The other day I had a discussion with some colleagues about contract lawyers, commercial contracts, and negotiation skills in high-tech industries.
Law Versus Business Negotiators
Lawyers typically have (should have) above-average to exceptional knowledge of the law. So the average legal expert should have some experience in negotiating legal aspects. But what about business and technical aspects. Especially in high-tech contracts.
As we all know, we never limit contracts and negotiations to purely legal issues. So lawyers cannot replace the technical subject matter experts and negotiate something they do not fully understand. There may also be commercial (and cultural) reasons to opt for a different kind of negotiator. Anyway other than lawyers.
Who Leads the Negotiations?
I have worked in aerospace, information technology services, and other high-risk, high-value high-tech environments. I have seen no big differences when it came to drafting and negotiating contracts between ‘real’ lawyers and other ‘non-legal’ professionals (including contract managers). Moreover, in most companies, contract negotiations are led by non-lawyers (sales managers, program managers, contract managers, and so on).
Now, this may be the case in Europe. And also in the Middle East and most of Asia. In my teams, the sales, contract manager, and technical managers closely work together in negotiating contracts. We of course consult our lawyers. But they are in the back office and only come in when needed. Nearly never they are the best negotiators. Except when it comes to purely legal issues.
In the US, the UK, and other common law countries this is quite different. Lawyers play a prominent role there in all contract lifecycle phases up to the signing of the contract.
What is Your perspective?
What do you think? Are the contract lawyers by definition the best positioned to lead business negotiations?
Please leave your comments here below or visit Quora where I have asked the same question.