Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
-- John F. Kennedy
The best way to negotiate a settlement is to be prepared to go to trial and fight. However, if you’re afraid of going to trial, that fear will manifest in the negotiations and adversely affect the way you settle a case.
I once prosecuted an employment case against the City of New York. Despite some liability problems, the damages if we surmounted the liability issues were enormous – our expert had calculated a number upwards of $1 million. The City had only offered $90,000 to settle, and wouldn’t go higher.
I was not afraid to turn down the City’s offer because I had the knowledge of how to try a case. I knew how to present evidence, and more importantly, I knew how to keep out evidence harmful to my case. I knew how to set my case up for trial, and how to prepare the groundwork far in advance of trial.
Most importantly, I had confidence that I was smarter and more persuasive than my City adversary would be. That confidence came not just from natural intelligence but from advanced preparation and strong trial skills. And so I answered ready and we were sent out to pick a jury.
I was sitting with my adversary, awaiting a jury pool, for about 30 minutes. Neither of us had said anything. Suddenly, out of the blue, my adversary turned to me and said in a panicked voice, “What are you doing? Don’t you want to settle this case?”
I answered, “Sure. But not for $90,000.”
The City’s lawyer said, “Well, what do you want?”
I was not prepared for the panic in her voice, and to this day I could kick myself for not supplying a higher number. But I was relatively new to private practice and the civil law field, so I said without thinking, “I need at least a quarter of a million dollars.”
The lawyer disappeared, I assume made a phone call, and came back in 10 minutes with an offer of $250,000.00. Which I sheepishly accepted since it was what I had asked for!
Because I was unafraid to try the case, and was actually mentally set for trial, that confidence communicated itself loudly to the attorney for the City. And my client got a substantial settlement without having to worry about her weaknesses on the witness stand.
It’s been said in many ways. Fear is your enemy, and fear comes from a lack of confidence in your case and in yourself. Confidence drives success. Let us at TSI help you develop the skills that will give you the confidence not just to try cases, but to settle them successfully.