Author Topic: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!  (Read 7683 times)

diggingout

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I know there are several lawyers on this forum given the 8+ page long thread.  My annual review is coming up and I would love a raise, but I fear it's unlikely.  The woman who referred me for this position indulged that she didn't get a raise her first or second year, but got bonuses and more vacation time.  This proved true at my first review -- I received a $1,500 bonus and three more vacation days with no raise. 

A little background:

Job 1 - Paralegal and Personal Injury Plaintiff Firm: I started at $29,120 ($14/hr), and ended at $43,680 ($21/hr).  I worked there for almost three years.  I worked for the founder of the firm.

Job 2 - Paralegal at Auto Insurance Defense Firm: $50,000 per year.  I was only there nine months for a managing partner.  While I enjoyed it, I was approached for another position that offered five weeks vacation, which was very important to me. So I made the lateral move to...

Job 3 - Paralegal at Medical Malpractice Insurance Defense Firm: $50,000 per year.  I only lasted four months before I quit because my boss was a nightmare and five weeks vacation was not nearly enough time per year away from her :p

Job 4  - Legal Assistant at Insurance Defense Firm, mainly auto and premises cases: $52,000 base ($26.67/hr for 37.5 hours per week), but I've permanently been approved to work 40 hours per week, bumping me up to $55.473.60 per year.  More overtime was available (but is discouraged since I don't bill for hours here and am paid hourly), and I ended the year earning $63,000, inclusive of my bonus and a sick time payout for days I didn't use.  We have three offices in my state, about 200+ employees.

So here's the deal.  I just turned 29, and have been working in the legal field for five years.  In my particular employer's city, the average pay for a legal assistant is just over $58,000 per year, based on some research.  $52,000 is the bottom 25th percentile.  You could argue that with overtime, I made more than the average, but I'd love for the average to be my base pay, and then I'll gladly go back to working 37.5 hours per week.  I LOVE my current law firm, and while some firms might pay more, the benefits here don't outweigh the risk of hating another job for a few grand more per year.  For example, my boss is only 32.  Being so close in age, we tend to  have the same priorities, that being a really great work/life balance and flex-time on my hours.  He's also the furthest thing from a micromanager, and I greatly appreciate the mutual trust we have in doing our jobs while also making a great team.  He never yells at me, and I think I only worked three Saturdays in 2015. 

While many of the legal assistants at our firm are far more knowledgable than me and might be earning the same/less than me (one I know of for a fact is earning less than me and has 28 years of experience), I have youth on my side.  For example, I am a very quick typer.  I had an older colleague assist me in typing line-by-line summaries for an upcoming trial.  It took me two hours to type one, whereas it took her four days to type one of the same length.  It's safe to say that my worst was someone else's best because I took several breaks to type said summary as they are extreeeemely tedious.  Also, I'm really good with our programs.  I assisted a senior legal assistant on a motion and her method for putting exhibits together was to take each individual exhibit out of the exhibit binder and scan/copy them.  I simply put them together within minutes by combining them as one PDF from the same exhibits that were saved to our system, and she was blown away at how quickly I had these exhibits put together.  Nothing major to me, but just a few examples of things I have on my side.

Additionally, I don't use any of the services provided by our firm.  I make my own copies and put together everything (exhibits) myself.  I manage all of my own filing and entering of time.  I rarely put anything into our word processing department unless it's something my attorney covered for someone else.  We have a copy services department, a filing department, and as mentioned, a word processing department to transcribe lengthy dictations.  I'd like to think this makes me more efficient than most everyone else who can't handle doing these mundane tasks on top of their workload, which is why we have to pay all these other people full salaries and benefits, and then we assistants have to make less!  Of course, I manage to do all these mundane things on top of my regular duties.

And lastly, most of the legal assistants are near retirement.  I can only think of two other legal assistants under 40, and maybe a handful in the 40-50 age.  With more people going out soon, I'd hope they would invest in me to be there for the long haul. Even one of my cube mates joked the other day that no one is going into this profession anymore. 

At last year's review, the HR manager told me they hired me in at the top salary level for my experience, and they're hiring experienced assistants in the $40,000-$45,000 range.  She said she'd see what they can do next year, which didn't sound too promising.

I'm just feeling discouraged as I feel like I'll be at this salary level for the next 5+ years.  I get contacted on LinkedIn weekly, and I always take the opportunity to speak with recruiters, but I'm very straightforward about not wanting to move forward (i.e. waste either party's time) until I know the salary range for the position, which always ends up being $50,000.

