Attorneys negotiate over the telephone all the time and there are some things that you and your client should consider if the parties are trying to work out an agreement. All the negotiating could be done over the phone or the parties may follow up from face to face negotiation or mediation.
Either way California Lawyer has some suggestions for communicating with others over the phone.
Tips for Negotiating Over the Phone
- You may dread talking to a particular attorney. Perhaps prior negotiations haven’t gone well, your negotiating styles are very different or maybe the person simply rubs you the wrong way. Your prior dealings with the attorney in the current or past cases affects what you’re doing in the present and how the other side responds to you. If that person calls it’s best to get it over with, take the bull by the horns and take the call. Be professional and try to make some headway. Repeatedly avoiding phone calls will send the message you’re trying to run and hide.
- Be cautious of committing to an informal offer or demand. That informal number could be used against you in further negotiations.
- Try to actively listen to what’s being said and how. In addition to the choice of words is the speaker particularly emotional? Is the person relaxed or nervous and maybe talking too fast? Repeat back what you’ve heard to make sure you understand the other party’s position.
- To do that don’t multi-task during the conversation. It’s not the time to read or emails or Twitter. Focus on the conversation, even if you take the call while you’re out of the office.
- Talk assertively and with confidence, but, like a negotiation in person, don’t use bluster and turn up the volume to try to bulldoze the person on the other end of the phone. You need to reach an agreement and you’ll probably make more progress by listening to the other party, asking about their needs and talking about how your proposal meets those needs.
- Be cordial so you won’t be the one whose calls other attorneys try to avoid. Try to be pleasant to talk to so the other party will relax and will want to take your call. You’re trying to solve a mutual problem, not to create new problems or worsen existing ones.
- Don’t be abrupt and try to be relaxed but keep an eye on the clock. Both of you have work to do and long calls can put a crimp in your productivity. Time literally is money for attorneys and their clients.
- If you’re taking the call out of the office be aware of your surroundings, think about what you say, to whom you’re talking to, who may hear it and if it may impact attorney-client privilege.
- If you’re talking to your client is he or she in the right frame of mind to hear the other side’s proposal? Are they focused on the conversation or busy with other things? If it’s not a good time to talk schedule a time when the both of you are available. The client needs to be open to discussing the case and open to compromise at least to some degree. A reminder that as much as your client has needs, so does the other side and to settle the case both sides need to have their needs at least partially addressed may help your client keep a more open mind.
Using the telephone can be a convenient, useful, time saving way to reach an agreement if used properly and, just as in face to face negotiations or mediation, the parties are in a position to give and take and communicate with each other professionally and effectively.