Notes on Negotiation: Dealing With Too Much Commitment

Notes on Negotiations
By Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute

“I feel so committed to my client that I have a really hard time being objective and analytical in my negotiations on their behalf,” a lawyer told me recently. “I really take things personally. What should I do?”

This issue, which can also impact those negotiating for themselves and is a reason some hire agents to negotiate for them, is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, it’s effective to empathize and deeply understand your clients’ needs and concerns. This level of commitment helps you communicate the depth of your clients’ interests. And your strong personal belief in these interests increases the likelihood your counterparts will accept them as true and sincere.

On the other hand, it can be harmful to the extent it prevents you from objectively analyzing the negotiation and clouds your judgment. It can also make it difficult to truly step into your counterparts’ shoes and fully appreciate their interests.

What should you do?

1: Develop a written strategic plan
While regular readers of my column will recognize this strategy – which I recommend in all significant negotiations – it’s especially crucial here. Why? Because writing down your strategies and tactics, and regularly reviewing them, helps keep you focused and limits the extent that you will get distracted by the depth of your personal feelings.

Assume you and your client evaluate your Plan B (or best alternative to a deal) as investing in a new plant and technology – which your expert estimates will put your client’s company at a value of $25 million. This would be instead of your client’s selling, your Plan A. And you write down your Plan B, a major element of your leverage, as part of your plan.

But you and your client get more and more emotionally committed to a sale the longer the negotiation lasts with a private equity group, to the point that your client seriously considers settling for $20 million. Reviewing your plan with your client would remind you of your leverage and counsel you to recommend that your client wait or push back and ask for more.

2: Take regular breaks
I recently attended a conference for academics in the conflict management field and spoke with an expert in how emotion impacts negotiations. He suggested that taking regular breaks during an in person negotiation – and reassessing your strategies then – is an effective way to address this challenge. I agree.

You might even take a walk during those breaks. A change of scenery and getting your blood flowing can help give you needed perspective.

3: Focus on standards
Finally, focusing on independent standards like a deal’s expected profitability, an expert’s market value assessment, or what your counterpart has included in similar deals (precedent) can ground your feelings and help you be more objective.

Such standards also depersonalize the negotiation environment and give you and your client a principled basis for your moves.

Internationally known social psychologist Robert Cialdini, the bestselling author of Influence: Science and Practice, concisely synthesized this in a recent conversation with me when he advised that you should pay particular attention to these standards and your written plan during your breaks.

Latz’s Lesson: The depth of your personal feelings in a negotiation can help or hurt you – so write down your critical strategies and take regular breaks to review them.


Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator, a Web-based software company that helps managers and negotiators more effectively negotiate and implement best practices based on the experts’ proven research.  He is also the author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want (St. Martin’s Press 2004). He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or

Marty will be Live In-Person here at the ICLEF Conference Facility, November 13. To learn more about Gain the Edge: Negotiation Strategies for Lawyers or to register, Click Here.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

Posted in Negotiation/Mediation Blog0 Comments

Law Tips: Pet Trusts – Client Friendly FAQ’s

Dogs, cats, parrots, and other pet animals play extremely significant roles in the lives of many individuals. Research indicates that pet ownership positively impacts the owner’s life by lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and depression, lowering the risk of heart disease, shortening the recovery time after a hospitalization, and improving concentration and mental attitude.1

The love owners have for their pets transcends death as documented by studies revealing that between 12% and 27% of pet owners include their pets in their wills. The popular media frequently reports cases that involve pet owners who have a strong desire to care for their beloved companions.2

Our Law Tips faculty participant, Professor Gerry Beyer, is here to share his professional insights into estate planning for pets. During his CLE instruction at the Midwest Estate, Tax and Business Planning Institute, he raises questions that often spring into a client’s mind when they begin to make provisions in their will for their pets’ care. Here’s a sample of Prof. Beyer’s “Client Friendly” Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a “pet trust”?
A pet trust is a legal technique you may use to be sure your pet receives proper care after you die or in the event of your disability.

How does a pet trust work?
You (the “settlor”) give your pet and enough money or other property to a trusted person or bank (the “trustee”) with the duty to make arrangements for the proper care of your pet according to your instructions. The trustee will deliver the pet to your designated caregiver (the “beneficiary”) and then use the property you transferred to the trust to pay for your pet’s expenses.

What are the main types of pet trusts?
There are two main types of pet trusts.

