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.

A couple months ago, I had a great conversation with Kevin Mitchell of ModioLegal about his product and its “reading the news” concept. He and I talked about the different methods of delivering information and current content to lawyers and we both agreed that we thought the methods of print distribution, email, or RSS feeds allow for massive amounts of information to be disseminated, but that there should be better ways of presenting complex information in a way that is more convenient to access. Kevin’s idea was to produce a way of delivering the information in audio format and providing the listener with a way to consume the content during periods of time where hearing the information is easier than reading the information.

I’ve always been one for finding new ways of getting information out to the consumer. The converting text to audio has been something I’ve considered for a long time, but there are obvious issues with converting text to audio, and having it make sense.
Some of you may immediately think of a Siri-like voice reading the material to you, but that’s not what Mitchell is doing with this product. As most of you have realized, mechanical voices, no matter how human sounding, just cannot present the information in a way that helps the listener easily digest and understand the nuances of the information being presented. It really takes a person with an ability to read the material in their heads first, and present it in a way that assists the listener absorb the information. For a situation like this, a law student is one of the best candidates for the job.
The idea is this:
  • License quality current awareness content that is relevant to the legal industry
  • Pay law students for their time to produce audio narrations of the content,
  • Deliver the audio content through a high-quality, proprietary platform that can be played back on multiple devices ranging from car audio systems, mobile or home devices during multi-tasking activities such as commuting or exercising
  • Give the law students exposure by having them introduce themselves to the audience and provide access to their email address and LinkedIn profile
  • Distribute the recordings quickly so that the information is still current

As someone who used law students to help create the content at the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s online research tool, I thought it was a great idea to leverage the talent that is available and create a situation where the student, the listener, the content licensor and the company benefit. After listening to some of the content, I found it to be very easy to listen to, and easy to understand.

ModioLegal is just getting started, so the content is very limited. Right now the legal content is the Audio Edition of ABI Journal, which costs $9.95 a month and comes with a free 1-month trial. I think there is a bit of a “chicken and the egg” issue with a project like this where users of the product will want more content, and content providers would like for there to be more listeners before licensing more content. I imagine that is always an issue when it comes to presenting content in a novel way.
Since ModioLegal is a subscription service, I asked if there could be a way for people to demo some of the content without having to sign up for anything or be obligated in any way. Kevin got me a demo login and said that I could post it here and allow the readers of the blog some access to the site. Again, I found it to be very easy to listen and understand the content, so go check it out, perhaps on your smartphone, and see if this type of information dissemination is something you’d like to see more of on the market.
username: 3geeks
password: modiolegal
Image [cc] Salem State Library

Maybe I’m reading a bit much into this announcement from the Dorraine Zief Law Library at the University of San Francisco, but, the fact that Westlaw has decided to allow graduating law students access to their law school Westlaw IDs through the end of November seems to be a sign that even the folks up in Eagan, MN know it’s a tough market for law grads.

Graduates that go to extend their passwords by May 30th can have access to Westlaw classic and WestlawNext through their student logon. According to the USF post:

Graduates who extend their password will receive access to WestlawNext and Westlaw Classic through November 2013 instead of just through July.  The exact number of monthly access hours is not available, but is at least 40 hours per month.

Graduating students who have already extended their access don’t have to do anything further to get the extension through November.  There’s a link to the extension site in an  e-mail sent to graduating students.  Students may also click the “Need Westlaw this Summer?” ad on

I’m glad that Thomson Reuters decided to allow grads to keep access to this very expensive resource to help keep their research skills fresh as they are hunting for work. Of course, I’m wonder who will be the first grad to put on his or her resume that “if you hire me, I’ll have 40 hours of free Westlaw searching I can bring with me”?? Please, don’t be that person!!