About Bob Sewell
Bob Sewell is a leading Arizona probate litigator, which means he gets involved when there is a dispute regarding wills, trusts and estates. Bob regularly writes and speaks on the subject of estate planning and estate litigation. His advice is sought by private individuals, practicing attorneys, local and national corporations, as well as local and national news outlets seeking commentary and analysis regarding the news of the day. Bob is an equity partner in the law firm Davis Miles McGuire Gardner.
Bob Sewell is also the host of the popular podcast called “Is That Even Legal?”—a podcast now heard in 87 countries and can be found on Apple, Google and Spotify, as well as most other podcast platforms.
Lesson 1: Listen, first. 06:41
Lesson 2: Ask questions, second. 09:40
Lesson 3: Share your point of view, third. 12:39
Lesson 4: Never bluff (well, almost never) and almost always call the bluff. 20:27
Lesson 5: Negotiate early in a dispute, except when you should negotiate late. 25:15
Lesson 6: Pride will ruin any negotiation. 29:29
Lesson 7: Be nice, but firm (likability is everything). 36:02
Lesson 8: Be reasonable–you are not going to “win the negotiation.” 37:50
Lesson 9: Get help from an intermediary. 40:25
Lesson 10: Break all the rules when all else fails. 43:58
Bob Sewell – Be reasonable–you are not going to “win the negotiation.”
[00:00:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: Hello, and welcome to our program, 10 Lessons Learned, where we talk to businesspeople, journalists, artists, authors, attorneys, and professors, leaders, and luminaries from all over the world. My name is Siebe Van Der Zee, and I’m your host. I’m based in Phoenix, Arizona, in the beautiful Grand Canyon State.
[00:00:29] Siebe Van Der Zee: I’m also known as the Dutchman in the Desert.
[00:00:32] Siebe Van Der Zee: Our guest today is Bob Sewell. Bob is a leading litigation attorney in the state of Arizona, focused on trust and estate matters, mostly family disputes about wills, trust, and estates. With about 20 years of legal experience, Bob is also an equity partner with one of Arizona’s largest law firms, Davis Miles McGuire Gardner.
[00:00:58] Siebe Van Der Zee: Bob Sewell also writes and speaks frequently on the subject of estate planning and estate litigation. His legal advice is sought by private individuals, attorneys, corporations, as well as by local and national media news outlets seeking his commentary and analysis. Bob is also a host of a popular podcast called Is that even legal?
[00:01:24] Siebe Van Der Zee: I love the title. This podcast is heard in 87 countries and can be found on Apple, Google, and Spotify and on most other podcast platforms. You can learn more about, about Bob Sewell on our website, 10lessonslearned. com. Hello, Bob. Thank you for joining us today.
[00:01:45] Robert Sewell: Hey, it’s super fun to be here. I’m, glad you asked.
[00:01:48] Siebe Van Der Zee: Well, I’m glad you are our guest today. And I’m curious, before we get into your 10 lessons, your focus in your law firm is on trust and estate matters related to family disputes, etc, etc. I can imagine those are very sensitive and perhaps at times emotional family issues. How do you deal with that?
[00:02:10] Robert Sewell: Yeah, the counselor has to be the counselor, right?
[00:02:13] Robert Sewell: And we have to approach the client and the other side, too, with compassion but firmness. Because we’re here to help people move to the next phase of life. when people die, when there’s disputes about people who are dying and it’s sensitive, it’s hard, it’s difficult. There’s a whole lot of emotion wrapped up in it.
[00:02:35] Robert Sewell: Important thing is we keep the cool head and we be counselors. We show the, the better wisdom.
[00:02:43] Siebe Van Der Zee: It takes a little extra perhaps when you deal with the family members and obviously arguments between them. I can imagine. Is that even legal, your podcast? what’s the idea behind it? And is that something you always wanted to do?
[00:02:58] Robert Sewell: No. so I, I mean, I, I, I was just talking about it with my, you know, marketing guy at the firm and, podcasts and he’s like, let’s do one. And I was like, I was thinking about it too. And it progressed from there. And it really is just me entertaining myself. I know that sounds terrible, but I enjoy talking to people.
[00:03:23] Robert Sewell: I enjoy the law. I love to find out about new things and new things in the law and hearing what they have to say. And, and so it’s been fun. I’ve interviewed attorneys mostly in, in the US, but. elsewhere as well. And I bring them in and we, we talk about what’s interesting in the law right now.
[00:03:44] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. And I, I know you don’t have to be a lawyer attorney to be involved in those issues.
[00:03:49] Siebe Van Der Zee: I think we are all somehow connected to legal issues and get frustrated or maybe happy about some of the transactions that are taking place, you have to facilitate that.
[00:04:03] Robert Sewell: Yeah. And what’s amazing is, you know, the law affects us every day, right? It, it changes our behavior. It motivates behaviors, it discourages behaviors, and we don’t think about it.
[00:04:18] Robert Sewell: It really has a significant influence on our life and how we operate. You know, from the cars we buy, right, you think about tax credits from the cars we buy, to the places we live, whether or not they have, good funding for schools and things like this, all this legal stuff affects us. you know whether we like it or not.
[00:04:40] Robert Sewell: So, yeah, I want to explore that. I want to find out what’s there. I want to find out, you know, we did an episode on noise law, how to get your neighbor to shut up. Right and we found out that. some of the noise regulations are just onerous and just totally unenforceable. And what do you do with that?
