Don’t Negotiate Like a Politician

Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.

Who knew that lawyers could find good advice about negotiating on behalf of their clients in The Costco Connection? In her article titled Attitude Shift, Rhonda Abrams warns business owners not to negotiate like today’s polarized and ineffective politicians. “Stop thinking of the other side as your opponent,” she advises.

When it comes to negotiation, clients often say that they want a tough lawyer. What they really want is a solution to their problem or the healing of an injury. Their strategy for obtaining that may involve hiring a tough lawyer.

You’re the Expert

You are the expert in managing legal issues. Don’t let a novice develop your strategy. When you think of the other party and their lawyer as opponents, that negatively influences your approach to them. If your client will have any future dealings with the other party, your oppositional thinking will taint their long-term relationship. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that you have to beat the other side. Keep reminding yourself that the client really wants a solution or a healing.

Use a Problem-Solving Approach

An oppositional approach will polarize the parties and keep everyone on the defensive. That will limit their ability to recognize all the existing options, as well as their ability to develop creative solutions. Approach the issue as a problem-solving challenge. You’re much more likely to open up dialogue that can result in a solution that works for all parties. Instead of damaging your client’s relationship with the other party, you might actually help to enhance or repair it.

“Yeah, But…”

I can hear you saying, “Yeah, but it’s different in litigation.” I would remind you that, as much as you personally might enjoy the legal sparring and the rush that you get from victory, your responsibility is to serve the best interests of your client.   In litigation, even when you win, the client loses in countless ways. Almost all litigation gets settled. Wouldn’t your client be better off if you helped them solve the problem sooner rather than later?


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