Reading the comments to a post on negotiation on Ken Adams's drafting blog (one of which made the point that lawyers are trained to argue, not to negotiate), got me thinking about the differences between argument and negotiation. It is quite true that lawyers often confuse the two. I have to admit that I sometimes have trouble letting go of an argument myself, and sometimes forget that arguments that are not carefully attuned to their audience have a tendency to annoy rather than persuade. I was pegged as an attorney from my childhood because I love to argue, and I still enjoy getting into a heated political debate, or hammering home a point in a brief or in front of a judge. When we lawyers indulge in our natural desire to argue to the exclusion of other skills that are essential to negotiation, however, we can create unnecessary antagonisms, and make it harder to achieve an agreement. Even in litigation, argument for argument's sake can be counter-productive: we can draw a distinction between arguments that are designed to be persuasive, and arguments that only get the speaker worked up, while doing nothing to move the listener. Unfortunately, too much of litigation consists of argument for argument's sake. If only we could follow the advice of that great trial lawyer Abraham Lincoln, who suggested that we should never quarrel.
(Asier Ibanez photo for Google Earth)