In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

Negotiation Tips From Harvard

Every lawyer is a negotiator, and most have a story to go with it.

Like Jackie, who was working for a financial instituion when she received a job offer from a bank to work in-house. It was for more than she expected, but she was still looking at a pay cut.

"She went in asking for 20K more; they countered at 18K more than the initial offer, and she accepted!" Forbes related, adding, "Simply asking works." It's one of many stories and tips on how to negotiate. Beyond that, Harvard offers a valuable checklist to consider:

The Harvard Checklist

Douglas Stone, a lecturer in Harvard Law School's Program on Negotiation, says good negotiation takes preparation. He insists lawyers need to prepare by considering five fundamentals:

  • Interests (what each party wants, and why)
  • Options (creative ideas for how both sides might get their interests met)
  • Criteria of Fairness (what standards can both parties identify as a fair deal)
  • BATNA (best alternative to negotiated agreement)

Of course, it wouldn't be Harvard if it weren't a little more complicated than that. The program includes a 32-step checklist.

Stone advises reading all of it before any "potentially conflict-ridden negotiation." You can do that here (because this is a blog, not a law school class).

"Five Golden Rules"

There used to be one Golden Rule, but since the lawyers got involved now there are Five Golden Rules of Negotiation. At least Marty Latz, a consultant an author, didn't make it 32. He says:

  • Information is Power -- So Get It!
  • Maximize Your Leverage
  • Employ "Fair" Objective Criteria
  • Design an Offer-Concession Strategy
  • Control the Agenda

From the sidelines, a third party might see some tips more useful than others. That could be a mediator if the negotiators fail.

Sharrolyn Miles, writing for the ABA Journal, says lawyers need to "relinquish a certain amount of control" in mediation. That's not really a negotiating tip, just another attorney's perspective.

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