The first type, called a “traditional pet trust,” is effective in all states. You tell the trustee to help the person who is providing care to your pet after you die (the beneficiary) by paying for the pet’s expenses according to your directions as long as the beneficiary takes proper care of your pet. Many pet owners will prefer the traditional pet trust because it provides the pet owner with the ability to have tremendous control over the pet’s care.

The second type of pet trust, called a “statutory pet trust,” is authorized in almost 40 states. A statutory pet trust is a basic plan and does not require the pet owner to make as many decisions regarding the terms of the trust. The state law “fills in the gaps” and thus a simple provision in a will such as, “I leave $1,000 in trust for the care of my dog, Rover” may be effective.

How much property do I need to fund my pet trust?
You need to consider many factors in deciding how much money or other property to transfer to your pet trust. These factors include the type of animal, the animal’s life expectancy (especially important in case of long-lived animals), the standard of living you wish to provide for the animal, the need for potentially expensive medical treatment, and whether the trustee is to be paid for his or her services. Adequate funds should also be included to provide the animal with proper care, be it an animal-sitter or a professional boarding business, when the caretaker is on vacation, out-of-town on business, receiving care in a hospital, or is otherwise temporarily unable personally to provide for the animal.

The size of your estate must also be considered. If your estate is relatively large, you could transfer sufficient property so the trustee could make payments primarily from the income and use the principal only for emergencies. On the other hand, if your estate is small, you may wish to transfer a lesser amount and anticipate that the trustee will supplement trust income with principal invasions as necessary.

You should avoid transferring an unreasonably large amount of money or other property to your pet trust because such a gift is likely to encourage your heirs and beneficiaries to contest the trust. If the amount of property left to the trust is unreasonably large, the court may reduce the amount to what it considers to be a reasonable amount.

How do I fund my pet trust?
Direct transfers: If you create your trust while you are alive, you need to transfer money or other property to the trustee. You need to be certain to document the transfer and follow the appropriate steps based on the type of property. For example, If you create the trust in your will, you should include a provision in the property distribution section of your will that transfers both your pet and the assets to care for your pet to the trust. For example, “I leave [description of pet] and [amount of money and/or description of property] to the trustee, in trust, under the tenus of the [name of pet trust] created under Article [number] of this will.”

Pour over will provision: If you create your pet trust while you are alive, you may add property (a “pour over”) from your estate to the trust.

Life insurance: You may fund both inter vivos and testamentary pet trusts by naming the trustee of the trust, in trust, as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. This policy may be one you take out just to fund your pet trust or you may have a certain portion of an existing policy payable to your pet trust. This technique is particularly useful if you do not have or anticipate having sufficient property to transfer for your pet’s care.

Pay on death accounts, annuities, retirement plans, and other contracts: You may have money in the bank, an annuity, a retirement plan, or other contractual arrangement that permits you to name a person to receive the property after you die. You may use these assets to fund both inter vivos and testamentary trusts by naming the

trustee of your pet trust as the recipient of a designated portion or amount of these assets. There may be income tax consequences to your estate when retirement plans are used in this way.

Who should be the trustee of my pet trust?
The trustee needs to be an individual or corporation that you trust to manage your property prudently and make sure the beneficiary is doing a good job taking care of your pet. A family member or friend may be willing to take on these responsibilities at little or no cost. However, it may be a better choice to select a professional trustee or corporation that has experience in managing trusts even though a trustee fee will need to be paid.

In closing, Professor Beyer sums up thusly:
Estate planning provides a method to provide for those whom we want to comfort after we die and to those who have comforted us. It is not surprising that a pet owner often wants to assure that his or her trusted companion is well-cared for after the owner’s death. By using a properly constructed traditional trust or a statutory pet trust, you may carry out your client’s intent to protect his or her non-human family members.

  1.  See A Dog’s Life (or Cat ‘s) Could Benefit Your Own, SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, May 18, 1998, at lB (explaining how some insurance companies lower life insurance rates for older owners of pets).
  2.  See Anne R. Carey & Marcy E. Mullins, USA Snapshots- Man’s Best Friend?, USA TODAY, Dec. 2, 1999, at lB (12%); Elys A. McLean, USA Snapshots – Fat Cats-and Dogs, USA TODAY, June 28, 1993, at lD (27%); Vital Statistics, HEALTH, Oct. 1998, at 16 (18%).

Many thanks to Professor Beyer for sharing a glimpse inside pet trusts. You are invited to attend the 9.5-hour 42nd Annual Midwest Estate Tax & Business PlanningTM Institute by video replay in various locales around Indiana the next 90 days. Click here to choose your convenient date and place.


