There aren't any rules about when you can ask for a raise, which makes your year-end review about as good a time as any to start your salary negotiation.
No matter when you decide to ask your boss for better compensation, it's important to start the process before you ask for that meeting. Asking for a raise is like any other negotiation; you have to be prepared before you go into it.
Consider this your pep talk before you go to your boss and ask for a better salary deal. Here are some tips that can help you be more confident during your negotiation:
Think about your bottom line. It's hard to be satisfied if you don't know what you were hoping to get, so take some time to clarify your goals for the salary discussion. You probably ask clients to do this before going into a legal negotiation, so there's no reason you shouldn't do the same for yourself.
Keep track of compliments. We know you're awesome, but when you're trying to convince your boss, bring some evidence along with you. Positive performance reviews, emails, or communications with clients are all ways to show that you're worth the extra money.
Figure out your worth. There are lots of resources for figuring out the typical salary for your position and in your area. Having an objective standard can make it easier to figure out what to ask for.
Consider alternative compensation. The amount of your salary is certainly a good measure. But better health benefits, lower billable-hour requirements, telecommuting days, and paid parking or transportation are all forms of compensation too. You might find an alternative idea is closer to what you really want. If you can't get anywhere on your request, you can ask to have your salary reviewed again in six months.
Be assertive. Whether you already have this job, or if you're getting a new offer, you've already been chosen as the best person for the job. Even if you don't get what you want, asking for a raise shows you can tackle intimidating issues, which is a great skill for any attorney. If you're polite and respectful, there's little chance it will be seen as a negative.