[00:04:59] Robert Sewell: How do you live in a city that has, that where the birds and the dogs have more rights than the humans when it comes to noise? I don’t know, but we have These laws in place and they’re interesting.
[00:05:13] Siebe Van Der Zee: Well, it right away brings up issues, but perhaps we’ll discuss that, during your podcast, right? We’re talking here about the 10 lessons that you have learned.
[00:05:23] Siebe Van Der Zee: And I know that the lessons that You are going to share with our listeners, are lessons that you have learned in high stakes negotiations. That’s what we’re focusing on today. before we get to your 10 lessons, I got to ask you, is there perhaps a lesson that you have learned in your life, in your career, that you would like to teach yourself if you would be 30 years old today?
[00:05:50] Robert Sewell: Yeah.
[00:05:51] Siebe Van Der Zee: Anything that comes to mind?
[00:05:53] Robert Sewell: Yeah. just hang on. Just hang on. It’s going to work out. Don’t worry. Just keep progressing. Keep pursuing. Keep being interested. Stay engaged. and let the, the worries will fade away as the time passes. And I wish I would have known that when I was 30.
[00:06:11] Siebe Van Der Zee: and I, I know you’re also, a father of your children, and I imagine that those lessons will, come up, and perhaps already have come up, when you, talk to your kids, right?
[00:06:23] Robert Sewell: Oh yeah, yeah. Father of three kids, I got a foster kid that joined my home, you know, two years ago and, you know, never thought that that would happen and, you know, changes your life, all these things.
[00:06:36] Robert Sewell: And so yeah, yeah, this is, just hold on, is what I would tell myself.
[00:06:41] Lesson 1: Listen, first.
[00:06:41] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, I like it. Good lesson. So, let’s take a look at your 10 lessons and, well, lesson number one, listen first. What are your thoughts on that one?
[00:06:52] Robert Sewell: Yeah, this is something that I teach my young associates. It’s something that I had to learn.
[00:06:58] Robert Sewell: You know, you want to tell people what to do. You know, you think that when you’re in a negotiation that you’re going to tell them what to do and you’re going to be when you’re young and the testosterone’s pumping, you’re going to tell the opposing side how this is going to go. Well, no. You want to listen.
[00:07:15] Robert Sewell: What you’re listening for is you’re listening for ways to get them to bend. You’re listening for what they really want and what, and what’s going to help them. that maybe they didn’t necessarily think of, or I’ll give you an example. I’m in a negotiation and with an opposing attorney and they have a very poor case.
[00:07:41] Robert Sewell: They think they have a good case and the reason why they think that it’s a young buck attorney on the other side and his testosterone’s pumping and he’s bit everything from his client hook line and sinker and I call him up and I say, Hey, Frank, his name’s not Frank. What does your client want?
[00:08:02] Robert Sewell: What do they really want? You know, you have this, this complaint. I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere. And it didn’t. But what does your client really want? And if we could help them get to that point, we could end this. And his response to me was, everything, you know, we will destroy you and stupid stuff like this.
[00:08:27] Robert Sewell: But he wasn’t listening to me. If he would have listened, he would have understood what I was trying to say.
[00:08:34] Robert Sewell: We could help. We could work with each other to get this done. I need you to talk. And if you would have talked and said, well, what my client’s really looking for is, X. But yeah, we got to listen to each other, and we have to understand where they’re coming from.
[00:08:51] Robert Sewell: And once we understand where they’re coming from, we could soften the other side up for a solution,
[00:08:58] Siebe Van Der Zee: I always think, and I’m perhaps guilty sometimes of talking too much. I have learned that there is that brain muscle. You can learn to become in that sense, better at listening by really have your inner voice telling yourself, stay quiet, listen to the other person.
[00:09:21] Siebe Van Der Zee: And I have experienced that that is a very valuable exercise. And yeah, I still like to talk, but indeed I can see it. It’s like almost like a traffic light. The red light is there. You better stop. And, and that’s how the brain muscle works. So, I, I think that’s a, that’s a good start.
[00:09:40] Lesson 2: Ask questions, second.
[00:09:40] Siebe Van Der Zee: And I know this first lesson, it goes, I would say, in combination with your lesson number two, lesson number two, ask questions second.
[00:09:51] Siebe Van Der Zee: So, we have listen first, ask questions second. your thoughts on that.
[00:09:56] Robert Sewell: Yeah. So, you know, when, when you’re dealing with a high-stake negotiation, you first listen. What are their goals? And then you need to move on from there and say, what if, to the opposing side, this were to happen?
[00:10:14] Robert Sewell: How do you think you would respond, or your client would respond, or whatever that is? you want to pose these questions. Do you have any room on these, non-monetary actions, you know, that if there’s both monetary incentives and non-monetary incentives, what’s going to keep it going?
[00:10:34] Robert Sewell: Is the issue time? Do they need time to make payment? Is that why they’re fighting? Do they need time to make payment? Not just the reduction. Well, what if we spread these payments out, right? What if we can keep your business, you know, running for 6 more months, what if we took a security interest or, you know, we start to come up with creativities.
[00:10:56] Robert Sewell: Once we heard what their real goal is, because a lot of time in litigation, the real goal is not, necessarily just money damages. The money damages are because they have suffered a harm. They don’t see any way, other way out. But if, what if we could help them another way out? And, and I realize, you know, if, if I didn’t pay my credit card and my credit card company sues me, there’s nothing but money that will satisfy that.
