This article appears courtesy of the University of Calgary Law Negotiation Club.
University of Calgary Law Students attempted to negotiate a settlement between an insurance company and a personal injury law firm. This action-packed practical event took place on the evening of Thursday, Oct 11, 2018. The mock fact pattern that the students were arguing this year was particularly intriguing since there was no common ground, or “ZOPA” (zone of possible agreement), where the two sides could feel like they were entering a win-win scenario. As a direct result of the problem being more challenging than anticipated, many students resorted to creative negotiating techniques. These creative techniques included walking away to discuss new strategies with a team member or agreeing on small points and facing off on the harder points from a myriad of different directions. It was a fantastic battle of wills.
Litwiniuk & Company observed the students’ dealings and offered words of wisdom after the mock negotiations were concluded. They shared advice on how to present a case in the best possible light. They also discussed the importance of keeping expectations reasonable. The upper boundaries for a personal injury settlement are defined by the Supreme Court of Canada in previous case law. Main takeaways for students were:
- Negotiated settlements are predominantly used to settle disputes in personal injury law because they frequently result in more money going to the injured parties, and usually resolve more quickly than litigation.
- The Calgary legal community is small and collegial and therefore it is important to always conduct yourself with the utmost professionalism. The Litwiniuk lawyers reminded students to resist the urge to mock or deride the opposing team’s offer because you will likely meet again on a different case.
- If opposing counsel is extending a reasonable offer, reciprocating that courtesy by engaging in a discussion of what parts of the offer you agree with or accept, and then share the reasons why you are unsatisfied with the other parts.
- Negotiations are less stressful if you do your homework. Know your client and know what is important to them!
- Knowing when to concede a point is just as important as knowing when to stand your ground.
- Negotiating is a creative art that every lawyer should continually hone.
Litwiniuk & Company has shone a guiding light for another group of aspiring lawyers. By investing in the students of today they continue to make a positive impact on the lawyers of tomorrow. Learning negotiation skills from some of the most gifted practitioners in the city is a fabulous opportunity.
Thanks for giving us a chance to test our negotiation skills Litwiniuk & Company!