President Obama reportedly told Syria, in sum or substance, “if you use chemical weapons on your people, we will use punish you militarily”.
Then Syria used chemical weapons on its people. But instead of inflicting military damage on Damascus, as promised, Obama hemmed, hawed, asked his allies what they thought, asked Congress what it thought, etc.
So what happens the next time the U.S. says to a dictator, “if you do x, we will do y”? What does an empty threat do to our credibility for future negotiations?
The Syria debacle offers a lesson to my fellow New York personal injury lawyers. Some of you sometimes tell adjusters or defense lawyers, “we won’t accept a dime less than X amount of dollars” and then, when the case is close to trial, take less than X amount of dollars. What happens the next time you negotiate with that adjuster or lawyer? What credibility do you have?
The lesson is clear: If you draw a “line in the sand”, stick to it. But there is a second, and perhaps more important lesson: Except in rare instances, don’t draw lines in the sand! Instead of drawing a line, say something like, “my client refuses your offer of X amount of dollars and instead demands Y amount of dollars”. Don’t say, “my client will never accept a penny less than Y amount of dollars”. The reason is that, although your client might tell you she won’t take less, and she might mean it, when push comes to shove and you are at the courthouse doors, and there is a decent offer on the table, your client might change her mind, which she or he has a perfect right to do.
Sometimes I do draw a line in the sand. But that’s when I am 100% sure my client will stick to it. For example, in a recent case I knew my client could not take less than $400,000 because the first $400,000 of any settlement was earmarked for “liens” and “offsets” owed to a workers’ compensation carrier. A $400,000 settlement was the same as $0 to my client. So in that case I could clearly tell the adjuster “we won’t ever settle for less than $400,000 and in fact we need quite a bit more”.
Credibility once lost is tough to regain. Don’t lose it!
Email me at: email@example.com I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com Central and Syracuse NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.