[00:11:26] Robert Sewell: But in business, in family disputes. In, you know, these, these probate settings, in, partnership disputes, there might be non monetary issues that come up that could satisfy you know, the opposing side or that can help, what if we had secrecy, we got to come up with a solution and I got to defeat you.
[00:11:51] Robert Sewell: Well, no, maybe you don’t. Maybe we could have secrecy at the end of this. Confidentiality, as we call it, right? But you have to start exploring the space and come with a real, questions. A lot of times people will just have questions just to be, well, don’t you think that your side, you know, your, your position stinks?
[00:12:12] Robert Sewell: Well, no, they don’t think that otherwise they wouldn’t bring it about.
[00:12:16] Siebe Van Der Zee: What I hear is Asking questions to confirm your understanding obviously you want to see perhaps what space there is, to negotiate, but it’s really to confirm the understanding of the other party’s position.
[00:12:31] Robert Sewell: Right.
[00:12:32] Robert Sewell: absolutely you want to know where they’re coming from. You want to know. Yeah. How we can work together.
[00:12:39] Lesson 3: Share your point of view, third.
[00:12:39] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, exactly. And again, listen first, ask questions second, and then, moving along, let’s say to lesson number three, share your point of view third. So, these first three lessons, they are connected.
[00:12:54] Siebe Van Der Zee: again, listen first. Ask questions. Second, share your point of view. Third, what are your thoughts on that sharing your point of view? Because you still need to be, I would say, somewhat careful in sharing your point of view.
[00:13:09] Robert Sewell: Or not careful. I mean, that becomes the art, in the situation. Yeah, when you share that point of view, it helps the opposing side see where you’re coming from.
[00:13:22] Robert Sewell: And, and sometimes they’re in, they’re really interested. Sometimes they’re not. I often have to have this conversation with opposing counsel, and they are set in their ways, and they have bought into their client’s position or not. It depends on the type of counsel you’re dealing with someone who’s more dispassionate versus someone who likes to take on their client’s passion and you work through it.
[00:13:47] Robert Sewell: And after I’ve heard them out, and I’ve shared the point of view and ask questions. then it’s my turn for the sales pitch, right? And sometimes I get that explicit. I say, hey, look, if I, if I think I got nowhere to go, I think that they’re not, it’s not going to be receptive.
[00:14:10] Robert Sewell: Then I couch it in terms of not a threat, but a sales pitch. I say, hey, let me give you my best sales pitch on this. So, we pursue this to the end. And I think I had the better case, or maybe you think you had the better, you know, and I walk them through it and I try to say, hey, I see your point of view and your client’s position and, but this is my client’s position.
[00:14:34] Robert Sewell: And this is where, where we’re coming, my client’s coming from. And, and I, I try to present this bigger picture and, and then I say, Something I’ll say, you know, if we can get to here, you know, this X place, I could get to X place, we can get this done. What’s it going to take to get to that? You know, something like this.
[00:15:01] Robert Sewell: but, yeah, it, you want to share your position after you’ve heard them out and. You know, and let them know when you’re sharing, you know, when I’m sharing my, my point of view on this. I want them to know I’ve heard them, I understood, and I’m, I’m sensitive to it, but this is where my client’s coming from.
[00:15:27] Robert Sewell: I want to get a little bend there, you know, and, and if they know that my, my, my pitch is coming, and they know, and the person knows that I’ve heard them out already, and I’ve been real and genuine with them, they’ll listen almost every single time. And when they don’t listen at that point, then you know you’re just ready for, No holds bar litigation.
[00:15:51] Robert Sewell: You’re just going to be litigating to the end until the other side’s so exhausted spiritually, financially, emotionally, that they either settle or you find yourself in court resolving it before the trier of fact. So, yeah, you want to share your point of view with the things you’ve already learned in mind.
[00:16:15] Siebe Van Der Zee: Do you, when I listened to this, makes a lot of sense, of course, but do you manage your emotions?
[00:16:22] Siebe Van Der Zee: Okay, your client is probably emotionally more engaged, and the opposing party and they get into it. As an attorney, is that something that you have learned or is it part of your personality to perhaps rise above it and look at the total picture, the big
[00:16:39] Robert Sewell: picture? I have learned it’s a real bad idea.
[00:16:44] Robert Sewell: to share your client’s emotion. It’s a bad idea. And it’s hard when you’re a young attorney, but it gets you into trouble. If you get too immersed in their emotional, emotional problem caused by this very distressing situation, then you can’t be the counselor. And it’s very hard to talk to someone who has taken on a passionate view.
[00:17:12] Robert Sewell: I remember one time I’m talking to this attorney, and I represented. A business is before I moved to this case is actually what moved me into probate and trust litigation because I was just so I just felt like I, I just needed to change after this case. I don’t know what, why, but this was 1 of my last true solely commercial cases.
[00:17:35] Robert Sewell: So, I had the better case. I knew I had the better case and I call up the opposing attorney or rather actually, we were having a sit down at the moment. I’m having a sit down with them and I walk them through the case, and I said, look. We’re defendants. You’re asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.
[00:17:54] Robert Sewell: Hundreds of thousands of dollars. You know, at the end of the day, they asked for $500,000 and I said, you’re not getting $500,000. Your best day in court is $50,000. And I walk him through why, and I, I’m sitting next to him and he’s just fuming. And I’m like, hey look, you know, I’m trying to calm him down, you know, and you know, hey, it’s going to be okay.