So, I come to you lawyers -- Do you have any idea what your legal assistants/paralegals make?  Do you have any recommendations for firmly asking for a raise?  Am I out of line to think $58,000 is average for my position and level of experience?  I feel like if I asked for a raise to $58,000, I'd get laughed at for requesting over an 11% raise.  I managed a large raise at my first job, but only because I was grossly underpaid.  And if I supported my request with some of the above, I might even be put on the radar to get fired.  I'm rather quiet and I think that works against me because I probably only know half the people at my firm, if that.  If I was better at schmoozing, they might have more interest in keeping me around as I might get noticed more for my work.  The senior partners never remember me as one just re-introduced himself to me the other day, even though I've been there for almost two years and have "met" him several times.  And the last time I spoke to my HR manager was at last year's review.   However, the fact that I tend to fly under the radar with regard to socializing at work does not mean that I'm not awesome at my job. My boss constantly compliments me and brags to other attorneys how happy he is with me.

Anyway, any advice is appreciated!!  If I didn't have student loans to pay off, my current salary range is really fine, but more is always ideal ;]
 

« Last Edit: January 15, 2016, 05:16:28 PM by diggingout »

mozar

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I'm not a lawyer but I do know about switching jobs for more money.

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I'd like to think this makes me more efficient than most everyone else who can't handle doing these mundane tasks on top of their workload, which is why we have to pay all these other people full salaries and benefits, and then we assistants have to make less!  Of course, I manage to do all these mundane things on top of my regular duties.

First: stop doing the mundane work. There is a reason they have people paid to do that and it's because they don't want you to do it. What should you do with all this extra time? Start schmoozing. I read the other lawyer threads too and it sounds like schmoozing is extremely important in your field.

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And lastly, most of the legal assistants are near retirement. 
This has nothing to do with you and you shouldn't be thinking about it.

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I'm very straightforward about not wanting to move forward (i.e. waste either party's time) until I know the salary range for the position, which always ends up being $50,000.
So instead of being disappointed you say to the second recruiter that you have another recruiter who is paying 50k. Can they do better? The second recruiter will say they can probably do 52k. To the third recruiter you say that you have a recruiter that is paying 52k, can they do better? They'll probable say 55k (for example). To the 4th recruiter you say you have a recruiter that is paying 55k, can they do better? This is how you bid yourself up. Meanwhile start going to interviews and start trying to secure actual job offers. Then you can say you have an offer for 58k, can you do better? It's up to you if you want to take it to your current firm and see if they will counter offer. I think you can get at least to a 63k base which would be a 15% raise. Or you might realize that no one can match your bonus and benefits.

It's all about negotiation. I've done this and I went from a 62k base to a 94k base in 2 years. I'm a timid person too if that helps.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2016, 07:51:02 PM by mozar »
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diggingout

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I'm not a lawyer but I do know about switching jobs for more money.

As you can see above, I have had three jobs in the past two years.  I tried to negotiate higher salaries at all of the positions, to no avail. 

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First: stop doing the mundane work. There is a reason they have people paid to do that and it's because they don't want you to do it. What should you do with all this extra time? Start schmoozing. I read the other lawyer threads too and it sounds like schmoozing is extremely important in your field.

I let copy services scan in something for me for the first time the other day.  I had to completely redo it because they couldn't do a simple task.  Also, my attorney usually does things that are due the day of, which is why I tend to more so HAVE to put things together because there's a stack of people's documents before mine.  And lastly, I had someone file for me when I first started, and they'd documents in the wrong files.  It's just easier for me to do it myself than to check over someone's work.

[

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I'm very straightforward about not wanting to move forward (i.e. waste either party's time) until I know the salary range for the position, which always ends up being $50,000.

So instead of being disappointed you say to the second recruiter that you have another recruiter who is paying 50k. Can they do better? The second recruiter will say they can probably do 52k. To the third recruiter you say that you have a recruiter that is paying 52k, can they do better? They'll probable say 55k (for example). To the 4th recruiter you say you have a recruiter that is paying 55k, can they do better? This is how you bid yourself up. Meanwhile start going to interviews and start trying to secure actual job offers. Then you can say you have an offer for 58k, can you do better? It's up to you if you want to take it to your current firm and see if they will counter offer. I think you can get at least to a 63k base which would be a 15% raise. Or you might realize that no one can match your bonus and benefits.

It's all about negotiation. I've done this and I went from a 62k base to a 94k base in 2 years. I'm a timid person too if that helps.

