I credit my time teaching negotiation courses with The Likeable Lawyer for many of the results I’m able to obtain for clients. In personal injury claims, the end result is almost always a product of a long negotiation between the personal injury lawyer and the insurance adjuster or defense counsel for the insurance company. Having a set of negotiation skills in place is a crucial part to surviving and thriving in this environment.
One central focus of successful negotiation is understanding the needs of all parties involved. Much to the surprise of many lawyers, this means attempting to understand your ‘enemy’. By understanding the other side’s motivations, however, it opens you to the possibility of proposing a solution which will be acceptable to them. Quite often, with a deeper understanding of the needs or concerns of the other side, you can negotiate a better result for your client. This happens as a result of being able to describe to the other side the benefit of saying “yes” to your offer.
While needs will change from situation to situation, the lawyer’s goal should be to see beneath the demands and statements of the client and the adversary, toward understanding what is really driving their behavior. A personal injury client with a broken ankle, for example, may be equally concerned about a monetary award as he is about seeing that a store implements a new policy when mopping floors to avoid slip and fall accidents.
Maintaining Emotional Poise
I will be the first to tell you that maintaining emotional poise during a frustrating negotiation is a challenge. It’s one we face nearly every day as attorneys battling it out for our clients. Developing the ability to maintain and understand emotions plays a key role not only in the longevity of your career, but also in your ability to negotiate through difficult moments. While understanding your own emotions is critical, it’s also extremely effective to understand or seek to understand the emotions of your adversary—you can use that understanding to foster a relationship and reach an agreement.
The Bulldog Lawyer
It’s not uncommon for clients to seek out what they might refer to as a Bulldog Lawyer—someone who isn’t going to take no for an answer, and who will bully their way to good results. Despite what we see on television, this behavior is most often ineffective and creates a divide between parties which is often irreparable. The Likeable Lawyer course offerings have shown thousands of lawyers, myself included, that what clients want more than a bulldog lawyer is results. In the end, the client cares mostly about getting the best results. Lawyers who take the courses I’ve taught with The Likeable Lawyer comment routinely to me that the courses are refreshing, offer a new perspective, and ultimately help them achieve better results for their clients. Happy clients make for happy lawyers.