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TMAE Webinar SummaryTradeMastery: The art of salary negotiations for TMAs

Alt Legal Team | October 26, 2023
8 min read

Trademark administrators (TMAs) are invaluable team members in every trademark practice group. Whether they’re managing the docket, preparing documents for filing, or communicating with clients or IP offices, they know all the nuts and bolts of trademark law and keep their busy teams on track. However, a TMA’s compensation package doesn’t always reflect their skills, expertise, or value.

On October 25, 2023, senior trademark administrators Deborah Hampton of Chemours, Jen Lynch of Fish & Richardson, and Kristen Poggensee of Accenture discussed strategies for TMA salary negotiations in a webinar hosted by the Trademark Administrators’ Exchange (TMAE), “TradeMastery: The art of salary negotiations for TMAs.” During this webinar, the panel addressed a number of questions to help TMAs navigate raises, non-financial compensation, and how to approach managers to discuss these requests.

View the webinar recording here (free registration required).

Be sure to check out the Alt Legal Paralegal Resources page and sign up for the Trademark Administrators’ Exchange (TMAE) email discussion group.

Webinar Summary

Can you discuss a time when you asked for a raise or significantly more money than was being offered?

Kristen: I was trying to get a promotion separate from annual review with a substantial jump in salary. At my company, the roles and responsibilities are defined and I was trying to move up a level. I started by discussing the idea with my manager because I wanted coaching. I explained that I thought I could be promoted based on the guidelines and I asked my manager how they felt about this. I worked with my manager to set workable goals for when it came time to ask for the promotion.

I recommend having someone at a higher level advocate for you. My manager sent kudos that I received to the head of our IP legal team. I learned that it is important to know the timing of when to ask for a promotion or raise and to plan with your supervisor or HR to set goals.

Deborah: I was interested in a position located far from where I was living. I asked for an outrageous amount of money thinking they’d never go for it but they said yes! I didn’t overthink it – I just figured why not? At this time, I was starting to learn my worth.

Jen: I didn’t need the job I was interviewing for and I figured I would make a change if they met me at the salary I was asking for. We negotiated and came to an agreeable term. I was also learning my worth. Being in a position where I already had a job gave me some leverage so that I knew if they couldn’t meet my salary requirements, I didn’t have to accept the position.

When is the best time to ask for a raise?

Deborah: Take the pulse of the company and how they’re doing. Also consider how the economy is doing. If a company isn’t doing well financially, maybe ask for something other than a monetary raise. You could get what you ask for but ultimately, it’s not necessarily what you want to earn long-term, but you’ll be locked in for a period of time.

Kristen: Take the pulse of your company, read articles, and listen to earning statements. If your company is doing well, you can use your performance review as an opportunity to ask for a raise.  If you’ve had a year where you’ve done a major project, that’s a good time to ask for a raise to show what you’ve done and demonstrate your impact on the company.

Jen: I agree, take the pulse of your company. If there’s been layoffs or if you’ve seen clients are leaving the firm or you’ve lost a big client, it’s not the time to ask for a raise. But if you’re seeing the opposite and you’re being asked to take on more responsibility, it may be a good time to have a conversation with your manager.

Also, you may hear from recruiters or former employers with opportunities. You can say what other employers are willing to pay for the same job and use it as leverage. You might also do some market analysis and look at similar jobs and determine what they’re paying. Then you can negotiate with your manager. They may not be willing to match but maybe they’ll give you a one-time bonus. One-time bonuses are a little easier to justify than a raise because it doesn’t impact your overall compensation package.

How do you broach the subject of getting a raise?

Jen: Have your ducks in a row and do your research. Make sure you’re on target with your billables, your performance reviews have been up to par, and that you are following all policies procedures and you haven’t had any disciplinary or verbal warnings. How you approach your manager depends on the relationship with your manager. If you have 1:1 meetings, those are good opportunities to ask about a raise.

Kristen: Your relationship with your manager or supervisor is key. Go to someone you feel comfortable with. Start with an informal discussion about asking for a raise and ask what they think your next steps should be. Ask if there are any reasons why you shouldn’t get a raise. Discover areas that you can work on to improve, get feedback on what you have accomplished, and discuss whether you’re in line for a raise. Then set a more structured meeting to formally ask for the raise. Another tip is that taking on extra roles like being on an INTA committee shows your manager that you’re taking on other responsibilities.

Deborah: It can take months or even a year or more to plan for a raise. You want to consider your manager or an advocate in your group or department and also factor in the business people who you work with. I use LinkedIn to connect with people in the company and I get involved with outside activities so that management and others see that I have other skills.

What types of evidence have you used to demonstrate that you deserve more money?

Kristen: Your best evidence is when clients or others on the legal team give you kudos. I make a kudos folder and I have my manager submit it to upper management or I have clients submit it. Also, show how you save the company money – perhaps by doing work in house as opposed to sending it to outside counsel. Additionally, any substantive work that you do is evidence to show that you deserve a promotion or raise.

Jen: Educate yourself on the current salaries in your market and geographic location. Managers have a low and high end of their salary ranges. Connect with a recruiter – not necessarily to look for a job but to know what the different salary ranges are. Be sure to advocate for yourself and if you think you’re underpaid, do some digging and use your network to learn.

