11 Negotiation Tips for Contract Solicitors & Lawyers

Contract negotiation can be fierce, with both sides wanting to come out on top. But with the right approach it’s possible to consistently succeed in negotiation and dispute resolution, while at the same time preserving important relationships. Read on for ten powerful negotiation tips which can help you get the amendments and the results you desire.
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Male and female lawyer making amendments to a contract in a mediation process

What is Legal Negotiation?

The negotiation process is a legal practice in which two opposing parties try to compromise with one another to reach an agreement and avoid further dispute. This process usually involves two parties sending revised legal documents back and forth until both parties agree to one another’s amendments. This may sound like a fairly simple task, but there is a fine art to negotiation that should not be overlooked. Here are 11 negotiation tips to help you get the results you seek.


1. Recognise that information is key

Even the finest negotiation skills will falter if you are not acting from a position of knowledge, so you should aim to gather as much pertinent information as possible prior to the negotiation. In addition to assimilating all possible information regarding the contract or matter being negotiated, you should know your client’s goals and interests and understand what they want from the negotiation, and what they are willing to lose. The same can be said about their opponent, you should know what options they have and understand how to put pressure upon them.

2. Aim high – give yourself plenty of room to move
If you expect more, you’ll get more. By aiming high you will be guiding the negotiation in your favour and are more likely to get what you want. This will work in either position, if you are selling you should ask for more money or if you are buying you should ask them to reduce the price.

3. Make it clear how the other side’s needs are being met
If your opposition is well aware of how their needs have been met they will be more willing to return the favour. Of course, this doesn’t mean giving them everything they want. You only have to adhere to their basic needs and can refuse their extensive demands, however, as long as keep reminding them of their basic needs that have been granted, then surely there will be no reason for them to not cooperate.

4. Don’t miss the finer details
When contracts have been through multiple revisions – some comprehensive, some minor – it can be easy to miss the small changes, but very perilous to do so. Your best option is to use imaging software that will compare two versions of the same document side by side and highlight any changes.

5. Try to second guess your opponent
As mentioned previously, you should discuss settlement parameters and walk-away positions with your client in advance. Also, evaluate any potential issues you may have in your case and how you could work around them. Make sure you are always thinking on your feet and be prepared to change tactic if your approach isn’t working.

6. Don’t give anything away for free
If give something away without getting anything in return it will feel too ‘easy’ for the opponent and they will be inclined to ask for more. If you make it difficult to for them to get something out of you they will be more aware of the compromise, and in reference to number 3, will feel like their needs are being met.

7. Always have the upper hand
Be willing to walk away: your poker-like resolve may force them to make concessions. You should also be willing to take the conflict resolution to court (if the odds are in your favour). In reality, 95% of litigation matters settle, but you should show the opposing counsel that you mean business.

8. Be direct with your client
You should be open and honest, even if your advice includes something that your client does not want to hear. It is best practice to be upfront from the outset and manage their expectations.

9. Don’t rush
It’s important to keep control of the agenda to maintain authority, and that means controlling the pace. Tell your opponent if you need more time to consider their proposal, otherwise you can put yourself in danger of slipping up. If the other party sets unrealistic deadlines it is well within your right to negotiate with them and rearrange a more manageable schedule.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification
If you don’t understand something or you’re unclear, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask for clarification. If you don’t agree, ask to discuss the point.

11. Stay focused
During any contract negotiation or dispute resolution, it’s important to keep to simple facts and focus on moving issues towards solutions, while remaining professional at all times. Even if your opponent is a difficult character, don’t let this distract you. Focus on the case rather than their bad behaviour and get the job done without any drama.

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