"Ask and you shall receive"
"The squeaky wheel gets oiled"
"Greed is good"
All time honored quotes to validate asking for a raise. Its mid-2009 and money is tight everywhere, although things seem to be going pretty good at Morgan Stanley. But I don't work for Morgan Stanley and you probably don't either. The truth is you've probably been asked to take on more responsibility and the more responsibility didn't come with more money. Ok I agree that stinks.
If you make $50,000 a year and you get a COLA raise which is approximately 4%, you would be receiving $2,000 a year in additional compensation. If you subtract the taxes you're looking at about $26.92 a week of extra cash in your pocket. Naturally if you make more or less your pocket would be heavier or lighter. For me, $26.92 would cover my train ticket for the week, lunch out twice in a week or a pedicure. Figure out exactly how much more money you would have in your pocket if you get the raise you want. Now, would you rather have the extra cash in your pocket or would you rather have your firm see you as a team player? If you expect to share in the rewards when the firm is having a good year, its only fair that the firm expect you to share in the leaner years too.
If you feel your firm is taking advantage of you, which wouldn't be the first time in history a law firm pulled that trick - think about what other "compensation" may be available. Sometimes extra vacation, parking or leaving early on Friday is an option in lieu of money. Maybe just keeping your mouth shut is the only option. Be patient, do a good job...it will get better!