While we believe in exploring opportunities for alternative dispute resolution in our cases, often we do need to litigate (proceed with court process) for one reason or another.
Litigation IS an adversarial process. Still, even in litigation we prefer to reduce conflict rather than escalate it.
One way to do that is as simple as a phone call.
Too often attorneys overuse the tactics of bullying – making demands and issuing threats. A simple phone call to the other attorney to introduce myself, ask questions, and really listen to the answers can go a long way to reduce tension, to signal that we can work with each other for the good of both clients.
I remember the day when one of our attorneys said to me “You know that attorney I was dreading calling? Guess who I just turned into my new best friend!”
The purpose of such a call is not as an opening salvo, but to start things off on a different foot. I let the attorney know that I would like to learn more about their client – what they are like, what their fears and concerns are, what things are most important to them.
I do this so that when it comes time to negotiate, I can make more productive proposals.
If I understand what kinds of proposals would address the other client’s greatest concerns, there is a better chance of reaching agreement.
This means getting past their positions (I want to keep the house) to their motivations (I fear disrupting our child’s life by moving them to a new school).
With this greater understanding of the other client’s motivations, I may be able to make suggestions that address their concerns even if in a different way than they envisioned (what if we helped your client get into more affordable housing in the same neighborhood).