If you are represented by an attorney, it is very likely the lawyer is performing some sort of negotiation on your behalf. That negotiation may be a plea deal in a criminal case, a money settlement in a civil matter, or specific terms and conditions in a professional discipline setting, contract, or employment agreement. In any case, it is unlikely that the negotiations will look anything like they do on television or in the movies.

Will my lawyer fight for me?

Yes, absolutely. Your lawyer should be ready and able to zealously advocate for you. But not every “fight” requires loud arguments or forceful language. Some cases very well could, but others could be quite reasoned and smooth. Usually how a negotiation proceeds is based upon the type of matter and sometimes opposing counsel. If your lawyer has experience with opposing counsel this can be quite helpful for deciding what to present and how to present it to have the best impact on the negotiations.

Why can’t my lawyer get exactly what I asked for?

Sometimes, as with any negotiation or compromise, we must balance what is less important in exchange for other things more important to us. It is important to explain to your lawyer what is most important to you, so your lawyer can do whatever possible to achieve your goals.

Why is my case not falling “somewhere in the middle” of the negotiations?

Many clients expect the lawyers to offer very little, or demand a whole lot, and then after a certain period, both sides will meet in the middle. This is not impossible, but contrary to what you may expect, this is rare. When negotiating in good faith, many times lawyers will make demands or give good faith offers and will then justify the demand. In such a case, the lawyer may very well be giving a best-offer or close-to-best, and no matter what the other side tries to do, sometimes an opposing party draws a “line in the sand”. In these cases, it is important to know your own bottom line, so that you can decide whether to accept or reject the offer, and what this means for you.

How will my lawyer negotiate for me?

Depending on the circumstances, your lawyer may do so in writing, over email, by phone calls or text messages, and in person. Sometimes it is  a combination of all of those. Negotiations happen formally and informally many times over the length of a case and some may be as quick as the exchange of a document for later review, to an hours long meeting at one of the attorney’s offices. While the complexity of the case often dictates how much negotiating needs to occur, sometimes if one side is quite motivated to negotiate favorable terms, things can resolve faster than anticipated.

Your lawyer wants to humanize you, and not simply make negotiations about the facts of the case. You have lived a life that no one else has, and your unique traits should be emphasized. It is quite possible that something special about you resonates with the opposing counsel.

How quickly will my lawyer negotiate?

Depending on your case, your lawyer may wish to push negotiations to happen quickly, while other times it may be beneficial to delay these discussions. For example, if you are injured and need payment sooner rather than later, you may have the opportunity to do that, in exchange for perhaps slightly less payments overall. On the other hand, if you are injured and still actively seeking treatment, your personal injury lawyer will likely recommend that negotiations be delayed until after it becomes clear what the long-term consequences of your injuries will be. In the criminal context, your criminal defense lawyer may urge you to take a class, or complete community service before he or she initiates negotiations. Most importantly, every case is unique and whether it makes since to start negotiations sooner or later is a conversation you should have with your lawyer.

Will I be with my lawyer during negotiations?

Not usually. Often negotiations are done between the lawyers, which is one of the reasons you hired them. You could be quite emotional about your case, as anyone would expect you to be, and you also rely on your attorneys training in the law and experience in handling these cases and the negotiations. However, depending on the case, your lawyer may be presenting lengthy written negotiations and advocacy on your behalf. In those cases, it is quite common for you to be sent a copy of that correspondence and may even be asked to review information before it is formally submitted on your behalf.

Every client is different, and some may wish to be more engaged during negotiations, while others want to be completely out of it other than reviewing the offers being made. Be up front with your lawyer about your expectations so that he or she can do what they can to meet those requests.