Tag Archive for: negotiation

Sam Jones, a much sought after divorce lawyer, took his young clerk, Marcia Green, to the negotiation session with Al Briggs, opposing counsel.

“Look,” said Al, “the most we can pay for the marital award is about a $100,000.”

After the session, Marcia said to Sam, “our client is going to be upset that $100,000 is the most they can pay.”

“It’s not!” said Sam. “Didn’t you hear him say ‘about’ $100,000? That’s means he has authority to pay more.”

“I guess I didn’t hear that.”

“In a negotiation, it pays to listen. Words like about, more or less, or almost are leakage. They are like tells in a poker game. They let you read the mind of your opponent. The truth leaks out.”

Some issues are just too big and complex to tackle all at once.  What to do about the children is a good example.

But you can eat an elephant if you take your time and take small bites.

That’s what you do in negotiations.  If you get stuck on a problem, start breaking it down into to smaller bites.  Separate the issues.

Segregate the big issue of “children” into custody and child support.

Then take custody and keep breaking it down.  Segregate custody into who will make the legal decisions, where will the child  live, and what will the time sharing schedule look like.

You can even break down legal decisions into separate pieces like who will decide which doctors to use, who will decide where the child goes to school and who will decide what religion to raise the child in.

Sometimes it’s easier to reach agreement with a series of small decisions than trying to tackle the whole thing at once.

“You got done in an afternoon what the others couldn’t get done in the previous 30 days.” – A Happy Client

Here is what I did:

1. picked up the phone and called the other lawyer.

2. listened carefully to the other side’s position and what they wanted.

3. broke the problem down into two separate issues.

4. problem solved one issue at a time.

5. picked up the phone and told my client what the other side wanted, item by item.

6. pointed out to both sides that their interests were the same.

7. gave them win/win options.

8.  didn’t just argue my client’s position.

Phone calls are better than letters and emails to get things done because you have the opportunity to ask questions, clarify misunderstanding, explore options and give feedback.

Sometimes I draft a Separation Agreement, send it to the other side, and receive a response that says “My client rejects your proposal.”

Or the other side will send me a proposal and my client says, “It’s ridiculous.  I don’t like anything about it.”

Both responses leave something to be desired in moving the case forward.  So my reply is always, “What, specifically, don’t you like about it?”

This simple question seems to disengage emotion and engage logic.  Once I get the other side, or my client, going through the document item by item, we can discuss options, concessions and counterproposals.  I put these in a letter to the other side and we can then focus only on the objections, which narrows the issues to be negotiated.