[00:18:18] Robert Sewell: You know, we just talk. We’re just talking here. And he’s just fuming. And I said, my client offers you 55, 000. Okay, this, that’s all this is about. 50, 000 and you’re, that’s your best day in court. Here’s 55, 000. And I walked him through my client’s counterclaims. And I say I had the better case. We knew we were going to; it was likely we were going to lose, but we weren’t going to lose 500, 000.
[00:18:52] Robert Sewell: And he was so passionate about this. And, and I understood his passion because the contract was unfair in favor of my client. And even though he was likely going to lose, it still wasn’t an unfair result. how much damages they could collect. It seems weird. So, we go to the, we go to the trier effect and lo and behold, we, we lost.
[00:19:23] Robert Sewell: The old, once the counterclaims are put in, the damage award is 27, 000, right? And, and it’s a case you have to fight as a defendant because they’re asking for 500, 000. His passion for his client’s position was so intermessed with the client, that he couldn’t see what was before him. He couldn’t see it.
[00:19:47] Robert Sewell: And I even said to him, hey, Frank, again, his name’s not Frank, Frank, tell me why it’s more than 55. Tell me why. My client will pay more. Tell me why. And he’s like, he could never figure it out. He never could understand. I just know it’s 500, 000. You know, this is what we’re dealing with when someone’s too emotional with their client.
[00:20:12] Robert Sewell: That doesn’t mean we don’t show passion in front of the trier of fact. that doesn’t mean we put on, we don’t put on a good show, right, at, at the right time, but you, you can’t have that in a negotiation. You got to walk away from it.
[00:20:27] Lesson 4: Never bluff (well, almost never) and almost always call the bluff.
[00:20:27] Siebe Van Der Zee: It’s a good segue to, lesson number four. Never bluff. Well, almost never, and almost, almost always call the bluff.
[00:20:38] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number four.
[00:20:40] Robert Sewell: Right. So, I learned this lesson as what we refer to as, you know, in the trade as a baby attorney. I was a baby attorney, and your client always says to you, just file suit or just do X or just call their bluff. They’ll fold like a cheap suit. I know they will, right? That they always say this and I’m like, I don’t think so, Frank.
[00:21:03] Robert Sewell: I don’t think that’s going to going to happen. And no, just do it, do it. Yeah. And I’m like, all right, because I was young and dumb and I said, all right, I’ll try it. And I do the threat my client is unwilling to actually go through with. And the attorney, this old dog attorney, he taught me a good lesson.
[00:21:25] Robert Sewell: He’s like, listen, this is not my first rodeo. He didn’t say it this way, but similar to this. This is not my first time around. I’m not afraid. My client’s not afraid. We could win this case. So, if that’s the way you want to go, that’s fine. Never, never, never bluff. And the other thing it does is it damages your credibility.
[00:21:49] Robert Sewell: If you bluff and then don’t go through with it, then it damages your credibility. you could do that once, maybe twice, but if you’re three or four times or more with the same person, we know your M. O. And there’s an attorney I know, and this attorney always threatens. And never comes through. And so, I tell my clients, I’ve never had this attorney, just proceed with the threat.
[00:22:24] Robert Sewell: They’re always bluffing.
[00:22:27] Siebe Van Der Zee: if I think of especially United States, but I’m sure in other countries as well, individuals in a powerful position, perhaps with lots of money to support their activities, they may be more likely to bluff and put pressure on the other party than someone who has limited financial means and say, Oh my gosh, I just want to get this case to be over with and let’s move on.
[00:22:54] Siebe Van Der Zee: Is that something that you encounter from time to time, that there is just that mega personality perhaps, or, or a big company that says, we got to set an example for the whole world, et cetera, et cetera?
[00:23:06] Robert Sewell: Yes. Now, it’s a two-way street though. And yeah, you find those people but remember if they, the person has a history of bluffing and others have called their bluff, it gets around.
[00:23:21] Robert Sewell: So never bluff, you know, well, almost never once in a while you have to, but it’s just once in a while because you don’t want to be the person who’s bluffing. Let me give you an example. I’m negotiating with an insurance company that owes my client. You know, 85, 95 and this is during the downturn is during the Great Recession and they think they’re going to get 1 over on my client and.
[00:23:51] Robert Sewell: They just, they just keep holding fast at like 40%, maybe 30, 40%, and they’re not moving up. And my client’s irritated, and he had gonads of steel, okay, and he needed the money. This was a regular person in the, in the downturn. He needed the money. But he says, you know what, Bob. Get it. I’m done. We’re going to just try the case.
[00:24:21] Robert Sewell: And I say, fine with me. And I wrote, and he says, go tell them, you know, that we are, we are, you know, at 40 cents in the dollar. He says, you know, go tell them we’re, we’re now at 85 and don’t come back with less. And I do, and I suddenly get a new negotiator and someone higher up in the insurance company, they’re like, what’s going on?
[00:24:44] Robert Sewell: I thought we were getting close. And I said, that’s done. You guys pushed too far. And then they said, oh, well, you know, how’s 95 cents on the dollar?
[00:24:59] Robert Sewell: I learned something at that moment about those negotiations with that company, right? That if you have the good case, just push it. because otherwise they’ll never respect you. They bluffed. They said they’re going to fight. My client called their bluff.
[00:25:15] Lesson 5: Negotiate early in a dispute, except when you should negotiate late.
[00:25:15] Siebe Van Der Zee: No, good point. Good point. lesson number five, negotiate early in a dispute.