I guess I should have added in that I don't just leave it at that.  I always ask if they can do better.  I spoke to a recruiter yesterday and told him my number to leave would be $65k.  Which I'm still unsure about because I've never been so happy at a job before.  I know this other firm very well and have dealt with them my entire career, but they have a reputation for firing people conveniently before bonus time.  I'm unsure if it's worth the risk.

LeRainDrop

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I'm not a lawyer but I do know about switching jobs for more money.

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I'd like to think this makes me more efficient than most everyone else who can't handle doing these mundane tasks on top of their workload, which is why we have to pay all these other people full salaries and benefits, and then we assistants have to make less!  Of course, I manage to do all these mundane things on top of my regular duties.

First: stop doing the mundane work. There is a reason they have people paid to do that and it's because they don't want you to do it. What should you do with all this extra time? Start schmoozing. I read the other lawyer threads too and it sounds like schmoozing is extremely important in your field.

No!!!  As a litigation attorney at a big firm, here's my perspective on this point:  We have the same issue with our office services doing a crappy job, and we really appreciate the assistants who can do major copy/print/scan, binder, and exhibit jobs efficiently -- both quickly and accurately.  Diggingout, the things that you mention as your strengths would be highly valued at my firm, and it sounds like your boss gets it, too.  I disagree with the advice that a legal assistant should be schmoozing.  That is something that attorneys hate -- when their assistants can't get their work done because they're too busy socializing.  Basically, knowing all the people in your group (at a minimum) on a cordial but professional level = great / But taking solid chunks of on-the-clock time from your day to shoot the breeze with others around the office = bad.  In summary, please do not follow mozar's advice on this particular point, and instead keep doing what you're doing.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2016, 08:31:36 PM by LeRainDrop »

mozar

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I didn't say socializing. Just schmoozing. Doesn't have to be for hours. And I didn't say to take away from your job to do it.

OK you didn't say that the office services were inept. But being appreciated isn't the same as $$$$.

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I guess I should have added in that I don't just leave it at that.  I always ask if they can do better.

Getting actual offers might help. You want to get them to be more invested in you before you start negotiating. Instead of trying to get a number out of them up front try seeing how the process goes. You can still say 65k first if they ask, but you need to back it up by talking about the other recruiters.
I tried over and over again and interviewed tons. I got thrown out of a recruiters office once because I said I wanted 92k. I think its good you said that you wouldn't leave for less than 65k, but letting recruiters know how highly you are desired by other recruiters will help them change their tune.

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instead keep doing what you're doing
That's what your employer wants you to do so they can keep underpaying you. Keep doing what you're doing doesn't lead to $$$$.

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I'm unsure if it's worth the risk.
That's not something I can help you figure out.
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LeRainDrop

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OK you didn't say that the office services were inept. But being appreciated isn't the same as $$$$.
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instead keep doing what you're doing
That's what your employer wants you to do so they can keep underpaying you. Keep doing what you're doing doesn't lead to $$$$.

At my firm, "being appreciated" by your supervising attorneys is exactly what leads to $$$$.  We each complete a written evaluation of our assistant (and any others that we work with sufficiently to evaluate), and our ratings get combined into needs improvement, meets expectations, exceeds expectations, or exceptional.  Each of those categories has an associated percentage for your next year's raise (except that NI would likely be going on a PIP, so no raise).  I can't recall precisely what the raise percentages are, but I think they're between 2 and 6 %.  No matter how f-ing awesome an assistant is, they cannot break that ceiling.  (We are a national firm that likes to maintain uniform standards, so we have lots of polices and rules that require CEO or Exec Board approval for an exception, so essentially never.)  But they also get the annual bonus, so there is some flexibility there to help make up some difference in truly outstanding cases.  "Schmoozing" as an assistant would do you no good at my firm, at least not the way I'm interpreting that word.  But if you really only have one boss (which is kinda how it sounds), you at least want a good 4 or 5 attorneys who know you pretty well and would help to spread your reputation for a great work ethic and job well done.

former player

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You are creating a lot of value for your current boss and he obviously appreciates it.  There will however always be a ceiling in that sort of job.

Another way to add value to the firm is to scale up your added value by applying it to other bosses.  Which doesn't mean you working for more than one boss, it means you spreading your knowledge and methods to wider effect.  A training role?  A legal assistants management role?  A recruiting legal assistants role?  I don't know, but I suspect that there is something that you could get your teeth into which would bring financial reward.
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mozar

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but I think they're between 2 and 6 %

That is not $$$$.That is more like $$. You can't get a 15% to 20% raise at your job. You have to go to another job for that. But it's up to you to decide whether it's worth it.
 
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  A training role?  A legal assistants management role?  A recruiting legal assistants role?  I don't know, but I suspect that there is something that you could get your teeth into which would bring financial reward.

