Attorney St. Augustine Negotiating Tips For Mediation

Tips to Help You Negotiate Like a Pro.


From St. Augustine’s Full Service Law Firm with Attorneys Who Concentrate Their Practices on Specific Legal Issues.  

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1. Know The Value of What You Are Negotiating For.

Whether the item being negotiated is real estate, the assets of a probated estate, divorce terms, such as alimony and child support, construction damages, or other legal issue, you need to know its value before you start the negotiation process, whether in mediation or not.

If you are negotiating strictly over money, you should set a dollar limit before the mediation starts so you do not get wrapped up in the emotions of the moment and walk away regretting a hastily made decision.  There are many sources on the internet to help you set a value.  For example, you can try for real estate or for household items and, for collectibles, there are many websites specific to collections.  reviewing selling prices can also be a reality check to assist in your having realistic expectations headed into a mediation.

It is important to know the item’s rarity, especially by geographic location.  Focus on St. Augustine and Northeast Florida.  If something is readily available, buyers might not offer as much because they know the item can be obtained elsewhere.  However, if your item is very rare, then the whole psychology changes.  Now the buys know that their options are limited and they may not get another chance to buy your item in the near future from another source.

Often times more important than money, knowing the value of what you are negotiating for in the realm of divorce and family law or repairs in construction litigation can make all the difference in a successful outcome.

Take divorce and family law, negotiating for more time sharing could be invaluable to you and the quality of time with your children, especially in St. Augustine, Nocatee, Ponte Vedra, and the Beaches which all fall under the Seventh Judicial Circuit.  An important direct impact of more or less time-sharing is its impact on the amount of child support paid.  Why?  The more or less overnights you have, the more or less child support is paid.  The Florida Child Support Guidelines are just that, guidelines, that can be impacted by the number of overnights.

In construction litigation, having the work performed or performing the work can save a lot of money once a construction dispute has arisen.  For contractors, self-performing the corrective work can be far less costly than when a homeowner hires a replacement contractor to perform corrective work.  If personalities are too high, hiring a temporary project manager to complete the work may give the parties a fresh start and get the work done at a much cheaper price.  For homeowners, any replacement contractor is likely to be more expensive than completing with the original contractor because follow-on contractors usually do not like closing out someone’s work with unknown issues that may arise.


2. Have a Plan B and Beyond.

The is where the attorneys at St. Johns Law Group can be invaluable.  We have negotiated countless transactions, disputes, time-sharing plans, alimony and child custody agreements, equitable distributions, release of liens, satisfactions, and other settlement contracts and agreements.  More importantly, we have helped clients come up with creative “Plan B’s” that not only settled their dispute but achieved more than what they anticipated.

For example, in a divorce, our client wanted more time with his children.  We negotiated for more time-sharing and, as a direct result, the father’s child support payments were reduced at a subsequent modification because the father’s overnights had increased.

Many negotiations result in improperly and poorly drafted agreements that do not document the parties’ agreement and, worse, lack solid language for enforcement.

Finally, when forming a backup Plan B, you should be asking yourself questions that start with how or what if?  How can I sweeten the deal?  How can I close the deal?  What if the party likes this?  What if they reject this?  Try to come up with some alternatives that will help seal the deal.  Having a Plan B gets easier the more you negotiate.  It becomes a way to be flexible and react to what the other side wants and think fast on your feet.  Giving on something that really doesn’t matter to you may get you what you truly want.  St. Johns Law Group believes that the more creative our attorneys are the better the results we help clients achieve.

3. Does The Other Side Want Something Other Than Money?

Sometimes the other party wants something other than money such as time or an apology. We are so used to negotiating about money that sometimes we forget that money is not everything.  For example, a truly heartfelt apology can go a long way to help resolve a consumer dispute, especially when a construction dispute arises or in a probate dispute over an estate’s assets.  If the other side feels that the apology is sincere, the apology may even be enough to close the deal.  An employee might want time-off instead of money.  You may be able to suggest part-time work or flex time or vacation time if the employee is one that you want to keep.  Sometimes what is wanted is convenience rather than money. These suggestions may be a way to resolve the problem and to save money at the same time.

4. Only Negotiate with Someone with Authority.

Someone with authority is someone who can speak or act on behalf of the company or employer.  If you are not dealing with someone with authority, then you are not really negotiating and are wasting your time.  If you are not sure whether a person has authority to give you what you want, ask them directly.  If you are in a more complex setting, you may ask for a written statement from the principal that this agent speaks or acts on his behalf.  Sometimes someone will have the authority to act on someone else’s behalf, but they may have restrictions such as a set monetary amount.  They can sell you an item at a certain price but cannot go any lower.  This is important because you do not want to find out at the very end that the person you thought you were negotiating with did not have any authority to do so.

5. Set the Tone and Look the Part.

You are the one who should set the tone of the negotiation.  When you come into the room for the first time, you should look the part. You should wear professional clothes.  Act as though you know what you are doing and get to business quickly.  Have a notebook and a briefcase and start right in.  This can be especially important if you are accused of being a disorganized contractor or the stay-at-home mom.  Send a message that you are serious, you take it serious and are at the negotiation to accomplish business.

Project the image that you want to project.  You might even try it in the mirror a few times. Don’t laugh too much because it will cost you in credibility.  You want to give good eye contact and be a good listener . . . listening closely can really help increase you advantage in knowing what the other side wants and what their weaknesses are.  You want to seem knowledgeable about the issue or issues to be discussed of the day so do some preparation to know the facts in detail.


Look for a St. Augustine attorney who has the experience you need and one that concentrates their law practice on your legal issue and not just every client and every issue that they can sign up.  Having a lawyer who primarily works on your needed negotiation such as real estate, probate, divorce and family law, construction, bankruptcy and debt reduction, and civil litigation, can make all the difference.  At St. Johns Law Group, we have attorneys to fit your legal issue and who primarily only work in specific practice areas.  We help you gain the benefit of depth, experience and creativity to help you maximize the results of your negotiation or mediation.