Are You an Effective Negotiator?

In law, negotiations between parties can end in a win-win for both sides or they can break down and leave your client further from their objective. It’s a delicate dance that requires a clear understanding or your client’s needs and desires as well as those of the opposing party.

A recent NW Sidebar posts highlights these tips for negotiating effectively:

  • Adopt a negotiator’s mindset
  • Prepare yourself mentally
  • Stay focused on your client’s goals
  • Practice total awareness
  • Be honest
  • Know when to stop
  • Confirm agreements

Read the full post here.

Before the Beginning

You can’t focus on your client’s goals if you don’t know what they are. Negotiation is a serious subject. If possible, meet with your client in person. Be open to what the client has to say, but be prepared to curb his expectations.

  • If there are boundaries you feel you can’t cross, speak up.
  • Identify and verify lienholders and others who may have third-party rights to settlement proceeds.
  • Compile your costs to date (and likely future costs).
  • Use this information to discuss the difference between gross and net settlement values. Give concrete examples.
  • Allow the client time to think even if it appears you’ve come to a mutual understanding about how to proceed.

During Negotiation

During negotiation, keep the client informed. Technically, it may not be necessary so long as you are operating within your settlement authority.  However, keeping the client involved will give her a better picture of the overall process.

Remember: the ultimate decision to settle is the client’s, not yours.

After Negotiation

Don’t stop at confirming agreements with opposing counsel. Confirm the client’s consent to settle in writing! Let the client know the likely ETA of the settlement proceeds and what the disbursement process will involve (for example, waiting for a check to clear). Provide a written settlement accounting. A sample settlement accounting and checklist is available on the PLF website. Select Practice Management > Forms > Litigation.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2018

 

The Link Between Clutter and Stress

Why do we accumulate clutter?

  • Does it fuel our creativity?
  • Do possessions make us feel successful?  Or safe?
  • Make us look busy and important?
  • Are we too emotionally attached to weed out what we no longer need or use?
  • Are we hoping that someday our stuff will be worth a lot of money?
  • Or because we paid a lot of money for our stuff, it’s too good to get rid of?

In an extensive four-year study, UCLA researchers documented the debilitating effects of clutter on our mood and self-esteem. The greater the clutter, the more stress and anxiety we feel. This is especially true for women.

Tackling stress

There are many excellent articles on how to declutter. Start with these steps from Simplemost and HouseLogic. For ideas on managing stress, see the March 2017 issue of InSight. Read the article Stress Management: How to Reduce, Prevent, and Cope with Stress and download the associated Stress Management Self-Help Checklist and Stress Relief Toolbox. Don’t hesitate to contact an attorney counselor at the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP). The OAAP can give you guidance on how to develop your own stress management program using deep relaxation, meditation, time management, and other proven stress-reducing techniques. Best of all, contacting the OAAP is free and confidential.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2018

Engagement Letters Are Your Friend

Today, I’d like to share a recent post from our friends at NW Sidebar about the importance of engagement letters.

In Cox v. Alliant Insurance Services, Inc., 2017 WL 4640452 (E.D. Wash. Sept. 19, 2017) (unpublished), the plaintiffs sought to disqualify the opposing law firm based on a conflict of interest. One of the plaintiffs argued that he was a former client of the firm on a substantially related matter, necessitating the law firm’s withdrawal.

The plaintiff’s contact with the firm was as a representative for a corporation.  In concluding that no attorney-client relationship existed between the plaintiff and the law firm, the court relied on two key points:

  • The law firm and corporation executed a written engagement agreement that identified the corporation (and not the individual) as the client in the matter.
  • The plaintiff failed to introduce contradictory evidence, i.e., he could not point to any communication or action by the firm which expanded the attorney-client relationship to include him individually as a client.

Read the full post here.

Lessons Learned

As we discussed in the CLE, Limiting Exposure to Conflicts, identifying your client and clarifying the client’s status (prospect, current client, or former client) is paramount to conflict screening and limiting your potential liability. The single best tool at your disposal? Written engagement, disengagement, and nonengagement letters – all of which are available at the Professional Liability Fund website.

But the law firm in Cox didn’t stop at the engagement letter. Firm members were also consistent in their actions toward the corporate representative. There was no evidence of emails, correspondence, or other communication supporting that the corporate representative was an individual client of the firm.

The moral of the story? A solid engagement letter is a small investment to make in the realm of thwarting conflicts and liability. Even better: maintaining consistency in your corporate communications.

All Rights Reserved 2018 – Beverly Michaelis

 

 

Path to Lawyer Well-Being

A recording of the October 2017 ABA CLE webinar, “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change,” is now available to view, free of charge. The webinar featured the report of the same name issued by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being which presents a series of recommendations directed at a variety of […]

via Free Recording of “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being” Webinar Now Available — CoLAP Cafe

Tackling Lawyer Debt

Money is a significant stressor in many people’s lives. Student loan and credit card debt can feel overwhelming, even paralyzing. Here are some resources that can help.

Student loan debt

In a recent guest post on Legal Ease, Andrew Josuweit of Student Loan Hero shared three solutions to ease the burden of student loan debt:

Start the process of tackling student loan debt by checking out the resources published by the Oregon New Lawyer Division. All three Oregon law schools offer a Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) for their recent graduates. If you attended law school out-of-state, check with your law school to see if they offer their own LRAP. You may also be eligible for the Oregon State Bar’s LRAP program.

For an overview of this topic, check out Navigating Student Loan Repayment Options, a free CLE available on the Professional Liability Fund website.

Credit card debt

If you are struggling to chip away at your credit card debt, consider whether a balance transfer is right for you. In theory, a balance transfer credit card allows you swap out your high-rate card for a cheaper card, paying off your original balance. Nerdwallet recently published a list of the best balance transfer cards for 2018. Terms vary widely, so do your homework. But all in all, the Nerdwallet list seems to include some good deals:

  • Discover – No annual fee, 0% interest on purchases for 6 months and 0% on balance transfers for 18 months, rewards rate 1.00%
  • Citi Diamond – No annual fee, 0% on purchases for 12 months and 0% on balance transfers for 21 months
  • Chase Freedom – No annual fee, 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, rewards rate 1.00%

For the pros and cons of pursuing a zero percent balance transfer, see this post.

Know your spending habits

Establish a system to track personal income and expenses. Free budget templates are available from Office 365, Mint, or these sourcesQuicken Deluxe is another good solution: cheap, easy to use, and a great value.

Speaking of budgets, have one. Each month, compare your actual income and expenses to the amounts you projected. If you see yourself going astray, make a mid-year course correction.

Be ready to make tough decisions and a few sacrifices to cut back on spending.

Managing the stress

Money management isn’t easy, and being in debt is stressful. But you are not alone. If you don’t know where to start, reach out to the attorney counselors at the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP). They are supportive and can point you in the right direction. Help is free and confidential: 503-226-1057 or toll-free in Oregon 800-321-6227.

For an uplifting account of how one lawyer survived law school debt, read this article from the September 2017 issue of InSight, the OAAP publication.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis