No matter what stage of your studies you’re at, reading about negotiation is a smart idea. You also need to practice your negotiation skills regularly, even at the start of your legal studies. Each day you should focus on conversations where you listen to others whilst actively developing your own points of view and working to get the results you want.
The importance of negotiation
Negotiation has always fascinated me as an alternative solution to litigation and the day-to-day challenges we all face. Sometimes problems can be resolved through discussion, other times you may need to rely on your own powers of persuasion to overcome a problem. No matter what you do in life, having good negotiation skills will help. Personally, I think if you know how to negotiate you will be a good lawyer. Everyone will remember you and will give you a good opinion because you will be able to sort things out without being aggressive or forcing your ideas on others.
You also need to remember that once you start your studies, everyone will see your performance. People will see your strengths and weaknesses, and they may even comment. For a career in law you want negotiation skills to be one of your strengths. Negotiations skills will help you to build up the attitude you need to successfully negotiate conversations, deals and contract agreements.
Inspiration can come from many places and it’s easy to teach yourself the basics. There are lots of good websites including those run by Harvard University and Coursera, where you can look for information and find short seminars to start you off. Personally, I love one of the famous and the best negotiators in the world William Ury. I watch his seminars and have read his books: “Getting to yes with yourself”, “Getting to yes”, “The power of positive no”, “Getting dispute resolved”.
It is important not to be passive about your learning and, instead, to take an action and be more involved – just as our tutors of core subjects recommend, even at the very beginning with your legal studies! Tutors too, can help you to refine your skills such as when you try to convince them of your approach to a piece of work or when they challenge you on a subject matter via phone call or when you are exchanging emails.
Aside from tutors, plenty of other professionals may be able to offer good advice – it’s important to not be shy and to reach out to them! As I got deeper into my research, I got in touch with an international lawyer who was involved in an international negotiation competition.
After a few emails, he connected me with his co-worker who was taking a part in international competition who recommended a book that helped him to prepare. The book is titled Legal Negotiation in a nutshell, by Larry Teply. It is excellent; I recommend it to anyone studying law or looking for very specific text on the subject. It sets out a variety of situations and very clear explains what happens during the negotiation processes in each context. This may seem simple but sometimes it’s not that obvious– for instance in legal negotiation we can see cooperative vs. competitive styles. Teply also provides additional information, including statistics. I simply love this book! Since the first time I read it, I have come back to it again and again. It even helped me to feel more confident in approaching my annual review and with managers at work. I can whole-heartedly say that it is worth reading because afterwards, you will be prepared for any important conversation.
Networking and competing
Attending an international negotiation competition is another way to find helpful contacts. Having done so myself, I met advisers who were kind, supportive and had lots of experience. They saw my enthusiasm and that I am very serious about perusing my interests. It is good to not be shy, to ask as many questions as you need to and to use every possible opportunity to build up your confidence and your legal negotiation skills.
The next step, after developing more subject knowledge, is simply to go further. When you feel you are ready you can start to implement your skills professionally. The results will speak for themselves and all of your preparation will be worth it in the end. Colleagues and tutors will notice the difference, and your approach to talking, discussing and presenting will change. Others may even take you as an example to try and emulate you and your approach, no matter what you do now, better negotiation skills will benefit you now and in your future legal career.
Like me, you can also consider taking a part in a negotiation competition. I haven’t competed yet but I know that doing so will be an opportunity to learn from my peers, build up relationships, network and be more involved in the depth of the subject. Competitions also give you the opportunity to gain international experience and the chance to work on the important matters with world-class peers.
Anna Augustyn – OULS News Reporter
Image credit: Mohamed Sabra