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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

November 9, 2017

I have recently been promoted to Interim GC at my company. Should I ask for more money?

Julie Q. Brush

Congratulations on your new role as Interim GC. In yesterday’s post, I discussed the career virtues for those who are offered this opportunity – regardless of whether the role becomes permanent. Today, we talk money.

The “bump” to Interim GC is a career accomplishment and should be viewed as such. It demonstrates that the executives believe in your ability to man the ship and provide leadership for the legal function.

Advancement to the top spot from the #2 position is not just a change in title. The move up carries with it added responsibilities…and pressures. So the question arises as to whether it’s appropriate for a lawyer in this position to ask for more money in recognition of the added workload.

So is it? 

If the new role you are assuming has greater responsibilities, then asking for an increase in salary is reasonable. But before you embark on your quest for more, I recommend that you prepare and craft your request wisely. Because without a persuasive…and humble pitch, you won’t get very far.

As you prepare, determine what your new role will entail and how it will differ from your current position. For example, will you manage more people? Run litigation matters? Assume more internal clients? Manage outside counsel? Build the department? Make a list of how your current role will evolve. And use this list as the foundation for your request. If you are unsure about your new responsibilities, schedule a meeting with the powers that be to gain clarity. Once you have memorialized the differences, create your message and practice the delivery. Below are two examples:

“Chris, thank you for the opportunity to serve as interim GC for the company. I’m very excited to get started and am up to the task. I wanted to discuss the compensation for the role. My current base compensation is $225k, but given that my responsibilities will increase a good deal, I think a modest increase to $300k is fair. Can I have your support?

“Robert, I’m really looking forward to my new role and appreciate the opportunity. In preparing for next steps, I’ve identified the new areas I’ll be managing which include M&A, patent litigation, commercial and employment. I will also manage a team four lawyers instead of one. In light of these additional responsibilities, I wanted to discuss the possibility of a salary increase to reflect my added value. Currently, I’m making $230k + a 30% bonus. I understand that current market GC compensation is $300k + 50% bonus so I’d like your support to increase my salary to these metrics.”

It is difficult to predict how your new boss will react – as many variables are considered in such decisions. But you’ll never know unless you take the first step and ask. If the executives are not receptive, one additional suggestion is to inquire whether your boss would be open to a special bonus to be considered at some review milestone like the end of the year, quarter – or upon completion of the project. If the answer remains “no”, don’t be sour or angry. You’ve done the best you can…and what you can control…for the time being. At the end of the day, you’re still a winner. So be grateful for the opportunity you’ve earned and now focus on making the most of it.

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