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What Is Your Style?

You catch more flies with honey.

On my third or fourth date with my wife, I asked her why she was so incessantly positive. I was 23, determined to be a lawyer or investigative reporter, and being so pleasant just seemed unrealistic to me, if not phony.

She looked at me, and smiled, and said “You catch more flies with honey!”

A few months after that, we broke up; five years later, she married someone else, who she divorced, and then started going out with me another 5 years down the road, and…..Well, we’re losing the basic story line here.

The important thing is, she was right. And still is. You get more done when you can get the decisionmaker on your side.

How do you do that? Scaring him can certainly make him see why he might want to agree with you. But fear also puts his self esteem on the line. And could easily make him dislike you.

He is being paid not to agree with you. Every time you make him think that you are in a war with him, you make it harder for him to agree with you.

When I talk with an adjuster or attorney on the other side, I try not to turn things into a “one-upmanship” contest. I try to avoid insulting him. If I have bad things to say about his side of the case, I avoid making them personal. If my cases is strong enough, I concede obvious points – I think it makes me look stronger if I am obviously being truthful about things that hurt me.

And really, I don’t do enough in this regard. I should laugh at all of my opponent’s jokes, and do everything I can to make him feel good about his relationship with me. I don’t do that all the time, but I try.

Do I concede anything important that I plan to dispute? No. And I make it a point to be honest about the shortcomings in his arguments and facts.

And I do use fear liberally, because it is an important motivator. If the facts are there, I point out that the jury is not going to be amused by whatever fabrications I can find in his side of the case.

I talk about obvious lies that his client is telling, about the fact that the jury will learn about his client’s insurance (if it will), or about the fact that his client is a large corporation from out of state.

Sometimes – depending on who is on the other side – if I think he or she is difficult to deal with, I conscientiously avoid using negatives in an email.

In short, I talk about anything that I think will make a jury think that it ought to award a large verdict against his insured. I might even talk about how he is being unreasonable in his approach.

The fear that I use is his fear that my taking the lawsuit to court will result in a threat to his job because he offered less than he thought I might get from a jury, a threat to his insured (who caused the accident) because I will get a judgment greater than the policy limits, and – in the best of lawsuits – a fear that, by honestly telling the jury what happened, I will get the jury to give me more than I am asking him for.

But I try as hard as I can to treat him with personal dignity. And not to make him feel that my motive is to frighten him into making an irrational decision. Really, I am trying to make him see that there is a reasonable chance that his decision could be very bad for his side of the case.

Am I perfect at this? Absolutely not. A couple weeks ago I yelled at an adjuster who tried to take my client’s statement without letting her explain why his insured was liable. My secretary has been nice enough to point out when I get involved in a macho contest with opposing counsel. I have yelled at other attorneys for being unreasonable, and I have made it clear to a judge that I was unwilling to go along with the other lawyer’s reasonable proposal for settling the case, and why.

I love writing motions where I can detail – material – facts that demonstrate that the other side is trying to be unreasonable. Distrust breeds distrust, and I am not that much better than anyone else when provoked.

But in general, I pride myself on keeping my cool, and in being nice to people. If I don’t like what the adjuster is saying, and I think another set of eyes will see the case differently, I file suit so an attorney will get involved. If I don’t think the lawyer gets it, I try to talk him into going to mediation, where a mediator can evaluate the lawsuit.

Does honey always work? Never as well as I like. But It’s easier to get the other side to make a reasonable offer when they think you will recommend a fair offer to your client. And people tend to think good things about people they like.

And it’s easier to get a judge to rule your way when you have a reputation for being reasonable. And if you stay on good terms with the other side, a lot of the time you can figure out a reasonable procedure for getting a case resolved that is better and faster than a trial – and maybe that involves less risk than a trial.

All trial lawyers find it necessary to be a junkyard dog once in a while. But often as not, it’s either a last resort or an act, designed to persuade someone other than the person who is really making the most important decision.

Like my wife says – more flies with honey!!!!

If you are still reading this, you might want to consider talking with me, a Cincinnati Personal Injury Lawyer. I’d love to talk with you about this, and even more about your lawsuit.

Other lawyers refer their clients to me. My phone is 513-621-4775. And if you decide you‘d rather hire someone else, that’s OK.

Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed. All discussions are limited to Ohio law unless otherwise indicated. And past performance cannot be used to predict future results.

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