this size.

I make 16.5% less than what the BLS says is the mean in my geographical area, but don't have an MLS, which I'm not sure the BLS takes into consideration. I have 20 years' experience in special libraries - which should give an idea of my age - and I'm a woman.

I found a useful response to a related question offered by AskMe: 'A raise is where you tell your boss "The amount of money I charge for my services has changed. It went up, because I provide a valuable service,"' which is the attitude I'm going in with re this raise. But I wonder what I should start with, and what I reasonably expect to finish with.
posted by goofyfoot to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
(Caveat: I'm no negotiator, and you should probably ignore me) Be careful not to make any ultimatum you aren't prepared to follow through with. Know what your BATNA (best alternative to negotiated agreement) is. If the offer you get is better than your BATNA, then if you can get more, great, if not, you should probably still take it. If the offer is less than your BATNA, then you might want to think about pursuing the BATNA instead. It's not so cut and dried of course to determine if an offer is "more" or "less" than your BATNA, as quite often your BATNA is not a concrete given, but more squishy and uncertain, like, "well, I think I could probably get X at some other job."

My last attempt at this sort of thing, I made the mistake of giving an ultimatum, "give me X or I walk", and was told, more or less, "ok, then. See ya." So I walked. Into the void. Well, it worked out ok (absurdly better than ok, actually) but it very easily might not have worked out so well, and I could have found myself in a pretty bad place rather suddenly. I was lucky.

Know ahead of time what you're going to do if you make a demand and are told "No", and consider that when figuring out what demand you want to make and how you want to put it.
posted by smcameron at 12:56 AM on February 4, 2017

I have not worked in a law firm but several of my friends have (as librarians and other non-lawyer jobs) and the over-all theme was that lawyers do not value the services of other professionals very high and financial remuneration was always low.

Complicating that with *two* colleagues being let go in a month, plus a reduction in hours for a third (do you agree with those decisions, did the people affected have reasonable PIP's and support - and the layoffs/reduction were a last resort, or was this out of the blue?) would make me feel the organization's priorities (compensating and treating team members fairly) were not aligned with my own priorities.
posted by saucysault at 1:49 AM on February 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not going to leave.
posted by goofyfoot at 5:02 AM on February 4, 2017

I wouldn't worry about the MLS. You've already got the job, you've got plenty of experience, and it sounds like you're running the show there. Because of the staff reductions, you just became more valuable and you're going to be working a lot harder and learning new skills. I'd ask for at least the BLS amount.

The Association of Legal Administrators (I'm pretty sure that's it, anyway; I'm on my phone) publishes salary data for all different types of non-lawyer legal jobs, and breaks it down by experience and practice area. You have to pay for it, and it's kind of expensive, but it's much more helpful than the BLS because it's so specific (and for my job, the numbers were better than the BLS).

Source: paralegal (we don't have an in-house library so I do a lot of that work) who asked for and received a 30% raise last year after similar staffing reductions and taking on a lot of additional responsibility. It does happen! Definitely be prepared for a no, but the answer is always no if you don't ask. :)
posted by leeloo minai at 6:08 AM on February 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am a law firm librarian. The American Association of Law Librarians publishes a salary survey, and if you MeMail me your geographic area and the size of your firm, I can look at the survey and send you relevant numbers for your area and job description (I won't be able to do that until Monday because the survey is sitting in my office). I'm also happy to tell you via MeMail what I make, if it helps to have an anecdotal idea of what a mid-size firm research librarian makes. I had a job title change as a sort-of promotion about 7 years ago and got about a $10K raise, and that was when the legal market was still somewhat in shock from the recession. I think arming yourself with the industry of numbers of what similar law library professionals make helps a ton, law firm management is very numbers-oriented.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:20 AM on February 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

Using the BLS and other data points are helpful in negotiating a dollar amount. I think your task is to clearly present the value you're bringing to the new position. You've already built a good reputation, gotten a raise and secured the promotion.

I can't advise on a dollar amount, but a promotion to a supervisory level definitely warrants a considerable bump in pay.

Something to consider: It seems they may be taking a 'dollars and cents' approach, meaning they're not using the industry standard to compensate the staff. The circumstance of your colleagues leaving and reduction of hours of another may be worth more exploration. It certainly means a favorable reduction in the amount of their payroll.
posted by mountainblue at 9:40 AM on February 4, 2017

I believe they don't have the data you do. I would provide it, with the observation that you appear to be under compensated, and ask to work with the firm on a compensation plan that will get you in the foreseeable future to a market level salary, with cost of living increases after that.
posted by bearwife at 10:35 AM on February 4, 2017

I feel a little presumptuous saying this, so disregard me if (as is likely) you're fully aware of this. Law firms are steadily cutting back on support staff, feeling that technology has rendered much of what they do obsolete. (In my [5<x<10] years as a big firm lawyer, I consulted the law librarian less than five times.) It sounds like your firm is being particularly aggressive about this. I agree going in with salary data is good--lawyers like objective reference points to make them feel like they're being fair--but I would be cautious in my approach. If they're shedding support staff, you don't want to be volunteering.
posted by praemunire at 6:09 PM on February 4, 2017

You probably know this already, but I think that the best approach is to make your case professionally. Be positive and assertive but avoid ultimatums. If you are not satisfied with the answer, go back and continue to work, but start a search (on your own time) for similar positions with other firms, or in other environments. If you have the bent for it, you might consider operating your own free-lance research service.
posted by megatherium at 10:07 AM on February 5, 2017

Thank you all! I have a better idea of how to proceed now.
posted by goofyfoot at 8:37 PM on February 5, 2017

Resolution: armed with the AALL salary figures sent to me from Banjo_and_the_Pork, I asked for a $20k raise. It took a while, but I ended up with a $10k raise, another week of PTO, and a new title that includes the word "manager."
posted by goofyfoot at 11:20 PM on March 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

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