[00:25:22] Siebe Van Der Zee: Except when you should negotiate late. Yeah. Okay. What are you telling me here?
[00:25:29] Robert Sewell: Yeah. So, this is a careful balance, and it is, it is one of instinct and not anything else. But when you’re in a dispute and something’s happening early on, you’re, you’re at a crossroads that early days of your dispute, you’re at a crossroads.
[00:25:48] Robert Sewell: You can either go to the other side and try to figure out a deal early.
[00:25:54] Robert Sewell: Or you can beat them up and find out whether or not they have the means, the, the stomach for a big fight and then push them down. The problem with the latter, with the big fight is you may find yourself that your case is not, you know, your position, whatever it is, is not as good as you had hoped, but sometimes you just got to do it.
[00:26:22] Robert Sewell: I just ended a five-year litigation where we went up to the Court of Appeals and back down and we were, I just ended a five-year litigation and there was no negotiating in the beginning. None. Unwilling to. It took five years. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of beating each other up before someone said, you know, I kind of just want to end this.
[00:26:47] Robert Sewell: And some sort of solution was found. But on the other hand, if you can get in a dispute early and someone who really understands the cost and the complexities of fighting it out and what and how it affects you emotionally, spiritually, financially, they’ll come to some sort of reasonable solution in the beginning, that they may not have otherwise come to because they haven’t spent any money yet.
[00:27:15] Robert Sewell: This person understands a little bit more mature and in a little bit more honest with themselves. So, you have to evaluate. Do I have that type of person on the other side? Is this the type of person that’s going to come to a solution quickly that can see both sides? Or do I have the person that needs to have pain inflicted on them?
[00:27:35] Robert Sewell: And, you don’t know until you decide what you’re going to do. And here’s another problem though. Frequently, if you seek to negotiate early, people with bad thoughts on the other side. they’re not well, haven’t thought out their position very well.
[00:27:51] Robert Sewell: Man, easy for me to say, right? They haven’t thought out their position very well. Sometimes they view early negotiations as a weakness. You have to get over that barrier. You know, one of the ways you get over that barrier is you say, hey, look, Frank, should we try to negotiate this early? Or do we need to beat each other up first?
[00:28:16] Robert Sewell: Which is it? and you just say, I’m comfortable either way. And then Frank will come back and say, let’s fight for a little bit. All right let’s do it. But if Frank comes back and says, yeah, we could probably work something out, then you know who you have.
[00:28:32] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, great, great lesson. And indeed, the importance of having a, well, an attorney on your side who has that experience, who can anticipate what the process will look like if you go this way or that way.
[00:28:46] Affiliate Break
[00:28:46] Siebe Van Der Zee: We’re talking today with Bob Sewell, a popular podcast host and leading litigation attorney in the United States with a special focus on trust and estate matters. Sharing his 10 lessons learned. I want to thank our affiliate partner Audible.
[00:29:02] Siebe Van Der Zee: Audible is an amazing way to experience our program. 10 Lessons Learned, but also books and other podcasts, allowing you to build a library of knowledge all in one place.
[00:29:12] Siebe Van Der Zee: You can start your free 30-day trial by going to audibletrial.com/10lessonslearned. Again, that is audible trial.com/one zero lessons learned all lowercase. to get your free 30-day subscription.
[00:29:29] Lesson 6: Pride will ruin any negotiation.
[00:29:29] Siebe Van Der Zee: All right, moving along. Lesson number six, pride will ruin any negotiation. Egos stand out, I guess.
[00:29:38] Robert Sewell: Yeah. Yeah. This is the hardest thing, right? I mean, to swallow your pride, to get less than what you think you deserve,
[00:29:48] Robert Sewell: Even if you know it makes sense, it will ruin, you know, your pride will ruin the negotiation. If you’re trying to find a way to avoid a dispute, you’re going to swallow some pride.
[00:30:03] Robert Sewell: And anyone who’s ever had a partnership knows this. I mean, I have, I think, what, 10 partners, 10 equity partners in my firm. If you’re going to stick together at a firm, you’re going to swallow your pride once in a while. You’re going to say, hey, I’m going to give this one to you, Frank. I’m going to give this one to you.
[00:30:26] Robert Sewell: Even if you think your position’s better and in return, Frank’s going to have to swallow his pride once in a while too. but man, if you negotiate it, you know, with your ego involved, it’s, it becomes a much harder negotiation.
[00:30:42] Siebe Van Der Zee: You’re talking really about wisdom here, right? To say, look, okay, the other partner you win, I’ll take a step back.
[00:30:50] Siebe Van Der Zee: And perhaps the next time around I will lead, and that person will step back. I mean, that’s, that’s truly wisdom because you know, in the end it will work out.
[00:31:01] Robert Sewell: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:31:04] Siebe Van Der Zee: Or not.
[00:31:05] Robert Sewell: It’s so hard, right? I mean, we have to find a way. Yeah. I’ll give you an example. I was involved in a. A seven-year, knockdown, drag out litigation involving real property and contracts in Mexico.
[00:31:23] Robert Sewell: Well, Mexico and the United States, all on a related transaction. And my clients, I go to my clients, and I say, Hey! You should offer the settle. This is early on. You should offer a settlement. And the reason why is this is going to be ugly. It’s going to occupy your mind. It’s going to occupy your thoughts.
