One of the reasons Americans loved Saturn cars was the “no-haggle” policy — which, to an Indian, is code for “let’s charge these suckers more because they’re afraid of negotiating.”

– Ramit Sethi

Lawyers do not have the option of being afraid of negotiating. From the courtroom to arbitration and mediation – negotiation is part and parcel of a lawyer’s practice.  And as noted above, Americans are generally are neither comfortable nor any good at negotiating. To help get started overcoming the fear of negotiation here are a few basic tips to negotiation:

Rule Number One: Don’t be impatient.

  • Negotiations take time. If you press for a close to negotiations too quickly, you’re likely to come off as the weaker party. If a party presses for a quick resolution to negotiations, then they are going to have to offer more to the opposing party.

Rule Number Two: The first offer is almost never the last offer.

  • Just as Sethi noted above, most people are conditioned to accept the first offer that comes there way. This is not the case with negotiations. Be prepared for a number of offers to go back and forth between the parties before one is settled upon.

Rule Number Three: Know your BATNA.

  • BANTA is short for Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. It’s your fallback position. Where will you be if negotiations fall through? For example, say you wanted to purchase a new car but weren’t willing to pay over $20,000. If you couldn’t find or negotiate a price for a car you wanted for less than $20,000, your BANTA would be to continue to drive your old car.

Rule Number Four: The “salami” technique.

  • Don’t ask for the whole thing but a tiny slice. Negotiation is often a battle of attrition. Don’t try and go for the big win right away. Instead look for small piecemeal victories and concessions. Generally after you’ve gotten one slice, it can be easy to ask for another tiny piece.

Rule Number Five: It’s not personal.

  • You are an advocate for your client. The person on the opposite side of the table is an advocate for theirs. Negotiation can be spirited and volatile, but that doesn’t mean it should make you angry or emotionally upset. Eventually the clients will move on and you will probably see the opposing counsel again someday. It’s doesn’t do anyone any good to hold a grudge.
These are 5 very basic tips, but they can be useful to review if you’re new to negotiation, or even experienced in negotiation, as it’s often the basic aspects of practice that get lost as one progresses in experience and skill. Best of luck to you in your negotiations and expect more in this series in the coming weeks.
Share This