Before going to court

Given the high costs and risks of litigation, it usually pays for parties engaged in dispute resolution to try hard to reach a settlement before taking their dispute to court, according to Harvard Law School professor Robert H. Mnookin.

Here are five strategies from Mnookin to help you and your lawyers turn disputes into deals:

Dispute Resolution Strategy 1: Explore the possibility of engaging in a formal dispute-resolution process such as mediation before going to court.

Dispute Resolution Strategy 2: Identify and express your myriad interests in the dispute, including those that are not financial, and encourage the other side to do the same.

For example, if you feel wronged, you might ask for a formal apology or evidence that the other party is taking steps to correct its mistakes.

Dispute Resolution Strategy 3: Ask your lawyers to systematically predict the outcome of a possible court case through decision-analysis tools such as decision trees.

Such analyses often make it crystal clear that a negotiated settlement would be a far less risky and costly option for dispute resolution.

Dispute Resolution Strategy 4: Open up to your lawyer about all of your interests and concerns, including those that are personal and emotional.

Too often, clients allow their lawyers to focus exclusively on financial claims—and unwittingly narrow the possibilities for a negotiated settlement.

Dispute Resolution Strategy 5: Align your interests with your lawyer’s through the use of ultimatums and incentives.

For example, you might promise your lawyer a financial bonus if she settles the case in a timely manner.

Which dispute resolution strategies did you find helpful?

PMN covers those strategies #1-5 in our negotiation and mediation training course.

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