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Author: Jacqui Brauman

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Starting Your Negotiations for a Better Chance of Settling

How do you start up negotiations, so that it starts better, and you’ve got a better chance of settling your dispute? 

No matter what the dispute is about, we want to get it resolved earlier, rather than later.

The longer the dispute runs, the more likely the conflict spirals out of control to the point where you’re basically at war with the other party. This does not give you a good chance of settling.

Lawyers have their place is a dispute, and understanding your legal rights and the process if you can’t resolve it is important. However, if you go to a lawyer and you find out your legal position, and then you entrench into that position, it may not be the best way to try to settle the matter. 

If you push towards a settlement that sticks to a certain percentage, or aligns with your legal rights, you may cause the other party to also entrench into the opposite position.

The best way to try and settle the matter is actually to work out what you want. 

What you want is not based on your legal rights, but what outcome you want from this. 

Does there have to be a working relationship with the other party moving forward? What are your underlying interests to having this resolved? What do you need moving forward? Sometimes you might need some guidance in working that out.

What a good lawyer will do is actually explain all your different options, which is what you want to know. You want to know your different options and the different processes about how to proceed.

Finding some alternative dispute resolution as early as possible is one of the better ways to start negotiations. 

Is there some community mediation centre that you can help resolve your matter without having lawyers involved? There are private mediators that you can use, which would cost a fraction of what the legal fees would be if you took it legal. 

Having an understanding of your options is really important so that you can approach a dispute and resolving that dispute in a way that means you’re more likely to settle it, than inflaming it and making it take longer to resolve than it needs to.

5-part video series so you can learn how to find and hire the right lawyer

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Conflict styles

Before going into some kind of negotiation or dispute settlement, whether you’re doing it yourself or whether you’ve got a lawyer representing you, it would be really interesting for you to learn what your natural conflict style is. 

So there’s been a couple of little tools put out there where you can do a quiz or a questionnaire to find out your natural conflict style. 

Quite often it’s put on an X-Y axis where the X axis is how assertive you are, and the Y axis is how much you value a relationship. 

conflict styles

We want to be sort of in the middle of that scenario, or as far out to being assertive and valuing the other person as possible, because we want both. We want to retain the relationship if possible, or some kind of working relationship, but we also want to assert what our rights are.

So, if, for example, if you’re not assertive and you don’t care about the relationship, then you’re going to have an avoidant conflict style, and you’re pretty much going to go, “Well, I don’t really care.” You’ll walk away; you’re not going to fight for your own rights, and you’re not going to care about the other person either. 

If you care deeply about the relationship, but you don’t value your own needs very much, you’re going to have a more accommodating style. So you’re going to pretty much let them get what they want just for the sake of keeping the relationship. 

So the avoidant and accommodating styles are typically the conflict styles, that women take, primarily because we are conditioned to keep other people happy when we’re raised as children.

However, it doesn’t mean we can’t learn to be otherwise, or to consciously develop some skills to bring us into a more collaborative style. A compromising or collaborative conflict style means that we equally value and assert what we want, but also value the other person.

So, conflict styles are really interesting, and knowing yours can help you learn the skills to get more of what you want. 

I do a lot more training on this in my course about learning how to negotiate to get what you want, which is in my Legally Wise Women community.

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Gender bias in the legal industry

*Sigh* (Another blog by a woman complaining about gender bias.)

Yes! Of course! Well, nothing much has changed since the first studies into this bias in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Except that we know more about it! And we know that if female lawyers, and female expert witnesses face bias, then how is a normal woman going to navigate resolving an issue without facing bias?

Karen Engstrom, another blogger, wrote a great article that I’m going to repeat a lot of it for you, because there has also been some interesting research that female lawyers actually do better than men!:

What female lawyers who are trying to help you are up against

In addition to lower pay and opportunities for advancement, female lawyers (and particularly those who are also minorities) are more likely than their male counterparts:

  • To be interrupted;
  • To be mistaken for non-lawyers, including custodial staff, administrative staff or court personnel, even after making partner at their firms;
  • To do more office housework, such as meeting scheduling and party planning, and even cleaning up food after a meeting; and
  • To have less access to prime assignments.

I too have been mistaken for administrative staff and I recall my frustration. When my male partner inadvertently drove to the wrong location for a meeting that he had scheduled at our office, his guest arrived and was quite insistent that I must have botched the calendar entry for my partner. It offered me minor solace that he felt quite embarrassed when I informed him that I was not my partner’s administrative assistant.

