Strategizing the Legal Battlefield

By: Jennifer Hatten

The American Bar Association Forum on the Construction Industry held its 2011 Fall Meeting October 13-14, 2011, at The Westin Buckhead in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference theme,  “The Lay of the Land Dictates the Strategy Employed,” examined all of the grounds on which construction counsel hold their battles: from framing future controversies, to strategic contract negotiations, to presenting the issues and arguments before a tribunal. The conference highlighted the importance of tailoring these battle approaches to the “lay of the land” you will encounter, whether it is state or federal judges, mediators, arbitrators or dispute resolution board members.

The meeting’s theme revolved around the teachings of Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese military general, and his lessons learned in war. He warned his warriors of two things: “those who do not know the lay of the land cannot maneuver their forces,” and “those who do not use local guides cannot take advantage of the ground.” ABA believes these lessons hold true today for attorneys in the legal battlefield.

One of the most interesting sessions I attended was “How to Manage Big Cases without Bling.” The panel of speakers outlined a strategy for attorneys to efficiently and cost-effectively maximize outcomes for clients, and how to handle client expectations. The panel focused on five key steps for attorneys to use in order to win from the beginning:

1.            Pick the right team

2.            Pick the right strategy

3.            Align the case objectives with the clients’ objectives

4.            Apply legal project management techniques

5.            Drive the case towards resolution

The session also touched on how important it is for attorneys to communicate effectively with clients in order to obtain the best outcome possible.

As usual, the ABA did a fantastic job integrating an interesting and original theme with the workshops, plenaries, panels, and networking opportunities. I am looking forward to the ABA 2012 Midwinter meeting, February 2-3, 2012, at the InterContinental Hotel in Houston, Texas. As Houston is the home base of Interface Consulting, I look forward to seeing you all there!

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