December 8, 2019

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The Art of Negotiating: A Guide for New Associates


Negotiation is the process by which two parties with different goals try to reach agreement on an optimal course of action. Negotiating is an interactive communication process that may take place whenever we want something from someone else, or another person wants something from us. One of the best tactics to use in preparing for negotiation is either the open-ended question or close-ended question.

Types of Questions to ask

Open-ended questions work best when you are trying to build a relationship and gain information. It is the “who, what, where, when, why and how questions.” These type of questions can be used to uncover your counterpart explicit and implicit needs. The closed-ended question gives you the “yes or no answers.” These should be used when you are trying to gain a concession or confirm a deal point. Whatever your opponent’s biggest strength is, be it charm, physical strength, connections, intelligence, or knowledge, use that same attribute or quality to constitutes his/her weakness. Keep that in mind to win your negotiations.

For proper negotiations, time should be spent to make sure all relevant questions are asked and answered before subsequent steps are taken. By remaining in control of the agenda, you can speed up or slow down the negotiation process and the sequence in which issues are discussed and resolved. This is one of the most challenging tasks of any attorney engaged in a critical negotiation.

Characteristics of a Good Negotiator

Understanding and using deadlines and controlling the agenda properly may help you win in negotiations. The opponent will always try to pressure you to do more in less time in an attempt to convince you that taking additional time is irrelevant.

Many attributes go into making a skillful negotiator, including such things as having a good memory, being ‘quick verbally,’ and handling stress well. But effectiveness is as much a matter of attitude as it is of ability. Until there is an offer on the table, focus on selling your skills and experience and avoid discussing any expectations if at all possible. Of course, remaining professional, respectful and committed to pursuing a mutually acceptable agreement throughout negotiations is critical. Staying gracious and reasonable improves your negotiation stance and maintains the relationship which is essential whether the negotiation ends up well or not.

The best negotiators exhibit four key habits of thought that everyone, regardless of their style, can adapt to improve their negotiation results:

• Willingness to prepare
• High expectations
• The patience to listen
• Commitment to personal integrity

Without lines of communication, there can be no negotiation. Therefore, this rule is essential: Lines of communication are the life-blood of a negotiation.

To ease the stress of negotiating and improve the chances for a favorable result, establish rapport with your opponent, and build on that foundation. This is especially important in cases where the parties will have a long-term relationship after closure. To negotiate well, you do not need to be tricky. But it helps to be alert and prudent.

The best negotiators play it straight, ask a lot of questions, listen carefully, and concentrate on what they and the other party are trying to accomplish at the bargaining table. Evaluate your leverage and the other party’s leverage at the outset. This is important because there may be some things you can do to improve your advantage or diminish the hold of the other side.

You need to determine early on if your opponents are going to be cooperative; if not, consider employing a mediator as soon as possible.

Note* If you don’t know who Robert Greene is, I recommend looking him up and reading his book to really master your skills. 


The goal of an effective negotiator is to have expectations that are high enough to present a real challenge but realistic-enough to promote good working relationships. If you are a cooperative person, raise your expectations.

These three criteria may fairly judge any method of negotiation: It should produce a wise agreement. It should be efficient, and it should improve or at least not damage the relationship between the parties.

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About this Author

Jaliz Maldonado, Practice Panther Miami Legal Marketing and Law Office Management author

Jaliz Maldonado is an eight-year Army Veteran and is currently in graduate school at the University of Miami where she is studying for her MBA. When she's not working at PracticePanther as the Operations Manager or studying, she's hanging out with her English Bulldog named Dumbell, painting, or reading. Jaliz is also strong with the force and belongs to House Slytherin. Make sure to connect with her via Linkedin and follow her on twitter @JalizMaldonado.