Leaving Something on the Table

by James J. Gross

When I was a young attorney, I worked in the General Counsel’s office of a big corporation.  I negotiated contracts fiercely trying to get every last cent on my company’s side of the table.  One day, an older guy in the contract administration department pulled me aside.  He told me that a sign of business maturity was leaving something on the table for the other party.  After all, he told me, we want to do more business with these folks in the future.  And if we take too much in one deal, they will find a way to get it back from us in another deal.  It’s a cost of doing business.   You want to leave the other side with good will, not the feeling that they got soaked.

Before everything was online, I used a recruiter to find staff for my law firm.  I hired a bookkeeper  and paid her a finder’s fee.  After three months, the bookkeeper turned around and used the same recruiter to find another job.  I called her and asked for a partial refund of the fee I paid.  She refused.  Needless to say I never used her again.  She made a few dollars but lost lots more in future business.

Even if you are not doing business with the other party again, your karma will catch up to you.  It’s a small world.  After 40 years of practicing law, I can tell you that I run into the same people sitting across the table from me over and over again.  Some are defendants.  Some have become judges.