Negotiating Tips From A Country Lawyer
Today's advice on how to bargain like a pro comes courtesy of Mr. Knowledgeable Consultant, who violated the following cardinal rules during our negotiations this afternoon:
- When introducing yourself to a negotiating partner with whom you do not intend to form a social acquaintance, particularly if that person represents a party whose interests are hostile to your own, do not inform him that you earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University, and are well-versed in the law, unless this information is actually relevant to the dispute. Since your opponent probably only attended a state university, he may be a dumb brute too thick to appreciate your educational attainments.
- In general, never tell anyone that you are well-versed in the law, even if you are an attorney. But most especially, do not do this when you are not an attorney.
- If you must violate tips 1 and 2, do not boast of being well-versed in the law when you are not, in fact, well-versed in the law, especially as it relates to the subject matter of the negotiation.
- Do not "name-drop" famous friends like Gerry Spence, unless you believe that there is a high probability that Mr. Spence or his like will actually intervene on your behalf. Better still, if Mr. Spence is willing to intervene for you, let him make the introduction by himself.
- If you must violate tip 4, make sure that the attorneys whom you believe to be famous, are in fact famous. And for that matter that they practice in fields relevant to the subject matter of the negotiation. And in the state where the dispute arose.
- Never tell adverse parties, or their lawyers, that you are a "knowledgeable consultant," when in fact your field of knowledge and consultation is irrelevant to the dispute.
- When arguing about why the bill you refuse to pay is unreasonable, bear in mind that in certain businesses "hours" actually means "man-hours," and that in those businesses it is indeed possible to bill more than 24 hours in a day, Mr. Knowledgeable Consultant.
- Keep the subject matter of the negotiation in mind at all times. Do not veer off onto tangents such as the destruction of the Pentagon during the September 11, 2001 attacks.
- Assume that the party with whom you are negotiating is himself knowledgeable, or act as though you do. Do not ask your negotiating party whether he knows how the Pentagon sustained structural damage.
- When negotiating, do not engage in ad hominem attacks. For instance, never complain to a lawyer that his client is an anti-semite and a homophobe, unless this is somehow of importance to the subject of your negotiation. Do not inform the lawyer that "there are limits to free speech," and that "we have hate crime laws," when what you're negotiating about is that you refused to pay a bill for grading and paving surfaces.
If you must violate these rules, bear in mind that the opposing party may advise his client to settle for 100% of the bill, waiving only interest, rather than for 60% as the client originally planned. And you will look like a fool when you agree to pay that.
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