Ask Amy: Paralegal works the angles for a raise

July 10, 2012

DEAR AMY: I’ve been working for a small law firm for six years now. I’m a paralegal and work up all the attorneys’ documents.

I’ve made a lot of money for the firm. Recently because of all my hard work, the firm has hired two new attorneys (one is part-time).

By accident my manager gave me the part-time attorney’s paycheck, and I was floored. She makes way more than I do!

What do you think I should do? Should I find another job or talk to the owner about getting a larger raise?

I don’t want to get the manager in trouble, but it’s just not fair that this other person is part-time and making more than I am. -- Peeved Paralegal

DEAR PEEVED: I appreciate your confidence and self-assessment, but it’s possible that your firm’s success is due to more than your efforts alone.

Regardless of your opinion of your own worth, you seem to have the idea that the pay structure in your workplace should be fair — according to your calculation and relative to your own compensation.

This is not the case. The marketplace determines your worth. You are comparing apples to wheelbarrows.

Even if you could easily perform the lawyering tasks your part-time colleague performs, you and this lawyer have different educational qualifications and credentials. This lawyer’s ability to negotiate a generous compensation package for herself has nothing to do with your relative worth to the firm.

The way to negotiate for more money is not through competing with your co-workers, but by receiving an offer for a paralegal job from another firm and leveraging that into an offer for more money at your home firm.

DEAR AMY: Isn’t it rude for a person who vows she doesn’t discuss religion or politics with anyone (and has been known to call people out when they speak for the other side) to post multiple articles each day on Facebook stating her political views?

This person posts very little except about politics and social matters; there are very few people in our circle who agree with her. It appears that she is trying to convince us to convert to her political views. What do you think? -- FB Friend

DEAR FB: I think your friend is using Facebook the way many people use the site — as a bulletin board upon which she can pin her views.

Unless your friend is trashing other people or posting rude comments or content, she is not being rude: She is acting as an aggregator of articles expressing her political point of view.

Facebook is great in that way — it’s not just about what’s going on in your personal life or over at FarmVille; the site allows people to virtually share just about anything.

If you don’t agree with her views, you can respectfully comment. If you don’t want to see her posts, you can easily hide them on the site without her being aware of it.

DEAR AMY: The conversation in your column about the role of stepparents made me decide to write.

My dad — legally he was my stepfather, but in my heart he was my dad — died last year. He had three stepchildren from his first marriage and six from his second.

When he was dying, the nurse asked the three of us in the room how many children he had, and we explained that he had nine of us stepchildren.

She asked if he had children of “his own,” and we told her that it was not something that he was ever concerned about. Her question was neither offensive nor inappropriate. It was simply not applicable in our situation. We were all his kids, and he was our dad.

The nurse’s question had a good result. It was while she was there and I was thinking how he selflessly loved us without reservation that he passed away.

Perhaps he heard that conversation and knew it was okay to leave us. -- Phil

DEAR PHIL: Many large and complicated families are built this way — through marriage — but they’re held together through love. Thank you for telling us about your dad.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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