The Commandments of Ethical Settlement Negotiations for Lawyers

Legal Compliance Resource
February 8, 2013 — 1,000 views  

Most civil disputes have a tendency to end in settlements. So if a lawyer is a litigator, he will also bear the responsibility of negotiating the settlement. Although the goal of any settlement is to arrive at the best possible outcome for the client, there are certain rules that the attorney is supposed to understand and follow. These rules are put in place to protect the client’s best interest, as well as the attorney’s reputation and good standing in the bar.

Classification of the Commandments

It is important that the attorney’s stance is both effective and ethical. This ensures that all parties involved are treated fairly, the dispute is settled respectfully, and at the end of the day, everyone has been dealt with a fair hand. These rules or commandments of ethical settlement can be broadly classified as the following:

1)      Making untrue statements is prohibited: A lawyer must never make a representation to an opponent when he knows it to be untrue. Even if this harms his client’s case, making false statements or even omitting facts is not permissible.

2)      Making any statement that may mislead the opponent: This is considered as poor litigation. In civil disputes, misleading the opponent directly affects the negotiation process, and is therefore prohibited.

3)      It is important to maintain complete disclosure: There should be frankness between both parties in a legal case. Secrecy hinders the settlement process, and a lawyer can be liable for misrepresentation if all facts are not disclosed.

4)      Misuse of important information: It is unethical to misuse confidential or privileged information shared by the opponent. The information pertaining to the case should strictly be used only for the case. Anyone who misuses such information may be liable to penalty.

5)      Be trustworthy: It is important for a lawyer to instill a sense of trust in his client as well as other parties involved. Integrity and a calm mind can go a long way in maintaining your reputation. You may also find that it is easier to negotiate towards a satisfactory result in the civil dispute when there is trust and understanding between both parties.

Though the above guidelines help to maintain the dignity of the proceedings, your first obligation is toward your client. It is important to carefully consider all related subject matter in the dispute. Paying close attention to detail and having a clear idea of whom you’re negotiating against and on whose behalf you’re negotiating can help handle your case greatly.

Listen to Both Parties

Keep in mind to listen carefully, to both parties, as this will help you to negotiate the dispute more effectively. Even if the opponent tends to be unethical or disruptive, it is important to remain calm and composed.

Settlement negotiations in civil disputes usually take place in the absence of a judge or any other judicial supervision, and may be considered the ‘no-man’s land’ of attorney ethics. But performing your duties to the best of your ability, while being ethical and lawful, will only help build and maintain your reputation as a lawyer.

Legal Compliance Resource


Most civil disputes have a tendency to end in settlements. So if a lawyer is a litigator, he will also bear the responsibility of negotiating the settlement. This article provides 10 essential rules of ethical settlements for lawyers.