Many lawyers around the world have a perception of American lawyers as being tough, bull dog negotiators and litigators. Some may even be a little bit intimidated at the thought of having to go into a meeting with an American lawyer or law firm to negotiate a tough deal, especially when their English is not “perfect.” Below are a few tips to help you level the negotiating field:
1. First, remember that these are people, just like you, and they too have their fears and insecurities.
2. Remember that your English is probably a lot better than their French (or German, Russian, Arabic or whatever your primary language happens to be)
3. Good preparation is critical. You have to do your homework. You cannot be under-prepared and expect to exude confidence.
4. Americans, by and large, like to close deals. If they are in the room conducting the negotiation it is because they want to make something happen. So if the deal is good, chances are there will be a meeting of the minds and a contract will be signed. So don’t worry so much. Instead focus on having a win-win outcome.
5. Try to have the negotiation talks in a neutral place. If it is at their office, they already have a psychological advantage. There are times when there are no other options but on their turf. In that case go ahead and have it on their turf. But you have to prepare yourself psychologically. One way to do that is to be the first to make an offer. And make it the most minimally acceptable deal possible without being totally unreasonable. Right away you put them on the defensive; and you control the initial conversations.
6. Never conduct serious negotiations on the telephone or via email. Face to face human contact is always better because you can see all the non-verbal cues.
7. Be dispassionate, goal oriented and un-emotional. Stick to the facts. Do not bring up past issues if this is someone you have negotiated with before. This meeting is about this deal only. Don’t get into personality clashes and past grudges and current fears. Focus on the object of the negotiation and be sure to steer the talks back to the object of negotiation if the other side gets side-tracked.
8. Don’t let yourself be played; at the same time you should not play games either.
9. Do not budge from your “go to hell number.” Be prepared to end negotiation talks if the other side clearly is not serious or if the other side’s offer is clearly unreasonable and unrealistic.
10. Insist on certain ground rules. For example, there really is no place for name-calling and personal insults in a business negotiation between business people.