I think you should stay a couple more years and gain these skills, then you'll be able to negotiate from a stronger place and be able to say you are looking for more responsibility (which employers love to hear) and not just more salary.
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LeRainDrop

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but I think they're between 2 and 6 %

That is not $$$$.That is more like $$. You can't get a 15% to 20% raise at your job. You have to go to another job for that. But it's up to you to decide whether it's worth it.

This I agree with.  If OP really likes her boss and where she works, those capped raises are what she can expect, no matter how well she performs.  Making the attorneys she works with appreciate her -- like she's doing with efficiency, accuracy, speed, quality -- are the ways to get to the very top of that range for raises within the same firm.  Only way to break free from those limitations is to lateral to another firm.  But her question wasn't how to negotiate with another firm; it was, "Do you have any recommendations for firmly asking for a raise?"

ETA:  But be careful about establishing a pattern as a job-hopper, because a resume full of short-tenure positions is going to be something that potential employers will notice and will probably probe if they interview you.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2016, 12:54:10 PM by LeRainDrop »

mozar

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But be careful about establishing a pattern as a job-hopper, because a resume full of short-tenure positions is going to be something that potential employers will notice and will probably probe if they interview you.

If an employer really wants to hire you, they won't care if you are a job hopper. But the OP already has two years at this place so I don't think  the OP qualifies. I think the OP should do one or 2 more strong hops before they "settle" down.
Some employers I interviewed with gave me a really hard time about job hopping, but they did that because they didn't like me anyway. Don't be afraid of a little probing.
And if recruiters are calling every week the OP should take advantage of that. They want the OP because they know the OP is young. 5 years from now they may stop calling and he/she will be stuck with that salary for the rest of their career.
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EconDiva

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2016, 09:01:14 AM »
I'm not a lawyer but I do know about switching jobs for more money.

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I'd like to think this makes me more efficient than most everyone else who can't handle doing these mundane tasks on top of their workload, which is why we have to pay all these other people full salaries and benefits, and then we assistants have to make less!  Of course, I manage to do all these mundane things on top of my regular duties.

First: stop doing the mundane work. There is a reason they have people paid to do that and it's because they don't want you to do it. What should you do with all this extra time? Start schmoozing. I read the other lawyer threads too and it sounds like schmoozing is extremely important in your field.

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And lastly, most of the legal assistants are near retirement. 
This has nothing to do with you and you shouldn't be thinking about it.

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I'm very straightforward about not wanting to move forward (i.e. waste either party's time) until I know the salary range for the position, which always ends up being $50,000.
So instead of being disappointed you say to the second recruiter that you have another recruiter who is paying 50k. Can they do better? The second recruiter will say they can probably do 52k. To the third recruiter you say that you have a recruiter that is paying 52k, can they do better? They'll probable say 55k (for example). To the 4th recruiter you say you have a recruiter that is paying 55k, can they do better? This is how you bid yourself up. Meanwhile start going to interviews and start trying to secure actual job offers. Then you can say you have an offer for 58k, can you do better? It's up to you if you want to take it to your current firm and see if they will counter offer. I think you can get at least to a 63k base which would be a 15% raise. Or you might realize that no one can match your bonus and benefits.

It's all about negotiation. I've done this and I went from a 62k base to a 94k base in 2 years. I'm a timid person too if that helps.

Umm...not to hijack this thread but I was laying down when I read this and literally sat up in my bed!

62 to 94 in 2 years??  Please elaborate on how you did this! 

At what age? With what education/experience/background?  In what industry and in what geographical location(s) do you work in?
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mozar

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2016, 02:12:59 PM »
The most important takeaway is that I followed all the advice I got in this forum.

« Last Edit: May 10, 2018, 01:30:53 PM by mozar »
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Rosbif

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2016, 08:05:42 AM »
You are creating a lot of value for your current boss and he obviously appreciates it.  There will however always be a ceiling in that sort of job.

Another way to add value to the firm is to scale up your added value by applying it to other bosses.  Which doesn't mean you working for more than one boss, it means you spreading your knowledge and methods to wider effect.  A training role?  A legal assistants management role?  A recruiting legal assistants role?  I don't know, but I suspect that there is something that you could get your teeth into which would bring financial reward.
Can't help with the numbers, I'm in Europe, the market is way different :)

Solid long-term advice here. Legal assistants' income will always be capped by attorneys' income. Most firms won't tolerate overlap in payscales between assistants and junior lawyers (regardless of actual value to the firm). Recruitment can be lucrative, apparently. Once you know your local market, and have been in a few firms, you're pretty much set.

