I’ve practiced law for over fourteen years. I’m a Senior Trial Attorney. I ague motions, I conduct depositions, I try cases and I negotiate. Negotiating is at the heart of everything I do as an attorney and I’ve learned a lot about it. Everyone negotiates whether they’re a lawyer or not. So settle in and I’ll tell you some of what I’ve learned about negotiating and getting what you want.
Know your bottom line
This is the most important thing to be aware of when you’re negotiating — your bottom line. Know what you want and what boundary you won’t circumvent. What is the number, the condition, the line that under no conditions will you cross? It’s always best to have this decided for yourself internally before you begin the negotiation. Sometimes this number is decided for you by your boss, your manager, your spouse, your kid whatever. Wherever you get this line, I highly suggest that you not go into a negotiation without having this figured out. Why? Because you could get bullied into an agreement then find out later after the dust has cleared that you’ve compromised something vital.
Knowing your bottom line will also tell you when a negotiation is a waste of time. There are times I’ve begun a negotiation, the opposing side will tell me their initial position and it’s so far off from my bottom line I can tell that there’s no point in continuing discussions. This is great news. I mean, sure it sucks from a resolution standpoint but at least I don’t waste precious hours or weeks attempting to resolve something that could never resolve.
Know your opponent
You need to know what kind of person you’re negotiating with. Not just like are they shady or trustworthy but also do they have the power or are they a puppet? So, in most negotiations the person doing the talking isn’t the person who has the authority. From a legal perspective, the attorney in court sometimes has the authority to negotiate, to offer or accept a number but usually they’re not the real person in power. The person who really has the power is the person the attorney calls from the hallway in court. That person is the one who really decides what’s up. Make sure you know who that is and what they care about.