About our Law Tips faculty participant:
Professor Gerry W. Beyer joined the faculty of the Texas Tech University School of Law in June 2005 as the first holder of the Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professorship. Previously, Prof. Beyer taught at St. Mary’s University and has served as a visiting professor at several other law schools including Boston College, The Ohio State University, Southern Methodist University, the University of New Mexico, Santa Clara University, and La Trobe University (Australia). Prof. Beyer was the recipient of the 2012-2013 Outstanding Researcher Award from the Texas Tech School of Law. As a state and nationally recognized expert in estate planning, Prof. Beyer is a highly sought after lecturer.

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy Hurley has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We are utilizing her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook and Twitter pages, and other places her legal experience lends itself.

Thank you for reading Law Tips. You may subscribe to this weekly blog through the RSS link at the top of this page.  Also, you are encouraged to comment below or email Nancy. She welcomes your input as she continues to sift through the treasure trove of knowledge of our CLE faculty to share with you.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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Post-Secondary Educational Expenses is NOT Limited to Undergraduate Education

Case: In Re the Marriage of: David P. Allen v. Kimberly W. Allen (mem. dec.)
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

This is an unreported, memorandum decision. It is notable, however, because this panel of the Court of Appeals concluded that the statutory authority of a trial court to enter an order for “post-secondary educational expenses” is NOT limited to an undergraduate education. Specifically, here, the Court of Appeals rejected a mother’s argument that the trial court had no authority to issue an order for payment of the child’s graduate dental school expenses. In a footnote, the opinion suggests that an order for graduate school expenses should not be “routinely entered,” and that this case was unusual due to the significant net worth of the parents.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In Re the Marriage of: David P. Allen v. Kimberly W. Allen (mem. dec.)



James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas of Bingham Greenebaum Doll represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, a multidisciplinary law firm serving regional, national, and international clients, is the fourth-largest law firm in Indiana. The firm’s main practices include corporate, property, litigation, labor, government law, and personal services law. Visit the firm’s website at

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Amateur Life Coach Answers, “How do I Prepare for Trial?”

Amateur Life Coach Answers, “How do I Prepare for Trial?”

James J. Bell, ICLEF's Amateur Life Coach

The Amateur Life Coach (also known as attorney James J. Bell of Bingham Greenebaum Doll) is back to dispense his unique thoughts, advice and wisdom to his real and imagined viewers…

This week our question comes from Neurotic in New Albany….


Dear Lifecoach:

My first jury trial is coming up and I’m freaking out! What can I do to calm my nerves?

Neurotic in New Albany


Dear Neurotic:

Slow down, take a deep breath and follow these simple steps.

Step #1: Find the Root Cause of Your Anxiety
You may be feeling pressure because the Wise Old Attorney (WOA) just told you it’s your job to win the jury trial. Well, as shown below, it’s not.

And you shouldn’t listen to the WOA anyway. He desperately wants the world to view him as some sort of gladiator, so he hung a quote from General Patton on his office wall that says: “Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human can indulge. It brings out all that is best.” He constantly corners associates to spin various yarns about his trial battles. (For example, we’ve all heard on multiple occasions about the time when he caused a wee Irish geologist to admit on the stand that his blue diamonds were really just marshmallows. A Perry Mason moment indeed!)

There’s a reason they call war stories “stories” and there’s a really good reason the WOA ends his stories before he tells you about the jury’s verdict. And when was the last time you saw this supposed gladiator “gladiate?” Or step into a courtroom? Or even leave his office?

So disregard anything the WOA says on this topic. If the WOA wasn’t so interested in inter-firm marketing his “warrior” image, he would’ve put the second part of that Patton quote on the wall which says “All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty.”

So a little case of the nerves is natural and some extra adrenaline may be necessary, but “freaking out” helps no one. After all, there’s so much to figure out: opening statement, the direct examination of your client and the proper pronunciation of “voir dire.” So get out of the fetal position and get down to business.

Remember: you don’t deliver verdicts. Only judges and juries do. Your job is to put your client in the best position to obtain a verdict.

Step #2: Take Care of Things At Home Before You Prepare
Before you begin your final trial preparation, go ahead and apologize to your family. “Trial mode” is a little like Bill Bixbey turning into a muscular green monster and you shouldn’t wait until after you’ve gone all “Christian Bale” or “Bob Knight” or “Christian Bale as Bob Knight as The Dark Knight in Celebrity Meltdown” to apologize to your significant other or children. Give your loved ones a preemptive “I’m sorry” now and a gift that costs the same as three of your billable hours (per Martha Stewart).