[00:31:46] Robert Sewell: You’re going to have sleepless nights. You’re going to expend a bunch of money. And they’re like, but we should win. And I’m like, yeah, I think you will win. I think you have the better position. To get there is going to be immense pain. So, I go to the other side and make the, I beat up my client enough till they agree.
[00:32:05] Robert Sewell: And I go to the other side, and I say, Hey, what about this? And the response was never. We will lead. And it was an agreement that would have made them whole. We will fight you to the end. Right. And, and, you know, when I’m talking to the opposing attorney, I said, Frank, I don’t think you know what you’re dealing with here.
[00:32:30] Robert Sewell: We beat each other up for years you know, and it got crazy. I mean, it was during the litigation. I had an, for example, my expert in Mexican law and helping me on the Mexican side was assassinated. I don’t think they’re related. I don’t, I really don’t think they are, but he was assassinated. My clients were arrested.
[00:32:58] Robert Sewell: we had to deal with squatters on the property. I uncovered information that the opposing side had bribed the Mexican public officials. I said, saw it right in emails. And oddly enough, the other side’s attorney mistakenly disclosed attorney client privilege to me and I saw that he had recommended that they take the offer, and their pride kept them from doing so.
[00:33:30] Robert Sewell: And at the end of the day, I go to a jury, and I get this phenomenal result. I destroyed every facet of their case and won every facet of my counterclaims. It’s not because I was so brilliant, okay? I’m not going to just; I’m not saying that. It was because. It was so obvious that the other side was seeking to win.
[00:33:55] Robert Sewell: It was so obvious that they had a black heart on the deal. The jury saw through it, and they’re real people, and they just let them have it. And so, you know, if they would have thought through that, they would have let their pride go away. They would have had money in their pocket. instead of a big fat judgment, which I collected on and, you know, and, and, and to make it even more interesting after this huge time period of all these crazy things happening and I win the case and I get, get the money and the response, my client’s response was never more than, you know, thanks, Bob.
[00:34:37] Robert Sewell: And the, and it wasn’t because they were ungrateful. I’m just absolutely confident that they would have been happier had they paid and settled earlier, if that was an option. And it wasn’t, because of the pride. That they would have been happier being out of pocket more. That they would have. So, I, it’s, it’s a really hard thing to explain.
[00:35:01] Robert Sewell: It’s, I don’t, I don’t quite understand why, but I’ve had, why that’s true. I’ve had it happen multiple times, but pride will damage a negotiation. It’ll make you do stupid things.
[00:35:14] Siebe Van Der Zee: And look, we could, we could talk for an hour about just this topic, right? Because when I think about the interest that perhaps the client has and the emotional interest that they have, and then the attorney, who looks at the big picture, but perhaps also attorneys look at their interest.
[00:35:36] Siebe Van Der Zee: Winning a case may be better than losing a case. And winning a case with a lower amount than what the client was hoping for, expecting, or demanded, you still won the case. Again, that’s, that’s a topic maybe for our next conversation, in the next round, but Fascinating. And I appreciate your sharing these thoughts because it brings up more questions and, and ideas there.
[00:36:02] Lesson 7: Be nice, but firm (likability is everything).
[00:36:02] Siebe Van Der Zee: But let’s move on to lesson number seven, because some of the next lessons will, will connect to this as well.
[00:36:09] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number seven, be nice, but firm. Likeability is everything. It kind of connects to what you were talking about.
[00:36:17] Robert Sewell: Yeah, this one’s really easy. You don’t want to talk to a jerk. You just don’t. And, and that doesn’t mean. Because you’re polite, you, you, are a pushover. No, it just means you’re a normal person.
[00:36:31] Robert Sewell: I’m too old. Life is too tough to be dealing with a jerk. And if they’re a jerk, usually the response is, eh, what do I care? we’ll just fight you.
[00:36:41] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, no, that makes sense. And again, I liked the way you say it because, yes, you deal with jerks and, and, perhaps in a legal situation also to take the emotion out of it and, and be, pragmatic about it.
[00:36:56] Siebe Van Der Zee: But being nice. Seems to work in most situations, right? And even if you have to tell yourself to be nice because you’re maybe a little upset inside, but it works typically better in Conversations, to be nice about it. I recently had a, parking ticket that I received, and the parking attendant, very friendly, and after, you know, a short conversation, I actually shook his hand, and I thought, who am I to shake the hands of a parking attendant who just gave me a ticket?
[00:37:31] Siebe Van Der Zee: But why not? And I got the ticket. I had to pay for it, but it was just a human moment to say, okay, he’s doing his job. And unfortunately, I was 10 minutes late getting back to my car. I got the ticket. So be nice. it, it, definitely, likability, is, is important.
[00:37:50] Lesson 8: Be reasonable–you are not going to “win the negotiation.”
[00:37:50] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number eight, be reasonable you’re not going to win the negotiation. at the end of the day. We all have to go through the same door. That’s an expression I learned when I was a child living in Europe. we have to figure it out together. Be reasonable. You’re not going to win the negotiation.
[00:38:08] Robert Sewell: Right. People think too much in terms of winning and losing.
[00:38:12] Robert Sewell: when in fact, what they really should be looking for is the peace of mind. they should be looking for a way to do what they do best, whatever it is. I just got done with this on a client and, you know, I, again, I thought I had the better position. I told my client; I think I have the better position.
