Mason Hayes Solicitors

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Litigation Skills

 

Being involved in a litigation team really makes you appreciate the art of negotiation. This month I had the opportunity to attend a without prejudice meeting on behalf of a corporate client. Prior to the meeting I was involved in discussions surrounding the merits of the claim and the appropriate approach to take in the meeting.

The claim in question was a professional negligence case. When a dispute of this nature arises, it is important to bear in mind any personal concerns that your client may have arising from the dispute but ultimately it is the role of the litigator to provide independent and objective advice.

Many people perceive disputes within the law to be a case of one person being in the right and the other person being in the wrong. Unfortunately, a vast majority of cases are not as black and white as this and many different aspects need to be considered. One of the most important skills of a litigator in my experience so far is being able to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of your client’s case and advise accordingly.

Negotiation skills cannot be taught in a classroom. During my training contract I have been given the opportunity to attend meetings such as this one and witness the skills of experienced negotiators. I have learnt that the ability to read and deal with people is paramount and that first impressions are very important as you do not want to be starting off on the back foot!

It is very possible that something unforeseen could arise in the course of a meeting like this which could throw your intended arguments off track. It can sometimes be very difficult not to become panicked and unnerved in these situations. The best way to deal with this is to stay calm and keep the meeting focussed on reaching a solution for all of the parties involved.

It is also important that you are seen to be united with your client and that you work together towards the same outcome. This is why it is often very useful to have a meeting with your client prior to the negotiations to ensure that you are both on the same page and that you both have the same end goal in mind. If this is not the case then an opponent may seize the opportunity to exploit the differences in opinion and try to drive a wedge between you for their own gains.

Finally, as with all matters of this nature, the lawyer must have commercial sense. Virtually every commercial dispute comes down to money and it is therefore important to keep this at the forefront of the negotiations. If you become too engrossed in complicated legal arguments you run the risk of the meeting becoming a mini trial rather than a sensible commercial discussion regarding settlement.

Luckily for us the meeting I attended did reach a conclusion and provided a positive outcome for our client.

Until next month,

Kimberley

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