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From Confrontation to Negotiation: MU Law Professor Promotes Benefits of Early Negotiation

March 28, 2011

Story Contact(s):
Nathan Hurst, hurstn@missouri.edu, 573-882-6217

By Kate McIntyre

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— A University of Missouri expert on alternative dispute resolution says the legal system is generally seen as a quagmire of arguments, paperwork and exorbitant bills, which can be frustrating to everyone involved.  John Lande, Isidor Loeb Professor at the MU School of Law, offers advice about making the settlement process more efficient and less stressful for lawyers and clients alike in his new book, “Lawyering with Planned Early Negotiation: How You Can Get Good Results for Clients and Make Money.”

John Lande, Isidor Loeb Professor at the MU School of Law

“A large proportion of cases never go to trial,” Lande said. “Most are settled late and in an unplanned, disorganized manner that’s less than ideal,” said Lande, who is also the Director of the Master of Laws program in Dispute Resolution at MU. “Planned early negotiation focuses on building good professional relationships with clients and opposing lawyers to help clients more efficiently.”

Lande says that Planned Early Negotiation (PEN) is a new approach to negotiation that focuses on building good, professional relationships with clients and opposing lawyers to help clients resolve disputes more efficiently. He says it is designed to avoid many of the unproductive games in the legal practice.

Lande believes that with PEN, lawyers serve clients’ interests by planning to negotiate from the very beginning of a case. Lande says litigation is still possible if parties can not settle their dispute, but it isn’t the first step.

“I’m convinced that most lawyers want to do the best for their clients “Lande said. “Unfortunately, they’re trained to avoid suggesting negotiation because they’re afraid it makes their cases seem weak. They are trapped  in a prison of fear that does a disservice to clients who could benefit from negotiating early in the case rather than waiting to settle hastily on the courthouse steps. My book suggests ways that lawyers and clients can escape from this prison of fear.”

Lande’s recommendations are based on his research on mediation and cooperative and collaborative practice. He suggests that lawyers should take the initiative to jointly manage the negotiation process from the beginning. This involves exchanging the information they need to settle rather than waiting to respond to courts or mediators.

PEN is not appropriate in every case, Lande says, but it offers lawyers a way to satisfy their clients and make money by using their time more economically, possibly by using an alternative billing system. He believes many clients are ambivalent about the traditional hourly billing system and that alternative billing systems can reduce some of their financial anxiety while providing incentives for lawyers to work efficiently.

The American Bar Association published the book, which includes a CD with numerous practical forms for lawyers. For more information, visit http://www.law.missouri.edu/lande/index.htm

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