About a month ago, my son told me he was absolutely certain he had “aced” his geometry quiz. When the results came out a few days later and he informed me he had received a B+, I was actually somewhat disappointed. Last week, he had what he described as the most difficult quiz of the semester and he warned me that he might get a D. When, to our mutual surprise, he received a B-, I was rather pleased. How could it be that I was more satisfied with a B- than I had been with a B+? The answer lies in the fact that my son – unwittingly to be sure – had managed to manage my expectations.

Properly managing expectations is critical in the dispute resolution process, as well. For example, if your client expects to be offered at least $100,000 to resolve a pending dispute, a “take it or leave it offer” of $75,000 may be soundly rejected, whereas if your client expects to settle that same dispute for $65,000, a settlement offer of $60,000 might just do the trick.

Similarly, if your client expects that mediation will last three hours, he or she may become impatient if it runs longer, making it more difficult for you to resolve the matter. However, if your client expects that mediation will last eight hours, and the matter is resolved in six, he or she may be impressed with how hard you worked to get things done more quickly.

In order to best manage expectations, prepare your client well. Carefully explain why the mediation process can be so time-consuming; make sure your client is prepared for an initial demand or offer that may seem outrageous or offensive; discuss in advance a settlement range that is realistic, given all you know about the opposing party and opposing counsel.

Properly managing your client’s expectations increases the likelihood that you will manage to resolve the dispute, which, after all, is really what your client expects in the first place.

As always, it would be my pleasure to assist you and your clients in the dispute resolution process. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of service.

Best regards,

Floyd J. Siegal

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