One of the most valuable skills an in-house lawyer brings to a company is the ability to negotiate. In-house lawyers negotiate contracts, M&A transactions, litigation resolution, government/regulator inquiries, internal squabbles, and a host of other issues. While negotiation is an important skill, it is rarely – or poorly – taught in law school (certainly here in the USA). Meaning, unless you were fortunate enough to learn negotiation skills while employed at a law firm (and I’d wager that it is hit and miss whether your law firm truly spend time teaching negotiation skills), your ability to negotiate is largely self-taught. Some of us get by on instinct and natural ability, some of us flounder a good bit, sometimes doing a great job, sometimes not.
I am a self-taught negotiator, picking up bits and pieces of good and bad advice along the way. I have negotiated a large number of contracts and settlements in many different countries and I supervised those that did as well (learning as much from that process as being in the room). One thing I learned for sure was that regardless of where you fall on the continuum of negotiation skills, there is always room for improvement. As usual, there are some core things you need to know and understand in order to develop or improve your skills in this area. This edition of Ten Things will discuss how to negotiate: