It might seem like data analysis wouldn’t normally be part of a lawyer’s remit, but when it comes to negotiations, having access to good quality data and being able to use it to its full potential can swing things in your favour.
In Africa Legal’s recent webinar on the use of data in complex negotiations, Chinyere Okorocha (Partner at Jackson, Etti & Edu in Nigeria), Kananu Mutea (Partner at Gikera & Vadgama Advocates in Kenya), and James Leach (Chief Learning Officer at Africa Legal) highlighted that being able to negotiate well and create win-win situations is especially important for modern lawyers. Despite this, many law students are not taught to develop their negotiation skills during their degrees, let alone how to analyse data and the importance of that skill.
When it comes to doing research and gathering data in preparation for a negotiation, Mutea’s recommendation is that lawyers narrow down their research and focus on relevant, good quality data. She also pointed out that it’s vital they ensure the authenticity and integrity of the data being gathered, and are mindful of the reliability of data sources.
Mutea also urged young lawyers to learn to use even simple tools like Excel to organise their data. These steps will ensure they don’t give the other party in the negotiation any leverage, she said, noting that the more prepared you are, the more confidence you’ll have.
Okorocha echoed these assertions. “Preparation is key to any successful negotiation. You have to go in there with your eyes open,” she said. Gathering good quality up-to-date data is part of this vital preparation.
Mutea and Okorocha both noted that it’s crucial you don’t discount or undervalue the human dynamics that underlie negotiation processes. This involves empathy, understanding the parties you’re negotiating with and being mindful of where they’re coming from.
Mutea also highlighted some of the other lessons she’s learned in negotiations: “Reading the room is critical, as is minding the situation that your counterpart is in, and knowing but not abusing one’s power in a transactional dynamic.”
When discussion moved into the realms of AI and the place technology like Chat GPT has in data analysis and research, Okorocha was quick to point out that although it’s a useful tool which can save lawyers time, we need to exercise caution and restraint when using these tools and ensure that the data they pull out is relevant to the circumstances. “There’s a human element required; there’s some emotional intelligence involved,” she reiterated.
Mutea concluded that using good quality up-to-date data for a specific purpose is an imperative for modern lawyers because it improves your odds for success and enables you to make better decisions. Being able to use data as a useful commercial tool for a specific purpose also helps set one apart from other lawyers who don’t have that skill.
Legal practitioners looking to improve their negotiation skills may be interested in Africa Legal’s free course on The Fundamentals of Effective Negotiation. You can also watch the webinar recording in this course. To learn more and register clickhere.
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