September 9, 2004

Where is the Love? For

Where is the Love?

For those of you who’ve yet to hear this outrageous voicemail message that has been whizzing around the internet for the past couple of weeks. The voice message purports to be from opposing counsel over comments made to a draft agreement. Give it a listen but I must warn you to close your door and be prepared for a few choice F-Bombs.

What’s up with this guy? Bad hair day? Last time I checked, ranting, raving, and threats to make the life of other side’s lawyer a “living hell” just isn’t on Dale Carnegie’s list.

For the purposes of this blog, let’s refer to this ranting, condescending, obnoxious, cocky-for-no-apparent-reason jerk, Terminator-Mini-Me as “A-H” (I’ll let you guess what that stands for).

Let’s get past the questions about his lack of civility and ask: Is A-H’s negotiating style effective?

Even assuming that the “ends-justify-the-means” camp is right (and that’s a HUGE assumption that I don’t necessarily agree with), I just don’t think that berating and intimidation is in his client’s best interests. In fact, I think A-H’s tactics virtually guarantee blowback – and even blow up. So my answer is “no.”

If you back someone into a corner, that person will most likely become entrenched in his or her position just to prove he’s right (or to piss you off). Lawyers are generally a competitive lot (as are our clients). We like to win. As such, the prospects for deal-gridlock are very high when egos go unchecked. A-H’s ego needed some checking. (I understand that A-H is a 7-8 year associate, what he really needed was parental supervision.)

In any event, my guess is that the deal maker’s ego has Sickle Cell Anemia qualities as the silent killer of many deals. I’ve been involved in one too many deals where the tipping point rested on keeping a lawyer’s ego in check.

We all have egos, so for the sake of your client’s deal, the $64K question is “how do you keep egos from killing your deal?” Your guess is as good as mine.

I note that a tactical show of anger may sometimes be effective but it’s dangerous in the wrong hands (I’m inclined to say that A-H’s hands are wrong).

On the other hand, did the recipient of message set A-H off by being condescending on the treatment of A-H’s comments. Did the recipient treat A-H like a stepchild by summarily dismissing A-H’s comments as trivial. So how does A-H look to his client when opposing counsel summarily rejects his intellectual work-of-art? Can you feel the onset of deal rigor mortis…?

Lastly, are “gentlemen dealmakers” going the way of the dinosaurs? I don’t think so. In fact, most of us can be (and are) professional and civil while still being strong, assertive advocates for our client’s interests.

So, being an “A-H” doesn’t make you a deal maker – in fact, it makes you a deal killer. As a senior partner told me a long time ago: At the end of the day, all you have is your reputation.