What factors do you consider before changing jobs to get a raise? When is this not a good strategy?

Deborah: Sometimes if you change jobs you’ll get a boost in salary but get stuck with standard 2-3% raises. Also, it’s important to think about whether you are happy where you are. Consider whether you have a good work/life balance, enjoy your work, and feel respected. I took a big pay cut for peace of mind and respect – it was priceless.

Jen: It isn’t a great strategy to go somewhere new based on salary alone because it doesn’t mean that you’ll be happy. Compensation doesn’t always have to be money – it’s flexibility, work/life balance, a great team, being respected, profit sharing, etc. Think about your full compensation package, not just salary. It’s a red flag if the job you are considering is the same position and they’re offering much more money.

Kristen: Don’t think about salary alone – this isn’t a great strategy unless you’re really unhappy. Do your own self-assessment of the pros/cons of your current role. Think about the relationship with your boss and whether there’s a career trajectory at your current company.

What non-financial benefits are most important to you?

Kristen: In my stage of life, PTO and flexible work schedule are most important. I work 100% remote and this is important to me because I have children and grandchildren all over the country and I use my PTO to visit with my family. When I worked at Motorola they offered educational reimbursement which was important to me because they paid for my MBA. You can also quantify your remote work because then you don’t have to pay for your commuting expenses, childcare, dry cleaning, etc. and this all adds up to a financial benefit.

Deborah: I appreciate the support to be active in other organizations like INTA. I also appreciate flexibility to deal with family matters

Jen: Culture and feeling valued, respected, and part of the team. I appreciate that we have a hybrid work schedule and I am mostly remote.

How should we ask for non-financial benefits?

Deborah: Sometimes this can be harder to ask for than money. If my company wasn’t willing to support me, I would find a way to make it happen. I’m always going to invest in myself and in turn I’m investing in the company.

Kristen: It’s important to identify what’s important to you. Career development, learning, and education is very important to me. I am required to fill out my career development goals and I indicate that I want to attend INTA and IP-specific webinars so that it is set in writing. Be sure to build your case for attending these events.

Jen: It really depends on the size of your company, department or group. There are often policies in place and some companies make no exceptions, whereas at other companies, it’s at the manager’s discretion. One key non-financial benefit is working hours – you don’t have work 9:00-5:00. Some paralegals work split shifts where they work 9:00-2:00 and are off between 2:00-4:00 for childcare responsibilities, but then they’re back on at 4:00.

What are some suggestions for gauging our worth?

Jen: Think about what value you’re adding to the team. Consider whether you are the go-to person on the team when something needs to be done. Also make sure to point out kudos you’ve received.

Kristen: Being the go-to person is key and getting invited to the important meetings. When the lead attorney was out, I was able to step in and help significantly. This helped me gauge my own worth.

Deborah: I’ve spent a lot of time educating myself on case law and what’s going on in the trademark work. I look at TMAs as the liaison between attorneys and clients because they understand both the legal side and the client/business side. I also show that I’m willing to learn and work hard and do highly sophisticated and substantive work.

How often should you follow up on a request for a raise?

Kristen: I would say once a year.

Jen: Use feedback from your manager. Maybe they gave you a timeframe and that helps you understand when to ask. Then mark on your calendar when to ask again.

Deborah: I would ask one time and consider my options after.

What about using job listings to help you negotiate for a raise?

Jen: They can be helpful so long as it’s the same market, the job descriptions are pretty much identical, and the firm/company is comparable.

Kristen: Postings can be helpful because you can incorporate responsibilities into your goals to gain certain skillsets.

What if your manager agrees to a raise but upper management can’t approve the raise?

Jen: Ask for a one-time bonus or a nonfinancial benefit.

Deborah: Ask for stock options or additional funds in a 401k.

Kristen: Be sure to put all of this in writing.

How do you suggest benchmarking your salary if you wear many different hats?

Kristen: Think about whether you are wearing so many hats that you’re doing the work of two people and two salaries. Try to bucket the time you spend doing different types of work and show your value that way.

Jen: Your company may need to redefine your job description and come up with a new title for you. This may increase your salary.

If you’re wanting to negotiate things that seem set how can you do that?

Deborah: I had asked for more vacation time and there were set policies but my manager and I unofficially agreed to add an additional week and she cleared it with the GC.

Jen: A lot of times these things are easier to ask when you’re looking for a new job. You might not get everything you want but it’s good to lay it all out when you’re applying for a new position.

If you’re at the highest paralegal level at your company how can you create a new position to get to a new level and pay band?

Jen: You might have to propose a new position with new responsibilities. Note that going from exempt to nonexempt isn’t always going to result in a pay bump. You could be losing out on overtime and your exempt position may have other benefits and perks that your nonexempt position would never offer you.

Deborah: In corporations, you can go from paralegal to manager and senior manager but it’s hard to go to director level because many attorneys come in as directors. Look at job descriptions and figure out how to fit a square peg into a round hole and use titles on the business side and apply them to legal department roles.

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