“Lee’s vast experience as a practicing attorney gives her credibility with clients who listen, because they know she knows what she is talking about.
– A. Bronsted
By Mediator Lee Wallace
Trying to convince your client that she has undervalued or overvalued her case is a thankless task — but it matters. If you want to settle the case at mediation, you need to get your client to a reasoned, realistic understanding of what her case is worth. Here’s how to be a client whisperer — even when what you are saying isn’t what she wanted to hear.
1. Be on the same side.
A client can hear even bad news from you if he believes you are truly on his side and working for his interests. To confirm to your client that you do in fact have his interests at heart, try these techniques:
- Demonstrate to the client that you have the case facts down cold, and are ready to respond to anything the other side throws your way.
- If you represent a corporate client, show that you understand how settlement, or trial, will impact the client’s business.
- Call the client at random, unexpected hours – like Saturday morning – during the course of the case. The client will be surprised and pleased that you are thinking of their case during your off hours — and chances are you were working or thinking about your cases, anyway.
- Take a page from the politician’s handbook; use the word “we” when you talk about the case.
- Prepare an opening statement. Your opening remarks help you present your best case to the other side, but they also show your client that you have a full grasp of the case and are ready to present their arguments.
2. Set realistic expectations.
To help your client get to a realistic view of the dollars in the case, carefully explain the posture of the case and where settlement discussions stand. If your client has already formed an opinion about what the case is worth, and you think the opinion is wrong, explain why you think the case is worth more or less than your client expects. Lawyers sometimes worry about over-explaining and using legalese when they talk to their clients. Put the worry aside when you talk to your client about settlement. Even if the client does not understand the details of what you say, they will still take away the comforting thought that their scholarly, well-trained lawyer has thought through the case and reached the best decision available.
3. Give your client my free booklet.
Take advantage of my free booklet, What to Expect at Mediation. The booklet is a free download that you can hand to your client, and it is designed to let you showcase the fact that you are the sort of lawyer who is professional and prepared, and can be trusted.
4. Bring backup.
When your client has a seriously skewed view of the value of the case, you should bring backup. It it’s practical, you can ask another lawyer to sit in on the client meeting in order to reinforce what you are saying. But the backup does not have to be a lawyer, or in person. You also could send the client a legal article about a pivotal issue in the case. Regardless of whether the client understands the article, she will get the message that you have logical reasons for your view, and that other lawyers agree with you. If you have hired an expert in the case, you could ask the expert to talk to the client, or you could pull key excerpts from the expert’s deposition. If facts, figures or photos would help persuade the client, use them. When you present the backup, you want to reinforce the point that you are on the client’s side; the goal is not to gang up on the client, but to enable the client to reach a reasoned, accurate assessment of the case value.
5. Start early.
You want to start setting expectations early, long before the mediation. If you can help your client reach a reasonable view of the case value in the first instance, your job will be easier. But if you find that your client already has an inaccurate view of the case value, she will need time to change her mind. The earlier you start, the more likely that your client will be open to reasonable offers or demands by the time mediation rolls around.
To get your client ready for mediation, let the client know what to expect at mediation, explain what you hope to accomplish, and help them make a reasoned assessment of the case’s value. To make your job easier, you can download the free booklet for your client here.
What Attorneys Are Saying About
Mediating with Lee:
“Lee’s vast experience as a practicing attorney gives her credibility with clients who listen, because they know she knows what she is talking about. That said, she never tries to tell clients what to do and is very respectful of their reasoning and particular situations. Lee truly cares about other people and that compassion will serve her well in helping them get the best results. Lee is a great mediator and I hope you will grant her the opportunity to try to resolve your case as well.”
– A. Bronsted
“We’re going to ask for Lee again, and again, and again!”
– S. Mahoney
I recently had the pleasure of having Lee Wallace serve as a mediator for a difficult wrongful death case. A prior mediation had failed, so I had little hope that this ensuing mediation would be successful. Indeed, there were several times that my client was ready to terminate the mediation, but Lee counseled us to stay. Ultimately, while it did not settle that day, she established a framework that allowed the parties to settle the case soon after the mediation concluded that day. Lee did a great job of staying with the matter and seeing it to conclusion. I highly recommend Lee as a mediator.
– P. Strott
Lee Wallace is both a brilliant lawyer and a very nice person. She gives her all to a mediation assignment. She is a hard worker, with a very quick mind, who is able to thoroughly understand the important aspects of even very complicated factual situations and knows how to apply the law to them. She got my difficult case settled and I will not hesitate to seek to use her again.”
– K. Pollock
“I recently had my first mediation with Lee Wallace, and I must say it will not be my last. She did a great job facilitating negotiations, and helped each party grasp both the strengths and the weaknesses of their arguments. I would not hesitate to recommend Lee Wallace as a mediator for your case!”
– B. Collins
“Lee Wallace exceeded all my expectations as a mediator in a Personal Injury suit presented before her. Lee’s experience, education and demeanor was amazing and she gained trust from both parties at the very beginning. Not only was she polished and highly professional, she was thorough and did not waste time bringing the mediation to a successful conclusion. Overall a very pleasant experience and my client was pleased with the result as well.”
– D. Russell
“Lee had the intellect necessary to get a really difficult case settled even where the odds were stacked against her. I would use Lee to mediate any of my cases.”
– A. Joffe
“Lee helped get a case settled that I never would have imagined would have settled that day when I walked into that mediation. Opposing counsel and I had drastically different views of the case, as did our clients. Yet, with Lee’s knowledge, experience, and preparation, she was able to lead us to a resolution that my clients were satisfied with. I look forward to using Lee again in the future!”
– A. Grubbs
“Lee’s calm reasoning and creative solutions helped us to resolve a challenging case when one side was willing to walk away and the other side would not budge on their number. She worked hard to find a compromise when none seemed possible.”
– B. Strothers
“Lee brings to her mediations a wealth of experience from which all parties can draw. Her impressive ability to marry the case facts to negotiation strategy aided in the just resolution of our case.”
– N. Campbell
“Lee was prepared, having read all the documentation I had forwarded her pre-mediation, and she did an outstanding job in getting a difficult case settled. I look forward to using BAY Mediation and Lee in the future.”
– M. Smith
“Lee Wallace helped us resolve a case that I did not believe could be resolved. As an initial challenge we had multiple parties, several of whom had to join by remote video conference. The details of the case were also challenging [and] there were widely disparate views regarding case value. Lee was resolute, objective, and prepared. While her 30 years of trial experience and breadth of knowledge on a variety of legal issues were invaluable, her kind and logical demeanor got this case resolved. I must confess at one point I was ready to storm off myself in frustration at the other party, but Lee encouraged me to stick with it and keep working. I’m so glad she did!”
– A. Long
“It was a pleasure working with Lee T. Wallace during the mediation process. She pushed both sides to continue to fight through the process and not give up. And because of her vigorous determination I was able to settle my client’s claim to their satisfaction.”
– S. Carson
“Lee did an effective and efficient job getting this case to a successful resolution. She takes a low key approach to make sure each side does not feel undue pressure to increase their offer or decrease their demand. I will definitely use Lee for future mediations.”
– J. Brown