Also, you need to get out of your house and down to the office. You might think it’ll be good for your family life if you work from home here and there over the course of the weekend. Wrong. The opposite is true. If you stay at home and try to play Uno with your 4 year old while you’re obsessing over what could go wrong at trial, your daughter will feel you’re ignoring her, have her feelings hurt and worst of all, you’ll forget to say “Uno” when you have one card left. It could cost you the game.

So leaving the house will help your family life. It will prevent you from ignoring your kids or growling at your spouse. It will be addition by subtraction and your family will thank you later.

Step #3: Prepare
Write out your closing argument first and then make sure that there is a piece of evidence that supports every argument. You probably think you know what you want to say in your closing, but until you put it on paper (or a computer screen) and look at what you are doing, your thoughts will not be succinct. You won’t be able to evaluate your arguments and see which ones really work. Bad arguments kill credibility. Discarding bad arguments (and therefore dropping the corresponding meaningless evidence) will help you become the organized, knowledgeable and therefore, credible lawyer you need to be at trial.

Once you get your argument written down, the rest is easy. (Well, easier.) Your voir dire and opening statement themes will be contained in the closing argument. And so will every question you wish to ask of a witness. If one of the other side’s witnesses testifies and it does not affect your closing argument, maybe this is a time to simply stand before the jury and show them that you’re not there to waste their time and say “no questions.”

And this is more tedious than it sounds. You’re going to have to review that entire file and pull your client’s story out of those dusty documents. This means wading through those dictionary-sized depositions you conducted a year ago and getting over the fact that you say “um” a lot.

Beware that as you study these depositions, you’ll realize that you’re not perfect and that you didn’t ask every deposition question perfectly. There will be small holes in your preparation. Don’t take this opportunity to freak out.

Fine. Go ahead and freak out. But just a little. This is a marathon, not a sprint. After three minutes of freaking out, get back to work.

Step #4: Exercise and Eat Right.
These are two things you must not do during trial. Your body may be a temple, but you’re in a court of law. That means you have to eat, drink, and (not) sleep this trial. Let the adrenaline course through your veins for the next five days and then rot inside your body for a month afterward, all in the name of justice. (Editor’s Note: The ALC is a juris doctor, not a medical doctor. Please consult with your primary care physician before eating or drinking a trial or letting anything rot inside your body.)

Step #5: Maintain Good Karma
Sometimes jury verdicts come down to something we can’t explain. I’ll just call it karma. Could the result of your case come down to karma? For your sake, let’s hope not. But it’s never too late to stop parking in the handicap parking space. Maybe you should leave a big tip for housekeeping at the hotel or make a donation to the SPCA so Sarah McLachlan will stop singing that song. That’s a win-win-win.

Step #6: Worry About Preparation, Not the Result.
The WOA once said that the three secrets to winning a trial were “Preparation! Preparation! And most importantly, Preparation!” That’s the only time the WOA got it right.

Trials are unpredictable. You can do everything right and still come up empty. Just remember that you didn’t pick the judge, you didn’t create the facts and you didn’t choose the jury. Well, you sort of did choose the jury, but you didn’t write the law. So stop sweating the many things at trial you can’t control.

And before you leave to the office to go to court, walk past the WOA’s office and enter Milk Toast Mary’s office. She has a quote on the wall from Mahatma Gandhi that says “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.” Milk Toast Mary may not be the best marketer, but she is smart.

You know your case, you have given “full effort” and you‘re ready to obtain “full victory.” Go get your evidence in, and make your best arguments. Trials can be fun, so don’t let self-doubt be the wet blanket that ruins the party.

I’m the Amateur Lifecoach and I hope this helps.


Now, you can also “like” the Amateur Life Coach at Facebook!  Visit his facebook account today and catch up on his day-to-day activities.

Questions for the Amateur Life Coach?  Email them to or @JamesJBell on Twitter.

Written and performed by James J. Bell. Produced by the Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum.
This video is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice.


James focuses his practice in the areas of criminal defense; attorney discipline defense and health care law. As a Marion County Public Defender, he represented clients in numerous jury and bench trials. James also represents clients in juvenile delinquency, appeals and post-conviction proceedings. James is a frequent ICLEF speaker on ethics, trial practice and criminal procedure. James just completed his first semester as an adjunct professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law where he teaches a course on professional responsibility. To date, no student has yet stood on their desk and shouted “Oh captain, my captain!” Follow James on Twitter @jamesjbell

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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