Under what circumstances does it make sense to hire a lawyer to help you prepare for a negotiation?  Smart businesspeople know that those who are the most prepared for a negotiation typically achieve the best outcome.  Hiring a lawyer to prepare for a negotiation – whether mediation, arbitration, or an informal face-to-face meeting – positions you to achieve the best possible outcome, should improve the odds of a successful outcome which may save hundreds of dollars in future legal fees.

Key negotiation preparation services a lawyer can provide:

  • Evaluate BATNA, the “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement”.  Your attorney will evaluate the facts the way a judge, arbitrator or hearing officer would.  He or she will give you an honest evaluation of the risks and likely outcome you’re facing if the negotiation fails to produce the results you’re hoping for.
  • Understand What Law Applies.  As mentioned in our previous post, most parties to a contract don’t understand what laws and precedents apply which might make part of the contract unenforceable.  Your attorney knows what law applies to your situation, and will make sure your position is as strong as possible going into the negotiation.
  • Watch Deadlines.  Often important rights or negotiating leverage are lost when parties miss deadlines.  Your attorney always looks for legal and contractual deadlines that you may have overlooked, to make sure you don’t accidentally lose important rights by missing deadlines or failing to give or file required notices while the negotiation moves ahead.
  • Prepare a List of Deal Points.  The devil is in the details.  In the heat of a tough negotiation, parties can lose track of, and fail to reach agreement on, small but critical deal points.  When that happens, too often you have to go back to the negotiating table and give something else up in order to finalize the deal.  Your attorney can prepare a checklist of all important deal points, so that once you’ve reached agreement, it’s really done.
  • Strategize.  Experienced corporate attorneys have handled negotiations with issues like yours many times before.  That means they can give you a significant advantage in negotiation by suggesting the best strategy to close the deal.  Attorneys understand what the real issues are and the most significant points of leverage.
  • Be Impartial.  Your attorney can be impartial and help you spot and avoid emotional pitfalls that could hurt you when negotiating.  Unfortunately, parties getting ready to negotiate are usually emotional about the issue.  When emotion is involved it may cloud your judgment and result in a loss of leverage or missed opportunity to settle.  For example, when negotiating an exciting new business deal, parties can become so excited about the potential for future success that they don’t insist on important deal points to protect their interests.  Or, when there’s been a breach of contract or poor performance, the parties may be so upset with each other they want to achieve a “win/lose” outcome – which by definition generally doesn’t happen in negotiation. 

Even if you don’t hire an attorney to actually participate in the negotiation, mediation or arbitration, consulting with your attorney in advance will position you to succeed.  Please contact our Business Law Group partner, David A. Closson at [email protected] if you would like to discuss your upcoming negotiation.

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