Early last month, two very wise attorneys from Pepper Hamilton LLP wrote a brief paper extolling the advantages of settling disputes through face-to-face meetings, rather than a stream of letters or email messages. The points they make are worthy of the reader’s serious consideration.
First – and to my mind, foremost – is the greater difficulty in taking an unreasonable position, or simply rejecting an opponent’s position, when you are facing him or her across a table. It is much easier and, hence, more common to assume an uncompromising position when you don’t have to look the recipient in the eye.
Second, attending a meeting involves expenses – namely, travel costs and the hourly billing of the attendees. People who incur these expenses are determined to achieve some benefit therefrom and they can expect that their opponents are of a like mind. Thus, both parties have an incentive to make their meeting productive.
Third, a meeting often costs less than the alternative. Although it may come in small increments, the TOTAL time spent in drafting and redrafting countless letters or email messages is frequently surprisingly high, while the final result is not reached for weeks or even months.
Finally, the folks at Pepper Hamilton offered two recommendations aimed at increasing the likelihood that a meeting will be successful. Before the meeting, circulate a list of issues to be addressed to all parties and have a decision-maker present, or at least available by telephone.