By Lisa Salazar (@Lihsa)

A friend texted me before the New Year to tell me that her firm granted her request for a raise. But today, she got even more interesting news.

Salary is a real issue for young lawyers, as explained by Wired’s “Grad Students are Freak Out About GOP Tax Plan. They Should Be.” On top of that, the US Labor Department data shows that women earned about 82 cents for every dollar a man made in 2016.

This young woman–a talented lawyer that speaks 3 languages, has an LLM, and broad range of experience–is ecstatic because she anticipates that by the end of this year she might break six figures. She wants to become a first-time home-owner and get a better handle on her own student loans.

Women, salaries, law student loans and asking for a raise - 3 Geeks - Lihsa

The student loan crisis

LendEDU, a marketplace for student loans, reports that the average law student loan debts, which exclude scholarships but includes living expenses, can range anywhere from $48K to $340K. In fact, one lawyer couple, who have chosen to not marry due to their combined law school debt of over $400K, are chronicling their financial recovery plans on YouTube.

Why ask for a raise in salary

My friend and I met through a mentoring program about 4 months ago. I volunteer at an organization that assists individuals that are suffering from financial crisis. She and I had been discussing the possibility that she was under-earning. But it wasn’t until she was at a dinner with a group of female lawyers that she realized how out of whack her salary was when compared to her peers.

We worked together to come up with a plan to talk to her boss. We came up with a game plan, established a top-level number, then discussed negotiating tactics. I helped her draft a proposal and proposed communication plan for her to submit to her boss that could be relayed to the department head.

She was very nervous but was encouraged by me and her other female lawyer friends to go for it.

I had warned her that her boss, who was also female, was probably going to get angry when she asked for the raise. But I reminded her that by asking for more, she was raising the level of water for the entire team and would make it easier for the lawyers behind her to get more money. And I explained that the reason that her boss might get angry was because it was exposing her boss’s own under-earning–people don’t like to be confronted with their own inadequacies.

And her boss did get angry. But her boss was now duty-bound to submit the request to her department head, which was approved over the holidays.

Reasons for raises

Today, my friend got additional information that she was now right in the middle of her peer group at work. Before her promotion, she was at the bottom of that group, despite having a higher level of education, several more years of experience and more completed projects under her belt.

She is now in a position to break $100K by next year if she continues to work at the same pace.

Salary isn’t just about what you earn. It is also about what you deserve.

And my friend deserved it–every penny of it.