Help With The Hard Stuff: Legal Process is All about Negotiation

Help With The Hard Stuff

Part 1 (of 10)Legal Process is All about Negotiation


“Legal process” is different from “law.” Law is comprised of the compromises that have been negotiated or otherwise made into enforceable rules.

Legal process is what you are “in” if you are in a dispute with someone over what the rules are or how they are applied – it’s the enforcement part of “enforceable rules.”

Let’s assume that consulting with a lawyer is involvement in “legal process” even if the lawyer does not end up representing you in a formal legal action.

You are already a problem solver and likely quite good at the problems you deal with regularly. You’re going to a lawyer now because the problem is different or more complex than those you were involved with and managed well before.

You’re going to the lawyer to help you with solving a complex problem in an increasingly interconnected, unstable and hopelessly complicated world – something lawyers can be very good at. 

First off, know that legal process is, at base, negotiation.

Frankly, most of us really dislike having to negotiate. We really would prefer to simply have our way or not have to submit to the will of another.

However, if you are in a conflict today, we no longer use duels and jousting matches to resolve disputes. We pretty much are left with a legal process that uses evidence and communications exchanged between people. Think of this as negotiation.

As much as you dislike it, it’s actually a good thing if negotiation is an option. Think about it — if someone has the power to force you and exercises it, there’s been no negotiation of the outcome.

Negotiation is what people from time immemorial have used when one side is stronger but not strong enough to directly impose all their wishes on the other, and, further, at the same time the other side is weaker but not so weak that the other can simply imposed all their wishes on them.

If you already agreed or did not care to disagree, there’s no need to negotiate. If negotiation is an option, it means you have some power, even though you may be feeling greatly abused and victimized by the situation that is making the negotiation necessary.

Negotiation is a good thing. Truly, it can be ugly and bloody (see, for example, the movie Lincoln for an excellent example of real life negotiation), but, in reality, in the real world, it can be much better than the alternative.

Next: What’s one of the most important factors in selecting your attorney? Just as in a romantic relationship (a tip of the hat to today’s being Valentine’s Day), it’s how you feel in your dealings with the attorney.

Editor’s note: Look for “Help With The Hard Stuff” every second and fourth Thursday of the month in the Los Alamos Daily Post.

Gini Nelson, JD, MA has been practicing law since 1983. She’s a member of the State Bar of New Mexico’s Law Practice Management Committee, and the State of New Mexico’s First Judicial District Court’s Access to Justice Committee. Views expressed in the column are hers and not necessarily those of these Committees. This column is providing public information through the auspices of the Los Alamos Daily Post at and is not providing legal advice. Nothing in this column is intended to be an advertisement or solicitation of business. Ms. Nelson’s law office website is at If you have questions that might be of general interest if answered in this column, please send them to ©2013 Gini Nelson Law Office

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