The focus of dispute resolution is, just as it says, achieving a resolution. That means that negotiating, manoeuvring and strategising on behalf of clients are key attributes of most “litigators”. Those skills also enable us to help clients conducting highly tactical discussions in non-litigious situations.
My recent negotiation of a client’s multi-million pound contract to develop new technologies eventually came down to the details of a single clause (the limitation of liability clause – as is often the case!). The various strategies we employed to resolve those last remaining issues got me thinking about exactly what it takes to be efficient and successful in negotiations, particularly where the contractual relationship in question has vast potential in relation to the development and exploitation of Information Technology and Intellectual Property.
Here are my tips for negotiating and getting those most important contracts ‘across the line’:
- Maintain your focus – remember exactly what it is you want and identify your best route towards achieving those outcomes. There is always a bigger picture so try not to get hung up on tactical point scoring but do know your limits and where you can (or should!) compromise.
- Anticipate, plan and react – consider what the other side is thinking, and why. Understanding their rationale makes it easier to challenge their logic, and, ultimately, to persuade them.
- Understand your bargaining position –be realistic about what you can and cannot expect to achieve in negotiations, but don’t underestimate the value of your goods and services to the customer – as we say in the north east, “shy bairns get nowt” – ask the question, in the right way and at the right time.
- Timing – is there strategic merit in holding something back (perhaps an additional ‘sweetener’ or an area for further compromise), which could bring additional rewards later in the negotiation process?
- Management – time pressures, personalities, aims and the all-important documents should be carefully managed. Understanding and appealing to particular personalities can help you make real progress.
- A fresh pair of eyes – Interpretations differs so speaking to a colleague or peer and putting some wording before them can make all of the difference. Indeed, the legal profession probably wouldn’t exist if everyone read everything in the same way!
- Alternatives – make sure you regularly review your stance on any perceived ‘deal breakers’. Is there another way of achieving what you want? If they are truly deal breakers, hold firm but consider other potential areas for compromise.
- Change the contacts? Might getting different, trusted parties involved be a good idea? A different voice, tone or approach can make a big difference.
- Is it all about the money? Well, yes, usually! But are there other aspects you could use to your advantage in negotiations – could you offer some non-monetary added value in one area that enables you to make progress in others?
With quality advice and some careful strategic thinking, there is always a resolution to be found.
For more information on any of the above, or how we can help your business, please contact Lucy Gray, or call 0191 232 8345.