[00:38:35] Robert Sewell: And my client comes to me and he’s like, man, this is really expensive. And I’m talking to you a lot. I said, yeah, I told you this is expensive, and you are talking to me a lot. You know, they don’t really comprehend it until they start cutting the checks. You could tell them whatever it is, but so they cut those checks, and they’ll stay there.
[00:38:52] Robert Sewell: And he said, and he says, well, what do we do? And I said, well, you know, here’s the door to the litigation. So go crunch the numbers, Frank. You do X for a living. You don’t do, you don’t litigate for a living. You do X for a living. So, what’s, what’s, what’s worth it to you? You’re going to spend this with me.
[00:39:17] Robert Sewell: You’re going to, you’re going to spend all this time with me, or you could do your business. So, what do you want to do? And he comes back to me, and he says, I want to walk away. And again, he had the better position. that was a financial decision.
[00:39:32] Robert Sewell: Yes, it was emotional decision. And the other side, they had their counterclaim, and they were going to try to fight, fight, fight, fight with their counterclaim. And then they, when they get his response, they’re like, all right, let’s just walk. And
[00:39:47] Robert Sewell: he didn’t win the negotiation. He won his life goal. And it was reasonable for him to walk away from the 150, 000 so he could focus on making money in his chosen field of business. Which probably was going to make them more than 150, 000.
[00:40:09] Siebe Van Der Zee: Well, that’s a tough one, but I can see what, what you’re saying here. And, and, obviously you look at the interest of your client, even if the client at some moment says, well, wait a minute, I want more, or I, I don’t want to negotiate. but that’s obviously the role that you play.
[00:40:25] Lesson 9: Get help from an intermediary.
[00:40:25] Siebe Van Der Zee: And it kind of fits with lesson number nine, get help from an intermediary.
[00:40:31] Siebe Van Der Zee: well, my question would be, how do you find the quote unquote right person? Who is that intermediary that you’re seeking out? For many people who are not in a legal dispute on a regular basis, they may say, well, where do I find the right? Intermediate to help me.
[00:40:50] Robert Sewell: Yeah, that’s hard. I think you have to start looking.
[00:40:53] Robert Sewell: It might be something so simple as a true friend, that friend who actually tells you what he thinks or she thinks, you know, Bob, you suck. You’re a pig head. You know, let’s move on. Or Bob, you’re too soft. Push. That person who really is your friend, that might be the person that you work with. Someone who counsels you, honestly.
[00:41:24] Robert Sewell: but there are all sorts of people out there that are in mediation businesses that will mediate disputes for you. And sometimes it helps just to get someone in between you. So, you don’t have to talk to each other. You know, if you’re in a large partnership or a business, there might be that one person that says.
[00:41:46] Robert Sewell: Let me give it a shot. Let’s see if we can end this between you and work out whatever problem it might be. We call it shuttle diplomacy, but having someone there, a counselor, a mediator, a friend, I think often helps. It gives perspective, taps down the pride, taps, you know, helps you see the bigger picture.
[00:42:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: Would you, in that sense, and maybe my question is very simplistic, but would you choose an intermediary or a support person, an attorney, that has a track record of winning big cases, or would you opt for someone that you know, and that person knows you, and you feel comfortable with that person? Would you look at the track record first and only, or would you look at saying, hey?
[00:42:37] Siebe Van Der Zee: You know, we know each other, and I really appreciate your advice. You were recommended to me by my neighbor, by my friend. how would you look at that as far as finding an intermediary to assist you?
[00:42:48] Robert Sewell: Yeah, you know, reaching compromises is its own skill set. Reaching, reaching that middle ground, finding a way through a very difficult dispute is a skill set.
[00:43:01] Robert Sewell: The person who is, is like in the litigation world, the person who only litigates is, is a hammer and they see everyone as nails. That’s not the person that’s going to end the dispute. with you. So, you, you, you find that person who helps the parties see through the problem. Frequently, one of the reasons why you’re in a dispute in the first place, is because you have two people who see the world where they are the hammers, and everyone else is the nail.
[00:43:39] Robert Sewell: And that, that person, that personality type is the type that frequently finds themselves in legal disputes, but other disputes as well. So, that, that personality type is not the personality type to help you see through a mediation, a negotiation.
[00:43:58] Lesson 10: Break all the rules when all else fails.
[00:43:58] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number 10. Break all the rules when all else fails. when all else fails or before all fails?
[00:44:06] Robert Sewell: I don’t know, you know, I have, I, I wrote out these 10 lessons, right? And I really gave it some thought. And then I thought of every single exception that I did, and it worked.
[00:44:19] Robert Sewell: I once had a client. I, I, I get a, I get a call from a, this is years and years and years and years ago. When I, when I was a baby attorney, I get a call from an attorney and she’s like, I’m having a baby. She actually leaves it on my machine.
[00:44:36] Robert Sewell: I’m having a baby. It’s coming early, but I got court at 11 a. m. Tomorrow on this case. I need you to handle it. Good luck.
[00:44:50] Robert Sewell: I didn’t know anything about the case. I didn’t know anything about the client. Well, as it turns out that it was a criminal case and I just had to go to the, to the plea agreement, and the plea was very favorable, except the guy had to take anger management classes. And the guy says to me in a very angry way, I will never take an angry management class!
[00:45:17] Robert Sewell: I have no anger problem! You know what I mean? He’s spazzing out.