Gender bias seems even more unfair in the courtroom itself where double standards abound. A 2018 study conducted by Arizona State University dissected perceptions of six trial lawyers, three male and three female, as they reenacted an aggressive closing argument from a real court case. Participants in the study described the male lawyers as “commanding, powerful, competent, and hirable” while the females were found to be “shrill, hysterical, grating, and ineffective.” Unfortunately, since the courtroom is a venue where results are inherently driven by a judge and jury’s perceptions, female lawyers are often left to face the reality of such perceptions and adapt accordingly.

What a female expert witness is up against

The necessity to adapt to biased perceptions is not limited to lawyers, but extends to expert witnesses as well. An astounding 83% of expert witnesses retained are male. Bloomberg BNA reported in August 2017:

  • Gender bias in the legal profession isn’t new. Its pernicious reach spreads everywhere.
  • But nowhere is it more pronounced than among the ranks of female expert witnesses who must surmount multiple layers of ingrained stereotypes every day to do their jobs.
  • Women must scale heights in their chosen field to qualify as a trial expert. They then need to persuade mostly male attorneys they should be hired and retained.
  • And to survive, they must consistently convince skeptical jurors that they are more knowledgeable, credible, confident and even likeable, than their opposing, usually male, counterparts.

Certainly, all expert witnesses should be expected to be knowledgeable, credible and confident, but let’s talk about likability. Tess Neal, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, explains that in order to persuade jurors, female experts must not only uphold their occupational role as “competent and knowledgeable,” but also uphold their gender role as “warm and likeable.” According to Neal, male experts face only the former, without likeability as a requirement.

Despite all this you’re better off to have a female lawyer

Premonition co-founder and CEO Guy Kurlandski summarizes the study’s results, “If female attorneys were compensated according to how often they actually win cases, they’d be paid more than men.  We just ran the biggest legal study on gender of all time, and at every level of practice, women came out ahead.”

Armed with the findings from Sky Analytics gender study, Premonition set out to unpack “the truth behind the myth” with respect to the performance of female and male litigators. Premonition utilized its vast archive of courtroom data and proprietary artificial intelligence to study the win rates of litigators across 120,000 cases, finding:[9]

  • Female partners in Big Law outperformed male counterparts in court by nearly 13%; and
  • Female associates outperformed male counterparts by nearly 3%,

Premonition offers several possible explanations for the win gap, largely attributing it to “survival of the fittest” with only the best and most elite female lawyers surviving to outperform a wider pool of males, but also citing a study which found that “female lawyers are somewhat less overconfident in their predictions of case outcomes than males, meaning they are less likely to bring losing cases to court while preparing more diligently for the cases they do litigate.”

Where does all of this leave us? Never has there been a time more ripe for upending courtroom bias than now. Diversity and inclusion initiatives are abundant across law firms and corporations, and data such as that published by Premonition is bound to continue to demonstrate the merits of female lawyers and expert witnesses alike. It is time to put the anecdotes, discouraging realities, and biased perceptions into the past, and instead move toward a future that acknowledges the advantages that females can provide across all areas of the courtroom. Early in my career I was told that perceptions become reality. But times are changing, and I believe the reality of women’s contributions in the courtroom has the power to become the new perception.

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

4 Things to Avoid When Making a Legal Decision

Many legal decisions can have a big impact on your life. Clearly, making a poor decision can have long lasting effects on your life. So if you want to make sure that decision has a better impact on your life, and not a negative impact on your life, you should know what to avoid when making that legal decision.

Unfortunately, our human nature makes us behave in these ways fairly regularly. So not only is it important to be aware and avoid these attitudes when making a legal decision, but it’s also important for having good relationships.

Taking things personally

The first reaction to avoid when negotiating an outcome or considering offers, is to not take things personally.

We can make up so many stories in our own heads about what the offer means, and what the other person thinks about us … but most of the time, they are only thinking about themselves. 

A typical example would be a business woman trying to recover an unpaid invoice. Your customer or client is not paying your invoice because of their own problems, not because it’s a personal attack on you. If they didn’t value your work, then that is usually due to their own failure to communicate their expectations or their lack of integrity for others’ time.

Be very careful to trust your initial reaction to a statement or an offer. Your initial reaction is likely to be emotional and create a story about it.

I often recommend that someone takes time to consider a statement or an offer before responding. Because sleeping on it, or at least giving your emotions and brain time to settle down will give you far more clarity and reasoning power.

Having an attitude of ‘getting what’s mine’

The second behaviour to avoid is to set yourself into a fixed position. This usually involves clinging onto a dollar amount, or a percentage, in your head that you must get at all costs. Then you justify the logic behind what you want to yourself, and you are just blindly pursuing getting what you think are your rights.

The law is rarely that black and white that you should have a fixed position. It is far better to either consider a range, or to have in mind a number of flexible and creative options to resolving a dispute or settling a negotiation.

This kind of thinking is typical when someone separates. They don’t think about what their future needs actually are, and rarely do people get financial advice about what their future needs are. But they decide that they should get 65% of the total value of the joint asset … with no real mathematical formula or reasoning behind that percentage.

An attitude of ‘getting what’s mine’ can lead to far more extensive legal fees, and overall dissatisfaction with the process, so don’t do it!

Making a decision from fear

This is probably the most important thing to avoid when making a legal decision – making the decision from fear.

Our brains don’t operate properly when we’re in a fearful and stressed state. One of the reasons is that the brain is not getting enough oxygen. When you’re fearful, your breath becomes shallow and your brain is starved. So the brain’s ability to process information shrinks.

The second thing that happens to your brain when we’re in a fearful state is that your hormones are triggered. The brain releases a whole lot of survival hormones, which trigger the ‘fight/flight/freeze’ response in your body. Once these hormones are released, it can take at least 20 minutes for your brain to recover, and often longer for many people.

When you’re fearful, you may need to take time to calm your body and your brain back down so your brain can assess the situation rationally. Sometimes that means that you need to move your body to expend the hormones, by going for a walk. 

Unfortunately, legal decisions are often highly stressful, so it is hard to avoid the fear that is generated – the fear for our future, the fear of the unknown, the fear of being criticised, the fear of making the wrong decision. 

You may also need to investigate other methods to use on your body and brain to calm yourself, like deep breathing, using essential oils, using the emotional freedom technique (tapping), or sometimes a quicker method is to use the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique.

Trying to inflict harm

The other game that humans often play is ‘who’s the bigger victim’? We try to get support and sympathy from those around us by increasing the drama or how hard-done-by we are. But part of that process also puts us into a defensive attitude, like a cornered mother bear.

When we are a cornered victim, we look to defend our position and attack anyone who approaches. We want to hurt the other person we’re negotiating with, whether that will cause us a good result or not. 

If we feel like the victim, we also feel like we can’t have a ‘win’ in the situation, so we just try to make the negotiation a ‘lose-lose’ situation by seeing how deeply we can hurt the other person. 

Some of the most harmful legal battles involve people just seeing how deeply they can cut the other person. This will not give you a good outcome, and after it’s all over, you will feel like you’ve lost your integrity.

For more support with learning to negotiate like a pro, join the Legally Wise Women community.

making a legal decision

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

High emotion = low intelligence

So many people don’t actually think that the emotional toll of the legal matter or the stress that they’re going through, will impact the outcome.

While your emotional state has a personal toll, it also plays out throughout the whole legal matter and the outcome. 

There’s a little saying that I’ve sort of adopted for myself; high emotion = low intelligence. When you have high emotions, like stress and anger, you have a reduced ability to think and make good decisions. 

So much of dealing with your legal matter can be about your emotional regulation. We don’t want you to be feeding a drama, or feeding a conflict, and getting into a highly emotional state. 

There’s more and more brain science coming out which supports this, that when you’re in a stress response (fight, flight or freeze) your brain and your decision-making capacity actually doesn’t work well.

Also, when you’re triggered, it can take 20 minutes to half an hour to even get the brain to come back down, to start being able to work again. 

This is why quite often I’m saying that a single day of mediating may not be the best thing for parties, particularly women. A full day of mediation or court will put you under such stress, with everyone saying you’ve got to resolve it that day. Yet your brain doesn’t have the time to actually go through all the information, and weigh your options, and make a decision that’s actually from a less emotive place. 

We don’t want to be making decisions from stress and fear. We actually want to be making decisions that are best for us, and that are in line with all our values and what we actually want. 

How can we actually keep in mind what we truly want when we’re stressed and angry? 

When you’re stressed and angry, you’re just defensive and wanting to hurt others, and hide, and protect yourself, which is not the best outcome. Hence, high emotion = low intelligence.

The way your emotions play out do impact your legal matter. Being able to understand this, being able to regulate yourself, and being able to manage the strategy of the legal matter is key. Having a solicitor that actually supports the management of your emotional state, to make sure that strategically you can make your best decisions, will have significant impact on the overall outcome.

I help women within Legally Wise Women, firstly, to have the resources and understanding of good decision-making, good negotiation skills, and being able to find and hire the right lawyer. But then how to also communicate with the lawyer to make sure that these strategies come into play and that the lawyer also understands what your emotional state is and what is best for you.

Let’s make 2021 a better year for legal outcomes for women, because it’s really about time that women start getting good outcomes for themselves.

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Beliefs to Avoid

I would encourage you to find a lawyer who is less traditional. A non-traditional lawyer will encourage a different sort of approach than a traditional lawyer, and will rely heavily on alternative dispute resolution. Whereas traditional lawyers have a number of beliefs that are quite often incorrect, beliefs to avoid; and these beliefs don’t serve women with a legal problem in particular.

Control

Firstly, a traditional lawyer believes that the lawyer should be in control.

A non-traditional lawyer is going to want you to have more say in your own manner because it is your life. This is your dispute, and it is your responsibility to decide what outcome you want and need.

Whereas a traditional lawyer often takes over the issue, and runs a strategy without fully discussing it with you, or discussing all the options with you. A traditional lawyer decides what’s best for you, based on their own views of your matter and based on precedents that they are following. 

Sometimes, women find a lot of comfort in handing over a distressing part of their life to a lawyer to handle for them. Yet this sense of relief will be short-lived. It will lead to you ultimately feeling out of control, frustrated that things are taking so long, and dissatisfied with the outcome.

Position

Another belief that a traditional lawyer has, which is generally a bad approach, is to cement you into a position. 

During your first appointment with a more traditional lawyer, they will either set an expectation that you should get a certain percentage or that your rights need to be fought for in a particular way. 

Research and dispute resolution theory has developed faster than legal training, and we know that position-based negotiations doesn’t allow for much fluidity or flexibility. Position-based negotiation also goes for longer, and doesn’t actually take into account all the options available, or what outcome you actually want. 

A traditional lawyer, who likely bills on an hourly basis, also earns a lot more from you by cementing you into a position. If it’s going to take longer to resolve, then they are going to earn move!

Justice

The third mistaken belief that traditional lawyers hold is that they trust the Court system will give you a just outcome. 

Unfortunately, our Court system doesn’t often result in justice. We’ve heard many, many, many stories where it costs a lot of time and money to get all the way to Court, and the outcome is bad for all parties. 

Women, in particularly, don’t often fair well in the Court system, for many biased reasons that have developed over time in this system that was developed by men, for men. 

There is a better way! And a non-traditional lawyer will help you explore all those options.

There’s plenty of ways to find a non-traditional lawyer, but Legally Wise Women is certainly a place that can help you find and hire the right lawyer for you and your matter.

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

I’ve failed myself

Around 80% of women who have a legal problem don’t get professional advice. 

One of the main reasons for that is shame. 

Particularly when someone thinks, “Well, I’ve failed myself. I’ve got myself into this situation”; they’re too embarrassed to tell someone the story. They think they will be judged. 

It’s really unfortunate that they feel a deep sense of shame, and it’s unnecessary to feel that. Firstly, because there are legal professionals that really are here to help. Many of us have gone into being professionals because we want to help people. Secondly, there are many, many people in very similar situations. So don’t think that your situation is all that unique.

Finding the right lawyer means that you’ll find someone who you don’t feel is judging you. There shouldn’t be any judgment. There should just be, an empathetic assessment of the situation. What are your options moving forward? 

With the right lawyer, you’ll get a sense that they’re there to help you solve the problem; for you to work through what you think you’ve failed and take responsibility for getting yourself in this situation and then getting yourself out.

If you got yourself into a situation, it’s under your control to get yourself out. 

But get help, don’t just bury your head in the sand or just listen to the friend of a friend who gives you legal advice, without actually knowing your rights and obligations and what is available to you. 

There actually are more free resources available than you probably know or think. 

At Legally Wise Women, that’s what we’re here to help with. To direct you to the free information that you need, to help you find and hire the right lawyer if you need a lawyer, or at least find the right one to get some initial advice from, and to teach you how to work out what you want and actually negotiate for what you want by yourself as well.

So please don’t feel like you failed yourself or feel that much shame that you can’t talk to someone about it, or get some initial advice. That’s what we’re here for.

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Getting it over and done with

In their rush to get things over and done with and find some relief, we often see women either completely giving up their legal rights, or putting their head in the sand and let someone else barrel over them.

Basically, they’re often completely walked all over, either because they’re given up or because they give in. 

This is one of the things that frustrates us the most; that women find the anxiety or the uncertainty too much to step forward and deal with, or they don’t have the confidence to be able to work out what they want and know how to go about it.

So those are a couple of things that Legally Wise Women is addressing through this site and our community program. 

  • Through being able to find free, relevant resources. 
  • Having where to start kits, so that you can start confidently and know where you stand. 
  • Having a “How to find and hire the right lawyer” course, so that you understand the legal industry and understand what you’re looking for and know what questions to ask. 
  • And the other thing that we will be developing in the New Year is a course about “How to negotiate like a pro”, so that you have an understanding about what you actually want, rather than taking a position that you’re told to take, but advocating for what you want and how to go about that.

So let’s not have women walking away from their legal rights anymore, just for the sake of having something over and done with. 

It’s now time that we have an equal footing, with men, who have a legal problem.

Over and Done

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

What if I make the wrong decision?

Being scared of making the wrong decision is not something that should stop you from moving forward. 

So many women get caught up in procrastination, particularly when there are other elements of fear around them as well; where they don’t know where to start, or where everyone has an opinion and wants to weigh in. Then they have so many people in their ear and they don’t know what decision to make. 

They’re scared of making a decision, because what if it’s the wrong decision?

It is a relevant fear, that you won’t resolve something unless you move forward and make an initial decision. Look, sometimes that initial decision can be as small as, “Okay, I need to find three lawyers that I could potentially feel comfortable working with, have an initial appointment or some kind of initial interaction with each of them, see who I think I can work with and then book an appointment to have some initial advice.”

Get some initial professional advice. That could be your first step. 

You don’t actually have to make a decision after that immediately, but it will start making you feel more confident. It takes away some of the unknowns that are around and you’ve actually started with some momentum. 

Once you have some momentum, quite often, momentum continues. So please don’t get caught up in just being concerned that “I can’t make a decision because what if it’s the wrong decision?”

Sometimes you make the wrong decision; it’s not the end of the world. It’s not like it can’t be undone anyway. 

You need to start somewhere and starting somewhere means finding the right lawyer or getting some initial relevant advice. Just because you get initial legal advice doesn’t mean you need to appoint the lawyer to do the whole matter for you. 

Just understand what the process is, what your options are, and then go from there. 

There’s plenty that you can do on your own. And once you know where to start, that means you can keep more control of it for yourself.

Legally Wise Women

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Press release: Partnering to Assist the Vulnerable

Transition Village Wallan Inc. is a local non-profit organisation, based in Wallan, addressing homelessness. The Transition Village Wallan project is inspired by the great work of Dignity Village and Opportunity Village in the USA, using tiny houses to provide bridge accommodation to assist the vulnerable.

A local law firm, TBA Law, has been assisting the Transition Village Wallan on a pro bono basis. Now, TBA Law’s new access to justice project which has just been launched in Victoria, will provide assistance to the homeless and vulnerable that the Transition Village Wallan support.

Legally Wise Women is an access to justice project, spawned during the COVID-19 pandemic, and supported by the Centre for Legal Innovation. Legally Wise Women is an online legal literacy platform, providing ‘where to start’ kits, education courses, free information videos, and fortnightly Q&A access to a solicitor for a small fee. 

The Transition Village Wallan, as a member of the Legally Wise Women community, will enable homeless women using their accommodation to also have assistance accessing justice, assisting the vulnerable women.

“Legally Wise Women is primarily for the ‘missing middle’ women who don’t qualify for government legal assistance, but can’t afford private legal fees,” says the founder Jacqui Brauman. 

“Yet those that are homeless also don’t know where to start when they face a legal issue, and Legally Wise Women can provide valuable resources, along with referrals for homeless women to the right legal support.”

“People often feel intimidated by the law and find it difficult to navigate our legal system in situations where they need to defend themselves from a legal challenge or seek justice. There is still a fair bit of stigma and shame involved when people find themselves with legal problems,” says CEO of the Transition Village, Judy Clarke.

“Finding innovative ways to increase people’s understanding of what their rights are, what options are available and giving them the confidence to take action is key to breaking down barriers that can really hinder community inclusion. Community or government legal assistance is great for those who can access it, but there are many who don’t qualify. We fully support the aims of TBA Law’s new project and look forward to engaging our villagers in legal self-advocacy.”

With both organisations anticipating increased demand, both for homeless support, and for legal assistance, the partnership between the Transition Village Wallan and Legally Wise Women will be mutually beneficial for many. 

The work of the Transition Village Wallan can be found here: https://transitionvillagewallan.com.au/

Legally Wise Women has a free part: https://wise.legallywisewomen.com.au 

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