Early in her legal career, Lainey Feingold was fired from a law firm. The day before she was scheduled to become a partner, the head of the firm told her she would never become a partner at the firm, stating “You lack grace and equanimity.” Feingold went from hearing those words turn her desired destiny upside down to letting them lead her to towards a career of practicing law with those and many other collaborative practices, detailed in Chapter 16. Her work has formed the basis of a methodology she and her practice colleagues coined “Structured Negotiation.”
In her book, Feingold introduces us to this alternative dispute resolution methodology, defined by one big firm lawyer as mediation without a mediator. The book is neatly organized into Seven Stages, from Stage One: Preparing a Structured Negotiation Case to Stage Seven: Post-Settlement Strategies, over 16 Chapters. It includes Templates and Sample documents, and details of several Stuctured Negotiations that Feingold and her practice colleagues ( primarily Linda Dardarian) handled over the past 20 years.
While many of the examples focus on Feingold’s advocacy for members of the blind community seeking access to ATMs, talking prescription labels, and baseball, the book has broad application to any practitioner who recognizes that certain types of claims, even very large ones, can provide opportunities for many disputants to be better served by the use of this process. While some claims need a Court system and the formal legal process, many do not. As Feingold puts it:
“But filing a complaint should not be the only option for claims resolution. The legal profession – and the public it serves- deserves alternatives that are less costly, less stressful, and more cooperative. Clients need a forum where thier stories matter and they can be ( and feel) heard.”
Whether you believe this or not, you should be aware of this alternative. Many think that those who represent big institutions are reluctant to participate in this out of court process. Yes, this is true. But Feingold has paved the way. She and her colleagues have spent years , patiently, working with many of the largest of these — Bank of America, Walgreens, Target, Safeway, TransUnion, Charles Schwab, others, and even Major League Baseball. And in her work, she provides information on all of these Structured Negotiations, so that you can use her success to contribute to yours.
If you take away nothing from this book, you will no doubt benefit from Chapter 16 which is invaluable. The legal profession is now undergoing a mindset change, where there is a real focus on “soft skills.” These are interpersonal skills, stress management, self confidence, mindfulness, optimism, the ability to convey empathy, and others.
Law students, lawyers young and old, law professors — read the book, but do not put it on the shelf until you have spent some time reading and self – reflecting on the collaborative tools that are discussed in Chapter 16.
You will be better at everything you do, if you can incorporate some of the Structured Negotiation collaborative practices into your life and your life’s work.