Ask An Expert: Claudia Winkler

Claudia Winkler, Negotiation Trainer and the Director of the IBA-VIAC CDRC Vienna Mediation and Negotiation Competition, discusses legal education, the future of ADR and the importance of negotiation skills in transforming the culture of dispute resolution.

What is your current role in dispute resolution?

As a negotiation trainer, mainly being called for in-house trainings in law firms, I see myself in the role of a provider. For my client-communication coaching I also take the role of an advisor and coach to lawyers.

What made you specialise in dispute resolution?

I was initially going to habilitate in European Union Law when my LLM at Harvard Law School gave me the chance to join the Harvard Negotiation Program. Realising the leverage that negotiation skills can have on every aspect of a lawyer’s work I completely rearranged my career plans to focus on teaching negotiation exclusively as an independent trainer.

How do negotiation skills fit into the continuum of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes?

Many people think of dispute resolution methods as being a continuum from adversarial to consensual: litigation – arbitration – mediation – negotiation. In reality, negotiation skills are applicable equally much to all dispute resolution methods. We use them when trying to reach a settlement ahead of litigation (and successfully so in up to 97% of cases), we use them while trying to persuade the tribunal in an arbitration, and of course mediation is nothing but facilitated negotiation. Negotiation skills are an everyday tool in every lawyer’s toolbox and have now become a skill too important to leave its mastery up to chance.

Why is it so important for law practice to incorporate negotiation skills?

The way we practice law, make deals and solve disputes is fundamentally changing with the way the pace and complexity of business and life is evolving. The world population has doubled in the last 50 years, changing the way we