Why do so many lawyers believe that negotiation is innate or just a matter of learning a few well-worn aphorisms like “Never make the first offer”; or, even worse, they simply fake it?

Negotiation is a skill.

Like any skill, anyone can improve with study and practice.

Like any skill, improvement is possible, but “perfection” is not.

Since all but a handful of litigators negotiate and settle exponentially more cases than they take to trial, you would think that improving negotiation skills would have center stage at many state seminars.

As we all know, that is not the case.

Law schools have only recently recognized these truths and added courses in negotiation to their curricula.

The Bar has been slower to respond.

Improving negotiation skills not only affects the experience of the litigants; it affects the efficiency of our system of justice.

If we can improve, and that makes such good sense, how do we do it?

My concept may be best explained by what it is not: IT IS NOT ANOTHER SEMINAR.

I believe that the best learning experiences come from interactive discussion groups where there is no particular “expert” lecturing to the rest of us.

My concept is simple: a study group in which the participants of the group will determine all of the aspects of group progress: what to study, how best to learn, where to meet, how often to meet, and so on.

The only given is that the mission of the group will be to study negotiation and discuss how negotiation skills can be improved.

I introduced this concept to the Dallas Bar Association ADR Section earlier this year.

Currently, three groups are active: an early-bird group (7:30 a.m.), a lunch group, and an evening group.

Each group meets twice a month at the venue of its choice.

An experienced attorney-mediator facilitates each group.

Every group has its own personality.

Typically, each group has a book that it studies.

But, groups also do role-plays, discuss cases, and, best I can tell, have a good time.

If you are interested in joining a group or starting one, please contact me at [email protected].

Negotiation is a skill.

Master it!