Negotiating a contract can be a very anxiety-provoking task but can result in major rewards. My approach to negotiating contracts for my clients is to be assertive yet willing to compromise to achieve the most effective results. The key to successful negotiations is perseverance, ingenuity and finesse. Almost every contract that is written can be improved with the addition or enhancement of provisions therein. At the end of the negotiation process, all parties involved should feel like they reached a solution that makes them feel like they won something.

My clients always ask for some initial tips when negotiating contracts. I often state the following:
1. Before you interview for a job, always explore the marketplace to determine what you are actually worth. How you may ask? Network with as many people in your field of expertise, converse with friends, acquaintances, cold call other professionals in the area you want to work to learn their ball park salaries and browse the internet.
2. Do not be too eager to inform the employer what you are worth. Wait to hear what they think you are worth. To your surprise, they may give you what you think you are worth and the negotiations may go much smoother. On the flip side if they are underpaying you then realize that negotiating contracts is a process and you have to allow it to runs its course. There can be several offers and counteroffers which may seem tedious but be patient as it will be well worth it in the end. If you accept your employer’s offer too early in the game, you may be undercutting yourself and will enter into a contract that is less favorable to your interests.
3. When you are offered an interview, research the organization by reviewing their websites to determine whether the organization is amenable to negotiations. If you learn that their offers are firm and inflexible then you have to craft changes to the contract to improve the side bar offered benefits: money given to achieve CME credits, paid vacation time, sick leave, transportation allowances, relocation expenses, stock options, partnership requirements, or malpractice insurance.
4. When negotiating, always address all of your concerns.
5. When reviewing a contract, please be advised that all parties’ expectations must be clearly outlined and quantifiable. Nothing should be left to the imagination. All the benefits and penalties should be explicit.
6. My clients are always worried about how they may come across to the employer if they negotiate contracts. In their desire to keep things amicable, some individuals forgo several benefits. I always advise my clients not to worry about offending the employer and allow your attorney to serve as your mouth piece so they can engage in the whole negotiating game on your behalf. People get too worked up about whether they seem reasonable and in many cases this concern causes them to surrender some key points they desire from their employer contract. Do not fall into this trap. Employers hope that you will be nervous and weak throughout the negotiation process. Be friendly but remember what is important to you. You can make concessions if it allows you to keep the negotiation doors open and enables you to achieve other benefits that in the long run may be more beneficial to you.
7. Don’t get so caught up in the process that you are quick to accept offers that are unfavorable only because you want the process to end quickly. Take it one day at a time. You have to allow negotiating contracts to runs its course. It takes time and in order to achieve favorable results, you need to let things move in their own pace. Do not let the negotiation fires burn out. Your goal is keep the other side engaged.
8. When reviewing contracts always know what you want achieved at the end of the negotiating process and know that if you do not get what you want that you always have the choice to walk away from the deal. Keep your goals clear and do not become a victim of indecisiveness.
By Monica Malhotra, Esquire, Gillette, NJ (908)-705-0914, [email protected]