New legal practitioners have an uphill battle to fight when it comes to learning how the profession is actually practiced from day-to-day. From inside the courtroom to inside the conference room a new lawyer has to always be on the lookout for droplets of advice and assistance being provided by those that have decades of experience and knowledge. One aspect of practicing law that is harder to get advice in is in the handling of negotiations, likely because experienced practitioners are unwilling to divulge their “tricks of the trade.” Like anything else, in any profession, it takes repetition and practice to build up a comfort level with doing anything. However, for new practitioners looking to jump head first into the world of negotiating, there are some key pieces of information that you need to know before sitting down at the negotiating table.
It is vitally important that you know what your client’s goals are and how much settlement authority you have as a client’s representative.
When it comes to a client’s goals, never assume, never think that you know exactly what a client wants without asking them first. Some clients may only care about the bottom line, in terms of dollars and cents, but for some clients the battle might be one of morality and respect. It is even possible that a client may just want a formal apology and a show of contrition on the part of the opposing party. Beyond what might be required by a State’s ethics rules for an attorney, it would be impossible to deliver a client to where they want to go without knowing their desired destination.
While discussing the matter with your client it is important to get as many specifics of what the client wants, but also being conscious of what is a reasonable outcome. If what the client is expecting is beyond the realm of possibility and they are unwilling to compromise, it is now your task to calmly and effectively rationalize with the client. It is important that both the client and the attorney be on the same page as to what a reasonable outcome may be at the end of negotiations.
Another key piece of information that an attorney must have before entering a negotiation on behalf of a client, is what settlement authority the client has granted them. The attorney sets the strategy, but the client is the decision maker when it comes to settlement. If the client has given direct authority to settle the matter, it makes knowing what the client really wants that much more important. On the flip side, if your client is the side making the offer for settlement, it is essential to know what your client wants to achieve. When it comes to the authority to settle, it may even be good to get written confirmation of the client’s goals and acknowledge that you are all on the same page. (Written confirmation and documentation is key to all aspects of practicing law, but could make a huge difference when it comes to settlement authority.)
These are just two preliminary matters that a young lawyer needs to be 100% sure about before starting the negotiation on behalf of their client. Once the negotiation actually begins, the job of the attorney gets even harder, he or she has to figure out opposing counsel and obtain a settlement offer that their client will deem acceptable.
The Gohari Legal Group represents clients in family, immigration, bankruptcy, real estate, business, litigation and estate planning matters. We are headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland and serve Montgomery, Prince George’s and Frederick Counties. We provide clients with decades of experience and knowledge in the small firm atmosphere that also gives clients the personal attention they need. We help our clients in a speedy and cost-efficient manner.