The Negotiator Magazine

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Maintain Your Negotiation Skills

By Charles B. Craver

Lawyers and business people negotiate constantly both in their private lives and in their professional lives. They negotiate with spouses, children, friends, acquaintances, and many others in their personal lives. They also negotiate regularly at work – even when they don’t realize they are negotiating. They interact with their own colleagues – then with prospective clients and current clients. They also conduct bargaining interactions with outside parties on behalf of their clients.

Most attorneys and managers have not had negotiation courses. For many years, most law schools and business schools refused to offer such skills courses. In recent years, most schools have added negotiation courses to their alternative dispute resolution curricula, but these tend to be limited enrollment classes that are only taken by a few students. Public and private professional development groups try to fill this void through half-day and full-day negotiation programs, but most attorneys and business people prefer to obtain their professional development credits through more traditional courses. As a result, the vast majority of lawyers and managers have not received any training in the most significant skill they use every day.

Most individuals prepare for negotiations by gathering the factual, legal, economic, and political information they think they need. They usually spend hours or even days on this task. How much time does the typical person spend on their negotiation strategy? Usually about ten to fifteen minutes! When they commence bargaining encounters, most negotiators only have three things in mind directly relevant to their negotiation strategy: (1) where they plan to begin; (2) where they hope to end up; and (3) their bottom lines. In between their starting point and the conclusion of their interactions, they wing it, thinking of their encounters as wholly unstructured. They fail to appreciate how structured negotiation interactions are, and they fail to have a detailed plan that will guide them through the different stages of the bargaining process.

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May 2006