As for your current position, I always fought tooth and nail to get good paralegals onto my team, and to make sure they're well-paid. I'm afraid you're in a bit of a tight spot. Your value (efficiency, speed) is actually COSTING the partners money if they're billing by the hour... Your skills are only of financial value when there's a tight deadline to hit (which can be an all-or-nothing type thing). If the money is looking tricky, try negotiating for more and more holiday for the same money.

SwordGuy

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2016, 08:11:11 AM »
Many lawyers and doctors in America don't seem to really believe other professionals should make the money they themselves do.

Good luck getting that raise.

LeRainDrop

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2016, 10:27:33 AM »
As for your current position, I always fought tooth and nail to get good paralegals onto my team, and to make sure they're well-paid. I'm afraid you're in a bit of a tight spot. Your value (efficiency, speed) is actually COSTING the partners money if they're billing by the hour... Your skills are only of financial value when there's a tight deadline to hit (which can be an all-or-nothing type thing). If the money is looking tricky, try negotiating for more and more holiday for the same money.

Oh, I was assuming that the OP does not have a billing requirement and that they do not bill her time to the client.  We do not bill any of our legal assistants' time to our clients on an hourly basis -- it is just viewed as overhead that generally gets covered by the attorneys' billing rate.

mozar

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2016, 12:37:08 PM »
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Legal assistants' income will always be capped by attorneys' income. Most firms won't tolerate overlap in payscales between assistants and junior lawyers

Don't junior lawyers make around 100k? I think the OP should be making 75k if that's the case.
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YTProphet

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #16 on: January 18, 2016, 12:46:16 PM »
I'm a lawyer and have a decent grasp on salaries for legal assistants and paralegals, both in law firms and corporate legal departments. I'm in-house right now and my current legal secretary makes around $40k. Our paralegal makes around $60k.

When I was at a large, well-regarded corporate firm in a secondary market, we had a paralegal who was better than half of the junior attorneys. She was super slow, but was very detail oriented and knowledgeable. She knew she was good at her job and was a tough negotiator, and she had to pull teeth to get up to $85k. First year lawyers at that firm made $100k.

As a midlevel paralegal, you're likely going to top out somewhere in the $60k's maybe low $70k's (assuming you're in a secondary like Cleveland and not a major city like SF/NYC/LA/Bos). If you're a midlevel secretary, I wouldn't expect anything above $50k's and even that's generous.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2016, 12:47:47 PM by YTProphet »

chasesfish

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #17 on: January 18, 2016, 01:19:15 PM »
I'm going to chime in here as well - I don't hire legal assistants, but hire out of the same pool of people and need a very similar skill set.   The job just caps out between $50,000 and $60,000.  Its nothing against the work they do, ect, because its pretty good money for an overtime eligible job.  You're already pretty close to that, so its a dangerous game you play with your existing employer.  There are lots of lawyers who are a-holes to work for, so if you have a good one maybe its worth taking the discount for quality of life.

The bigger challenge for the original poster is they're in a profession where pay caps out slightly above where they currently are.  The only way to change that is to consider another profession or go to law school. 
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LeRainDrop

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #18 on: January 18, 2016, 01:57:48 PM »
At my firm, first year associates start at about $140k; legal assistants are generally paid between $60k and $80k; and paralegals are paid somewhere in between that.  Legal assistant compensation would generally be based on the firm's budget; the candidate's years of experience, the fit of their subject matter experience, and their references; how great the firm's need is to hire at that time; and how much the candidate stands out above the other candidates for the position.  Once hired at an agreed salary, then, like I explained above (quoted below for reference), the raises are tied to performance, as measured by the supervising attorneys' reviews, and are capped.

At my firm, "being appreciated" by your supervising attorneys is exactly what leads to $$$$.  We each complete a written evaluation of our assistant (and any others that we work with sufficiently to evaluate), and our ratings get combined into needs improvement, meets expectations, exceeds expectations, or exceptional.  Each of those categories has an associated percentage for your next year's raise (except that NI would likely be going on a PIP, so no raise).  I can't recall precisely what the raise percentages are, but I think they're between 2 and 6 %.  No matter how f-ing awesome an assistant is, they cannot break that ceiling.  (We are a national firm that likes to maintain uniform standards, so we have lots of polices and rules that require CEO or Exec Board approval for an exception, so essentially never.)  But they also get the annual bonus, so there is some flexibility there to help make up some difference in truly outstanding cases.

