Negotiations are such an essential skill for general counsels that they cannot imagine their life without it. In reality, they are constantly negotiating, either with their clients or on behalf of their clients.
While negotiation comes naturally to some people, others have to master these skills with practice. One of the most common mistakes that most general counsels make is that they start negotiating instinctively.
To be successful and get what you need, you need to prepare yourself for all the possible scenarios so that you can have the upper hand in the deal.
To be able to do that, you also need to ace conflict management. After all, what is general counsel and their job if not for resolving disputes? Unless you can resolve conflict, you cannot move ahead in your negotiations.
What Is Negotiation?
Negotiation is the process in which the two parties lay down what they want and try to get a mutually agreeable resolution.
In simple terms, negotiation helps people reach an agreement when there is a dispute. At times, people prefer negotiations and out of court settlements as court proceedings can be stressful and expensive.
As the underlying issue is generally a dispute, the art of conflict management becomes essential for general counsels.
What Is Conflict Management?
It is the practice of identifying the cause of dispute and minimizing the negative outcomes of the conflict.
It also involves creating an awareness of why it needs to be resolved and prioritizing the positive results of the resolution.
How Can You Master Conflict Management?
Let’s look at a step-by-step process that can help you ace this art of resolving conflicts for the benefit of your clients.
The key to effective communication is active listening and resolving conflicts is no different. When you do not listen attentively, you do not understand what it is that is bothering the other party.
Perhaps they are under some pressure. There are also good chances that the other party is unnerved by something menial and appeasement of their ego is all that you need.
You can identify these hidden, between the lines signs only when you listen with more intent.
It will also introduce you to useful information that may help you negotiate effectively and add more valuable inputs to the process.
Decide Which Mode Of Negotiation You Are Going To Adopt
You will have to take a stance that supports the goals of your clients. To do so, you will have to collect all the factual information so that you are not caught unaware during the negotiation process.
There are broadly five modes of negotiations. You may be more inclined towards one, depending upon your personality. However, it is advisable to learn the tricks of the rest to deliver the desired result to your client.
- Competitive: There is a thin line between being aggressive and assertive.
- Avoiding: You want to avoid conflict at any cost. It will generally happen when your client is at fault.
- Cooperative: Your client is ready to cooperate and wants the best outcome for everyone involved.
- Collaborative: You agree to work with fellow co-defendants to get the best deal for everyone.
- Principled: You or your client have certain life principles that you are not ready to compromise.
- Accommodating: You are quick to consider the other party’s concerns and want to accommodate their requests.
- Compromising: Your client is ready to compromise for the sake of ending the conflict.
Try To Avoid Escalating Tensions
The answer to acing conflict management is by keeping your cool at all times. In a few scenarios, you will come across parties who are too stuck on insignificant details.
In such situations, even seasoned law professionals can lose track of the end goal and find temperatures soaring.
On other occasions, you may feel that your opponent takes an aggressive stance as soon as the negotiation process begins. At such times, you may want to take a similar stance, but that will only escalate tensions.
As a general counsel, you will often have to witness people who do not have their emotions under control. If a matter has brought them to an attorney, they are probably going through a distressing situation.
Apart from managing such sentiments, you must develop a thick skin so that they do not cloud your judgment. In-house legal professionals need to exhibit more practical traits to be more efficient at their job.
You will have to remember at all times that you are there to resolve the situation and not treat people.
At times, listening to emotions will help as you will get to know what it is that everyone wants. The key is to be empathetic and not lose sight of the goal.
Assess The Strengths And Weaknesses Of Your Case
Finally, you are in this situation because of your client’s needs. You cannot negotiate efficiently unless you know the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
With proper research and investigation, you will know whether you have the upper hand or your opposition.
It is also advisable to think of the possible outcomes that your rounds at the negotiation table can lead you to. As you do this, you will be more confident about managing the conflict.
- You want to draw your plan of action for all such scenarios. Discuss it with your client so that you can avoid blowing the matter out of control.
- If you have fewer chances of winning in the court, what is the best possible settlement for your client?
- What will you do if the negotiation breaks down or ends without agreement? Is going to the court an option for your client?
- What is the bottom line your client will settle for? It is the worst possible outcome that your client will accept.
The general counsel salary and reputation of the job are reasons enough for you to pursue this career.
To be successful in this role, you will need to demonstrate conflict management – an essential, indispensable skill in the field of law.
With the information given above, you can resolve disputes and stay on track during the negotiation process.
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