[00:45:23] Robert Sewell: I got his wife next to me and he storms out. Now I’m due in court to accept or reject this offer. And I don’t know what I’m doing, right? Because I’m a baby attorney. I’ve never met this guy. And I say, is he coming back? I say to his wife, he’s coming back, and Storm’s back in, you know, half hour later, and I just sort of sat there and just…
[00:45:43] Robert Sewell: Thought of what I should do and my response, what I sort of calculated it and I said, you do have an anger problem and you should accept this offer. And, you know, and I’m tired of your crap, but I didn’t say crap oh, he’s like, oh, yeah, that makes sense to me. He didn’t understand me until I was like, passionate.
[00:46:10] Robert Sewell: It wasn’t in his head. He wanted to see some passion. And I, so I showed him some passion and then we talked a little bit more and then he’s like, oh yeah, this makes sense to me. Let’s go in and get this deal done. I broke all the rules, right? I lost my head. I didn’t, wasn’t actually mad. I didn’t actually, I wasn’t actually upset.
[00:46:33] Robert Sewell: I just figured in my head, he wanted to see me be upset. And I was right. There’s no rules that actually we have to follow. I, we just had 10 lessons. Forget them all. they’re just guidelines. You never know what’s going to happen. You never know.
[00:46:50] Siebe Van Der Zee: I was ready to add lesson number 11 when you were saying about that.
[00:46:55] Siebe Van Der Zee: If all the lessons fail, make up new lessons, right? There’s something about it, but yeah, you have to be able to be flexible and, and pivot and, and anticipate the unexpected, et cetera, et cetera. I, I also, Bob, want to ask you another question, because I really like your 10 lessons and, and there’s a lot of wisdom in there, but, are there perhaps any lessons that you have learned in your life, in your career that you have?
[00:47:23] Siebe Van Der Zee: unlearned where you decided, I got to change my ways. I got to do this differently.
[00:47:27] Robert Sewell: Oh, Heck yeah. Yeah. You know, you’ve noticed I’m a redhead, right? Yeah. I, I got a lot of fire in my belly. I grew up with fire in my belly. you got to tap that down. And I just told you a story where I showed fire and passion. I was, I was acting, I was playing.
[00:47:46] Robert Sewell: the truth is as you know, as a guy with lots of passion, generally lots of feelings. You got to tap it down. And that’s the lesson I learned over the years, is how to tap that down.
[00:48:00] Siebe Van Der Zee: Now, let me ask you about that, because passion, perhaps how it is… shared with others, conveyed to others that you control that to have passion inside your, between your ears, inside your brain by saying, I really want to fight for this, or I really think this is relevant and I really want to get this, you know, done successfully.
[00:48:26] Siebe Van Der Zee: You’re not saying that you don’t have that passion, right?
[00:48:29] Robert Sewell: No, you got to have that passion. Yes. You got to have that passion. You got to keep that. You got to keep the good parts, right? If you’re a fighter, don’t not be a fighter. Be a, be a fighter if that’s who you are. But you know what? You got to realize that not everyone is a nail, and not everyone wants to fight, and you may be hurting yourself.
[00:48:53] Robert Sewell: So, you got to tap it down and know when to tap that down, that fighter passion, you know, so you’re not saying, oh yeah, every single time you’re going down, right?
[00:49:03] Siebe Van Der Zee: No, I think that’s very healthy.
[00:49:04] Robert Sewell: You’re going to hit your head against the wall. Yeah. And I got that fighter spirit. I like a fight, you know, and I, and I want to fight.
[00:49:12] Robert Sewell: And, you know what, my partners don’t want to fight.
[00:49:15] Siebe Van Der Zee: No, and it’s something that it sounds like, and it makes sense to me that over time, you have learned that lesson to temper it down or put it inside the box and okay, don’t bring it up. and, and at the same time, and that’s why I asked you the internal passion.
[00:49:34] Siebe Van Der Zee: is there because it drives us as human beings to get things done and, and to go on to the next one, et cetera.
[00:49:41] Robert Sewell: But yeah. And people respect that. Like they’ll see that you’re passionate, that you really want, I want, I want this. They respect it. But they’ll also respect you from saying, Hey, it’s not about me.
[00:49:57] Robert Sewell: It’s about, you know, I’m willing to compromise.
[00:50:00] Siebe Van Der Zee: I almost want to use the term maturity, right? You get to the point where you’ve been there, done that. So, okay, let’s, let’s keep it under control. Yeah, no, it’s a great point. I want to thank you, Bob, for joining us today and wisdoms with our global audience.
[00:50:16] Siebe Van Der Zee: Very much appreciated.
[00:50:18] Siebe Van Der Zee: I want to make a few closing remarks. You’ve been listening to our international program. 10 Lessons Learned. And this episode is produced by Robert Hossary. And as always, we are supported by the Professional Development Forum, our guest today, Bob Sewell, a popular podcast host and leading litigation attorney in the United States, with a special focus on trust and estate matters, sharing his 10 Lessons Learned.
[00:50:44] Siebe Van Der Zee: And to our audience, Bob Don’t forget to leave us a review or a comment. You can also email us at podcast at 10lessonslearned. com. I hope you will subscribe, and you won’t miss any future episodes. And remember, this is a podcast that makes the world wiser and wiser lesson by lesson.
[00:51:05] Siebe Van Der Zee: Thank you and stay safe.
This episode is produced by Robert Hossary. Sponsored as always by Professional Development Forum. You can find the www.professionaldevelopmentforum.org you’ve heard from us we’d like to hear from you. Email us it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, this is the podcast the only podcast. That’s makes the world wiser lesson by lesson.