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #19 on: January 18, 2016, 02:08:37 PM »
I haven't had time to read all the responses in this thread, so sorry if I repeat anything. But my one piece of advice is to pick up traits and qualities that make you indispensable (and thus more valuable) to your firm.

The two highest paid secretaries at our office (from what I know) are experts in certain subjects.  One secretary knows more about probate law and procedure than I do. She's seriously amazing and knows how to do basically any form or pleading.

The other is very good at federal court filings. A lot of our staff is older and thus filing in federal court is burdensome on them. But she is very good at doing all of it--the cover sheet, the service, uploading everything on eFile, etc.

So I guess think about the business of your firm. Really pick up skills and traits that are valuable to your firm and make you indispensable. That will increase your value and thus your salary. 
No more zero days. Promise yourself that you will do one thing every day that takes you one step closer to your goal.

diggingout

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #20 on: January 18, 2016, 05:09:43 PM »
I didn't say socializing. Just schmoozing. Doesn't have to be for hours. And I didn't say to take away from your job to do it.

OK you didn't say that the office services were inept. But being appreciated isn't the same as $$$$.

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I guess I should have added in that I don't just leave it at that.  I always ask if they can do better.

Getting actual offers might help. You want to get them to be more invested in you before you start negotiating. Instead of trying to get a number out of them up front try seeing how the process goes. You can still say 65k first if they ask, but you need to back it up by talking about the other recruiters.
I tried over and over again and interviewed tons. I got thrown out of a recruiters office once because I said I wanted 92k. I think its good you said that you wouldn't leave for less than 65k, but letting recruiters know how highly you are desired by other recruiters will help them change their tune.

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instead keep doing what you're doing
That's what your employer wants you to do so they can keep underpaying you. Keep doing what you're doing doesn't lead to $$$$.

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I'm unsure if it's worth the risk.
That's not something I can help you figure out.

I have seen how the process goes.  I've gone through the interviews, etc.  I'm just to a point where I'm very familiar with the firms in my area, as well as some of their employees, some of which even tell me how much they make.  I've gotten to a point where I don't want to take days off to go to an interview for a job that will pay me less than what I earn now.  Believe it or not, my third job tried to offer me LESS than what I already earned and it took so much negotiating to make it a lateral move salary-wise.  That interview process was three interviews and several e-mails.  Not much has changed.  The industry I'm in, as many lawyers have pointed out, has a ceiling. 

As to the most recent recruiters, I have let them know that I get contacted on LinkedIn fairly regularly.  One recruiter went so far as to add me, and then call my actual work phone and leave me a voice mail!!  I couldn't believe it. 

I should have included all of this in my original post, but I felt it was sort of a given.  I've been working for several years and have switched jobs four times.  Of course I've gone through the process :)

diggingout

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #21 on: January 18, 2016, 05:16:29 PM »
I'm going to chime in here as well - I don't hire legal assistants, but hire out of the same pool of people and need a very similar skill set.   The job just caps out between $50,000 and $60,000.  Its nothing against the work they do, ect, because its pretty good money for an overtime eligible job.  You're already pretty close to that, so its a dangerous game you play with your existing employer.  There are lots of lawyers who are a-holes to work for, so if you have a good one maybe its worth taking the discount for quality of life.

The bigger challenge for the original poster is they're in a profession where pay caps out slightly above where they currently are.  The only way to change that is to consider another profession or go to law school.

Agreed!  I've worked for two a-hole lawyers and it was unbearable.  So many mind games and the frequent question of if I'm leaving early when it's 5:30 and I've been there since 7:00 a.m.  I have an attorney who never yells at me, takes responsibility for his mistakes, is very lenient with my schedule -- plus I have 25 days off (more to come if they never give me a raise)! 

I've been working on changing professions.  Believe it or not, working with lawyers has made me never want to become one, haha.  However, my skillset transfers well into advertising/marketing/project management in an advertising role.  My boyfriend is in this field, so I'm hoping a connection eventually comes into play.  It's very hard to get into ad agencies without ever having worked in one.  Plus, my minor was in this field. But for now, I'm trying to make the best of my situation without paying for anymore school.

diggingout

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #22 on: January 18, 2016, 05:19:11 PM »
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Legal assistants' income will always be capped by attorneys' income. Most firms won't tolerate overlap in payscales between assistants and junior lawyers

Don't junior lawyers make around 100k? I think the OP should be making 75k if that's the case.

