If anyone says they became a lawyer for reasons other than winning, please slap them straight in the face. Please slap especially hard those who say “I just want to help people” because, frankly, you can only help people if you are winning. Duh.
Right now the competition that I am aiming to win is a simple one: end the year with the largest settlement in the firm. Gaudy? Yes. Shallow? Absolutely. The only thing I care about? You had better believe it. The problem with going for this goal is that it pits you head to head with the partners. You know, the individuals who have been in the business for 30 years and the ones who can take away your chance to set the yearly record just because they feel like it.
Or they may have legitimate concerns that I may be in over my head. Not that I pay attention to these pesky things.
In preparation for settling a massive case, I actually do some real lawyer work. I consult with leading attorneys in the field (who always end up asking me to refer them the case), I research similar cases that have jury verdicts (“Hey this case is exactly on point, the Plaintiff’s attorney asked for five million dollars and they delivered a not guilty . . . shit.”) and then I do what every young attorney in my shoes does: panic.
That first attempt at settlement negotiations goes something like this:
Opposing counsel: At this point we’d like to extend an initial settlement offer—
Me: [Telling myself repeatedly not to show any emotion]
Opposing counsel: —and it is of such a magnitude that we believe we generously overcompensate your client for the injuries that he sustained.
Me: [MAINTAIN YOUR POKERFACE, NAMBY]
Opposing counsel: Here’s a breakdown of our offer. Please consider it and take it to your client.
Me: [Takes the piece of paper, reads it] I’ll have to discuss this matter with my client, and as soon as I have an answer for you, I will get back to you. Thank you for your time.
All the while my brain is thinking “HOLY EFFING SHIT MAN, THAT IS A SHITTON OF CASH”
When that initial figure goes on the table and it is three or four times larger than the biggest case you’ve ever settled, the first thought is to take the money and run. Yet, this would expose me for being the novice that I am and it would lead to opposing counsel asking something like “Don’t you need to talk to your client?” Both of these are bad developments in a high stakes game of poker so much so that either could impede my ability to break the firm’s settlement record for the year. Thus, I try and keep a calm demeanor (even though I am suffering from what only can be described as flop sweat) as I part ways from this meeting.
As I’ve already browbeaten the client into giving me settlement authority all I have to do is suck out as much as I can from the other side. Upon returning to the office, a phone call begins and the
con art of negotiation continues:
I had a chance to confer with my client and we’re just not there yet. He’s frankly insulted at the lowball offer you put on the table . . . .
Getting the largest settlement of the year for the firm is all about ego. And I’m okay with that.
Post image from Flickr