In the course of a court case, a legal counsel representing either the plaintiff or the defendant may enter into negotiations with the opposing counsel in order to come to an agreement rather than a court decision. Negotiations under these circumstances are referred to as legal negotiations. The goal of legal negotiations is to bargain over each counsel’s weaknesses and strengths in order to obtain a resolution amenable to both litigants.
There are several steps in a legal negotiation, the first being the preparation stage wherein a legal counsel must have thorough knowledge of his or her litigant’s case as well as the opposing counsel’s case. During this preparation stage, the legal counsel establishes a goal that he or she aspires to achieve during the course of the negotiations. The second stage is the preliminary stage wherein both counsels and litigants meet to establish the tone of the negotiations, whether it will be hostile or friendly and anything in between. The information stage is the third stage where each counsel ascertains the opposing counsel’s needs in order to ascertain what settlements can be reached. The competitive or distributive stage involves the active pursuing of each counsel’s respective goals in light of the information stage. Each legal counsel will usually focus on what can be achieved given that the opposing counsel has revealed what it wants during the information stage. The closing stage occurs when each party is now committed to pursuing what it can have or achieve. The last stage is the cooperative or integrative stage wherein both parties have now come to terms with a settlement and an agreement is signed by both parties, thus binding each party to what was agreed to.