Believe it or not, there has been such a surplus of attorneys, that their starting salaries have gone down.  When I left my first job, an associate attorney asked me how much I was offered.  When I told her $50k, she told me I was making more than her.  Same with my second job, I was making more than 1-3 year attorneys.  It's pretty sad, but they get huge bumps after that.

onlykelsey

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #23 on: January 18, 2016, 05:21:21 PM »
I work for a firm and do not set my assistant's salary, but I think a good chunk of her compensation comes from voluntary bonuses we give her at year's end.  I think she probably got 5K in cash from us.

From what I've seen, being a legal assistant that makes a lot money requires finding a great lawyer who loves you and then latching on to him/her, and following them to different jobs.  YMMV, of course, as I'm in NYC.

diggingout

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #24 on: January 18, 2016, 05:22:27 PM »
As for your current position, I always fought tooth and nail to get good paralegals onto my team, and to make sure they're well-paid. I'm afraid you're in a bit of a tight spot. Your value (efficiency, speed) is actually COSTING the partners money if they're billing by the hour... Your skills are only of financial value when there's a tight deadline to hit (which can be an all-or-nothing type thing). If the money is looking tricky, try negotiating for more and more holiday for the same money.

Oh, I was assuming that the OP does not have a billing requirement and that they do not bill her time to the client.  We do not bill any of our legal assistants' time to our clients on an hourly basis -- it is just viewed as overhead that generally gets covered by the attorneys' billing rate.

I billed in my paralegal roles.  I do NOT bill in my legal assistant role.  We are encouraged to bill if we perform any billable tasks, of course.  I usually bill 10 extra hours for my attorney each month.  He let's me do a lot of billable work since I have the paralegal background. 

diggingout

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #25 on: January 18, 2016, 05:25:33 PM »
I'm not a lawyer but I do know about switching jobs for more money.

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I'd like to think this makes me more efficient than most everyone else who can't handle doing these mundane tasks on top of their workload, which is why we have to pay all these other people full salaries and benefits, and then we assistants have to make less!  Of course, I manage to do all these mundane things on top of my regular duties.

First: stop doing the mundane work. There is a reason they have people paid to do that and it's because they don't want you to do it. What should you do with all this extra time? Start schmoozing. I read the other lawyer threads too and it sounds like schmoozing is extremely important in your field.

No!!!  As a litigation attorney at a big firm, here's my perspective on this point:  We have the same issue with our office services doing a crappy job, and we really appreciate the assistants who can do major copy/print/scan, binder, and exhibit jobs efficiently -- both quickly and accurately.  Diggingout, the things that you mention as your strengths would be highly valued at my firm, and it sounds like your boss gets it, too.  I disagree with the advice that a legal assistant should be schmoozing.  That is something that attorneys hate -- when their assistants can't get their work done because they're too busy socializing.  Basically, knowing all the people in your group (at a minimum) on a cordial but professional level = great / But taking solid chunks of on-the-clock time from your day to shoot the breeze with others around the office = bad.  In summary, please do not follow mozar's advice on this particular point, and instead keep doing what you're doing.

I just want to say thanks for your reply!  Coming from litigation, it seems like you "get" what I'm talking about.  I didn't always voluntarily do these things, but once I started, my attorney preferred the better and more trusted work product.  So, what he says goes!

chasesfish

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #26 on: January 19, 2016, 05:47:21 AM »
I'm going to chime in here as well - I don't hire legal assistants, but hire out of the same pool of people and need a very similar skill set.   The job just caps out between $50,000 and $60,000.  Its nothing against the work they do, ect, because its pretty good money for an overtime eligible job.  You're already pretty close to that, so its a dangerous game you play with your existing employer.  There are lots of lawyers who are a-holes to work for, so if you have a good one maybe its worth taking the discount for quality of life.

The bigger challenge for the original poster is they're in a profession where pay caps out slightly above where they currently are.  The only way to change that is to consider another profession or go to law school.

Agreed!  I've worked for two a-hole lawyers and it was unbearable.  So many mind games and the frequent question of if I'm leaving early when it's 5:30 and I've been there since 7:00 a.m.  I have an attorney who never yells at me, takes responsibility for his mistakes, is very lenient with my schedule -- plus I have 25 days off (more to come if they never give me a raise)! 

I've been working on changing professions.  Believe it or not, working with lawyers has made me never want to become one, haha.  However, my skillset transfers well into advertising/marketing/project management in an advertising role.  My boyfriend is in this field, so I'm hoping a connection eventually comes into play.  It's very hard to get into ad agencies without ever having worked in one.  Plus, my minor was in this field. But for now, I'm trying to make the best of my situation without paying for anymore school.

