Fish- how do you deal with negotiating with a non-lawyer? I'm finding my client's customers gate keep access to their attorneys and as a result I often find myself negotiating with someone who....how do I put this nicely.....doesn't understand basic contracting or legal principles. What's a nice way of saying "hey it's clear you don't know what you're doing, can you please get your lawyer involved?"

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"This is more of a legal decision than a business decision. Why don't we loop X in and continue this discussion"

likeupliftinghelpful

You could also face ethical issues by negotiating with someone who is not represented. I don’t not negotiate legal topics with non-lawyer third parties.

likesmart

Agree with all of the points here. Thank you.

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Let them know that by not getting the lawyers involved they could get their company in trouble, especially since you two are discussing legal concepts. And you don’t want them in trouble.

And/or

That they are holding the deal bc the legal terms need to be hammered out between lawyers.

likehelpful

If they’re your client’s clients then I’d reach out to the client on this - flag it is costing them time and money for you to teach/explain uncontentious points and they can reach out B2B to resolve much more smoothly. Last thing you want is their customers getting pissy with you.

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And you should not be providing legal advice to their company.

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Lol. Let’s not assume that lawyers know better than contract managers. They don’t. Having been a contract manager in the past, it’s offensive when attorneys just assume you don’t know anything because you’re not an attorney. Meanwhile I’m there negotiating circles around those fools. And getting comp’d a lot less than they are. The only reason I had to become an attorney was because I needed it for comp. So you know, I’d tread lightly with the “I’m a lawyer and you’re not so I know better” stuff. May be true. But if it’s true, it’s not because they are a “not a lawyer”.

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Most companies don’t have good contract managers, OP is describing interactions with clueless sales or biz dev people

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As far as how to handle it goes though, if they aren’t up to par, that’s your chance to get better terms and it’s not for you to tell them who you should be talking to…so long as they are enabled to negotiate by their company. That said, if you are representing sales and you’re dealing with procurement, it’s perfectly fine to ask if their legal can join a call. The point is that whoever you are talking to should be sitting in legal. It doesn’t matter if they are an attorney sitting in legal or a non-attorney though.

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Thanks for all of the feedback. I have delivered the message in the nicest way possible, but won't hesitate to escalate if need be. I've never had a situation where the customer client has held on for this long without turning it over to their attorney to finalize the legal concepts.

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This usually, in my world, comes with negotiating commercial leases with tenants not represented by counsel. For our residential stuff, it’s take it or leave it, so there’s no negotiation involved. For our commercial tenants, I put in an email “here’s the draft, but I would expect you to seek counsel and feel free to have your attorney call me.” If not, then I continue negotiating and come to a conclusion I’m ok with.

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IMO, if they tell you they have counsel but they are not having them handle the negotiations, you need to get written authorization from that counsel to continue discussions.

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