Susan Smith Blakely

Women Lawyers Can Be Good Negotiators——Give It Some Time!

In the last blog, I discussed two fundamental negotiation skills:  Focusing on Strengths and Preparation.  The focus today is Patience and Overcoming Obstacles.

Patience is not only a virtue, it also is a deal breaker if  you are not careful.  The author of a recent article on gender differences in negotiation styles points out that, although men often view negotiations as a game they can win over time, women are more interested in sealing the deal and ending the negotiations as early as possible.  This would be consistent with other female behaviors.

Women are particularly cognizant of time, most likely because they never seem to have enough of it.  That could be because they are forced to multitask in many settings and they do not delegate enough, according to the author, but, regardless of the reason, feeling time constrained in negotiations is not a good idea.  Negotiation is a process, and you have to be willing to let the process play itself out.  Sometimes it takes longer to reach an agreement that allows your opponent to save face.  Take the time.  This is not the time for you to be super efficient.  Your patience will pay off in terms of enhanced interpersonal relationships and the end result.

Overcoming obstacles, the third fundamental skill the author identifies as key to effective negotiations, requires a focus on gender differences.  Women can find themselves deferring to others, especially when they are outnumbered by men.  Women often sit in what the author describes as the "dead zone" around the negotiation table --- the seats that are NOT in the power positions.

Get out of your comfort zone and embrace negotiations.  That is how you will be good at it.  Take that seat at the head of the table unless it has a reserved sign on it.  Establish your territory.  You may not necessarily be gaining power by these practices, but you will not be yielding power either.  Everything has a beginning.

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and a nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession.
Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she taught legal research and writing. She also is a Marshall Goldsmith trained career and leadership coach and a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches.  She also is a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 

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