Negotiation. Is you attorney up for the task?
Clients expect that their attorney can negotiate on their behalf. Lawyers are in the trenches fighting on behalf of their clients, so it would make sense that attorneys know a thing or two about settling a case. Unfortunately this is not always true. Lawyers’ ability to resolve emotionally complex issues is all over the map. The ability to talk people through anger and frustration takes careful attention and professionalism. The skill necessary to resolve emotionally intense claims is not something that one just simply develops. It is a skill that can be learned with the right mindset and the right experience.
In the fall of 2015 the Harvard Negotiation Law Review published an article about how lawyer’s judgment can be improved by mediation training. I would encourage you to read this article. It can be reached at this link. Mediation training had a positive impact in attorneys because it helps them to address biases so that they are more honest with clients and more accurate in their advice. A basic question to ask an attorney at a consult is whether they selling confidence or accuracy in their advice?
Why does mediation training have a positive impact on attorneys? This is because the focus of mediation is to resolve claims. A lot of the training is infused with psychology and how people understand conflict. It is critical to have a family law attorney who has experience assisting parties in negotiating through divorce or custody fights. Often people in a family dispute are angry and want to hurt the other party in any way that they can. A lawyer should not simply take the emotional pain of a client and vent it against opposing parties. There is more to the practice of law then being the mouthpiece of despair. It takes an incredible amount of training and experience to step into a family fight and help parties put down their weapons and move on with their life.
What does negotiation theory have to do with mediation?
Quick answer is that negotiation theory provides the mindset that many mediators use to assist litigants. The Harvard Negotiation Project starting in 1981 with the seminal book Getting to Yes. Mediators help parties diagnose a conflict and educate them on how to move forward in improving the communication so that a claim can be resolved. Basically mediation is where adult education happens because the clients are given a clearer picture of the conflict and the attorneys get a clearer picture of the evidence and credibility of the parties. The mind shift that happens with clients is they often see the light and a way of moving forward. Not all cases settle in mediation so attorneys can help put together agreements where they have been reached.
Why is negotiation important in Family Law?
Family law is a cluster of rules that dictate how people should structure their lives moving forward with separation or divorce. As people move forward with this kind of litigation they often experience feelings of powerlessness and loss of control. That is because the parties are restructuring how their lives will be once the dust settles. The decision-makers in the fight are the parties themselves. Plus most times the parties in this dispute know how to push one another’s buttons. This is why an experienced attorney will have training in how to help calm parties down and keep them productive.
The majority of claims that are filed in family court are settled prior to trial. That means you and your attorney will experience the push and pull of legal settlement conferences. You want to be assured that your attorney has been through this process before and knows how to protect clients from being exploited. You will also want an attorney who has litigation experience and knows how to advocate on your behalf. Once the litigation has reached the trial stage the decision-maker is now the judge. The benefit to having a family law attorney trained in negotiation is they can be a better guide and advocate than those without this formal training.