This blog focuses on real estate, land use and construction-related topics affecting Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metro area. With topics ranging from contract drafting and negotiation to local and regional land use project updates, the attorneys at Bean, Kinney & Korman provide timely insight and commentary on the issues affecting owners, builders, developers, contractors, subcontractors and other players in the industry. If you are interested in having us cover a specific topic, please let us know.

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Understanding the Other Side: The Art of War

The Art of WarA post yesterday from our friend Chris Hill at Construction Law Musings really resonated with me on a critical skill that many lawyers seem to lack.  The post, "What Owners Look for in Green Building and Why Contractors Should Care" advocated that contractors should know and understand what project owners were looking for in green buildings.  As Chris states well, "Knowing the other side's playbook is one way that a football team can prepare, the same holds true in pre-construction negotiation of contracts."

This same concept can and should be applied in every legal context.  If I cannot understand the strengths and weaknesses of not only my case, but also my opponent's, I am wearing blinders and courting disaster.  Not being able to play both sides of the chessboard is asking for surprises.  In negotiations, that means losing ground unnecessarily.  In litigation, it can mean flat out losing the case.

For years, a pocket classics translation of Sun-Tzu's absolute must read, The Art of War has lived on my desk.  A classic passage from centuries ago echoes this issue:

So it is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose won; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

For clients on the receiving end, you should understand and cherish the need for your lawyer to play the "devil's advocate" role in testing assumptions, articulating weaknesses, and educating you regarding the strengths and weaknesses of your position.  Ultimately, that very approach may mean success or failure of your matter.

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  • Timothy R. Hughes

    Timothy Hughes is the managing shareholder of Bean, Kinney & Korman. In that role, Tim is charged with managing the strategy, talent, and finances of the firm.

    Tim’s practice started in litigation and alternative dispute ...