You don't need a law degree to just say no all the time

19 Oct 14

When I was a young law firm associate back in the day, I was second chair on a complex, lucrative (for our client) and acrimonious technology/patent license negotiation. We were holed up in a conference room with buyer's counsel, in the dead of a typical brutal Colorado winter, groping our way towards final agreement. The legal negotiations were excruciating. We were the smaller party going up against a huge computer manufacturer, and the buyer's counsel, on the junior side of the experience scale, simply kept repeating the same mantra that corporate policy forbids any flexibility, even on what clearly should be uncontentious points.
My boss (senior partner at my firm) eventually lost his patience -- but never lost his cool. I can hear his words to this day: 

I’m not asking you to accept any particular language. I’m asking you to just … (starts smiling), just …  listen, you know, negotiate, just … help us come up with a solution. Don't just say no to everything. That’s not in the interest of your client.

You don’t need a law degree to just say no all the time.

From this moment, progress was noticeably swifter. In fact, buyer's counsel surprisingly came into his own; he started to get into it, and became a positive force for the deal. He won huge kudos from his boss for helping the parties reach quick agreement.