For most lawyers, negotiating is their least favorite part of the job. They’d much rather get wrist-deep in eDiscovery as soon as possible. But of course, all of the uncomfortable back-and-forth of a contract has to be hammered out before any legal work can be performed.
So, the question is: How can you make the negotiation process totally simple for both you and the client?
1. Haggle — a little bit. Believe it or not, studies have shown that people actually feel better about the contract when there’s a little push and pull over the terms. In fact, most people are disappointed when the first price/contract is immediately agreed upon — even when the original is in their favor. Consider it this way: Say you throw out a dollar amount, and the client agrees to it right away. You’ll likely be left wondering whether you could have gotten even more for your time.
2. Manage your expectations. Contract lawyers who have few or low expectations going into a negotiation often wind up being happier with the end result. A perfect example: Pretend you have two car shoppers at a dealership looking at the same car. One wants to buy it for $21,000, and the other only wants to spend $19,000. When they both end up paying $20,000, only the first shopper will be happy with his price.
3. Watch your emotions. Negotiations can be stressful, and negative emotions will only make them harder. Keep track of how you’re feeling during the conversation, and do whatever it takes to keep from growing upset or angry. It’s also a good idea to mind your body language; balling your fists or crossing your arms makes you appear aggressive or defiant. In addition, watch for negative emotions on the other side of the table. If necessary, use humor to diffuse tense moments.
4. Handle the easy parts first. There’s a lot of ground to cover in any contract. To build up momentum early, take care of the simpler sections, like deadlines for tasks, early on. Not only will this get the process humming, it’ll also reveal what the top priorities are for both sides.
5. Make several offers simultaneously. If you have a good idea of what the client wants, make several offers at once. This has a couple benefits. First, having choices is empowering. Second, it creates a good starting point for a conversation because the client will start pointing out what is most important to him or her.