That is great to hear!  I'd recommend you hold tight in your current job and look to do something on the side if there's immediate financial pressures.  You might have to take a pay cut to get into advertising, but if its what you want to do long-term, then it may be worth it.
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TVRodriguez

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #27 on: January 19, 2016, 08:11:50 AM »
I have to ditto everything LeRainDrop said.  Keep doing the "grunt" work b/c assistants who do that and make sure it gets done right save the attorneys time and we LOVE them for it, and that shows up in your review.  Because if you don't do it, and if office services does it and craps out on it, and if you hand us the "finished" product, then we are the ones sitting there redoing the friggin binder or whatever.  And we're wondering what you do all day that you have to hand this off.  Especially if we see you "schmoozing" in the hallway that same day.  We hate that so much that that might go in your review.

I think you are reaching the ceiling.  I don't know where you are, but in South Florida, you're not likely to make more than you do unless you work at the very biggest firms and deal with the worst partners.  I was at a large regional firm here, and secretaries were in the $50K-60K range, with paralegals in the $60k-70k range.  And the assistants were assigned to 3 or 4 attorneys, not just one.  If you're only working for one at that salary, with that many paid days off, I say count your blessings or get out of the business.  Not trying to be harsh, just real.

Btw, fyi for other readers, some attorneys do start at $140k and higher first year, but not most of them.  Small firms in my area start new attorneys out at anywhere from $35K to $70K, even with an LLM (master of laws degree--on top of the JD).  The legal market can suck if you're not top of the top.  I knew an LLM grad in tax who started part-time for $15/hour herself.  She moved up, but it's not all puppy dogs and ice cream just b/c you have a JD.

OP, I think the only thing you can do to argue for a bigger raise (those COL bumps are actual raises, btw) would be to increase your billable work.  Do more than the 10 hours so you can point to that and say, "look at what I'm collecting for the firm; I'm covering XX% of my own salary as well as providing excellent support to these attorneys.  Now pay me more."

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #28 on: January 19, 2016, 09:36:10 AM »
While many of the legal assistants at our firm are far more knowledgable than me and might be earning the same/less than me (one I know of for a fact is earning less than me and has 28 years of experience), I have youth on my side.

This is a problem for you, you may have topped out already.  You may be able to make a great case for a raise based on your outstanding performance.
For my market, you are already at the top range and make more than many attorneys.  Sorry I can't be of more help.

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #29 on: January 19, 2016, 10:41:02 AM »
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As you can see above, I have had three jobs in the past two years.  I tried to negotiate higher salaries at all of the positions, to no avail.

The key is that you don't leave if you don't get more money.

I've been looking around (different field) lately - but not too hard.  I did have an interview 1.5 years ago, took 3 days off to prep, etc. and interview, and didn't get the job.  They didn't fill the position, so I didn't feel too bad.  But it makes me wary.  I also had another interview and job offer that was too low, but at least the interview was only 2 hours long.

I have friends in other companies, who have mentioned openings, and I tell them pretty frankly "I'm not willing to take a pay cut".  I already know I'm underpaid for the position that I'm in, and if other local companies are going to be cheap, forget it.  I know that it has put at least one person off - but I took a pay cut ONCE (only $1k a year, but still), and I simply won't do it again.

Your problem, I think, is lifestyle - you've left because there was something you wanted more - like more vacation, or a better boss.  That means you don't have as much leverage.

If you like your position right now, then you are in a position of strength.  If you are contacted by recruiters, give them your minimum, and tell them that you aren't interested in interviewing if the salary range is below that.  Period.  If you waste a day interviewing and the salary is too low, stop working with that recruiter.

You may, in fact, be capping out on the salary.  I have no idea.

What mozar has done works - I've helped many a young engineer get more money that way.  It hasn't ever quite worked out for me, but I'm in a different situation.  Smaller town, can't move, have kids, prefer flexibility.

Daleth

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Re: Lawyers -- How much do you pay your legal assistants? Help me get a raise!
« Reply #30 on: January 28, 2016, 11:05:16 AM »
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Legal assistants' income will always be capped by attorneys' income. Most firms won't tolerate overlap in payscales between assistants and junior lawyers

Don't junior lawyers make around 100k? I think the OP should be making 75k if that's the case.

It all depends on the size of the firm and the city it's in. At a midsized firm, junior lawyers might get $80k-$100k. At a large firm, $130-$160k. And at a small firm, obviously, less than a midsized one, but then small firms don't often hire lawyers right out of law school, or when they do it's only after that lawyer spent summers and the last year or two of law school interning there or working for maybe $10/hour to get trained. So it's hard to compare a small firm's "junior lawyers" to the recent grads with no experience at midsized and large firms.