📺 Event Replay: Practical Commercial Contracting for In-House Teams

Ever wondered how you could improve your negotiation strategies? Or what to do in a tense situation when the other side is unwilling to budge? ​Whether you are an experienced contracts counsel, or looking to get your foot in the door- we’ve got you.

Our expert panel guided us through their contracting best practices and shared their experiences.

Meet the Presenters:


Kathy Zhu, Senior Director, AGC, Doordash


Hylan Fenster, Director, AGC, Adobe

Hayley Gonzales, Managing Counsel, Affirm

Ariana Goodell, Legal Director of Commercial, Branch

Key Takeaways:

  • Employ collaborative and open negotiating approaches\
  • Work with the sales team early on and equip them with tools that will aid overall efficiency
  • Learn the risks of your company, but also what the other party is trying to get out of it
  • Everything is negotiable

How do you get your foot in the door if you’re interested in switching to commercial transactions, but are not sure the best way to go about it?


Ariana, “Privacy is essentially a cornerstone skill set for any commercial counsel these days”

I had to proactively seek out opportunities to build up a skill set that would be transferable In-house.

Hylan, “Be open, and follow your interests... or move away from something that doesn’t interest you”

Work on the skills needed to get the job. Keep up networking- it can open up opportunities to branch out in your career.

Kathy, “Be the architect of your career”

If you know something doesn’t feel right- you don’t have to be stuck there forever.

How do you typically engage with your counter-party when negotiating contracts?


Hayley, “I always recommend starting off on a partnership-oriented, collaborative approach”

Think about standard social approaches, you don’t want your counter-party to feel weary from the start. Try to always get something for everything that you give.

Ariana, “My team employs interest-based negotiation”

Understand the power dynamics, and try to find the why behind the ask. Build up rapport with negotiating partners, as they’ll be more likely to compromise so you can come up with creative solutions.

Are there any personal habits or practices to follow to make negotiations more effective?


Kathy, “The best commercial lawyers know what issues matter and which are immaterial”

Understand the risks particular to the business. Spend the time to embed and talk to business teams, and counterparts.

Ariana, “Anticipate what the other party is going to argue back”

Think of several responses and plan the response to those, and keep going as long as you can. Deeply understand the risks associated with your company, but also understand what’s important for the other party.

Hylan, “Switching when the other side switches first”

Going in openly is the most effective strategy, but sometimes you need to hammer the issue that’s the most important.

When has the “Give-Get” tactic worked the most for you?


Hayley, “Think about what is a must- have for the negotiation, moderate risk, and nice-to- have”

Be ready to trade the “nice- to- haves” in exchange for “must- haves”- it can move the needle in the critical part of the negotiation.

Kathy, “Even in instances where you feel you have no leverage- they still need your product or services”

Understand what is in it for your counter-party, and what they are looking to get out of it. Build up a great rapport with your sales team so they can get legal and business terms through the door before you step in.

How do you work effectively with sales teams?


Hayley, “When I started to bring the sales team along with me, they became the strongest ally for legal”

Educate your sales team, and form that partnership so they can identify pertinent issues in other deals.

Ariana, “It’s not just the doing of the legal team”

Having a deal-desk function has helped form a relationship between sales and legal. They can be immediately helpful in situations that things aren’t in legal purview, and prioritize all of our deal work.

Kathy, “It’s important to create additional leverage in your team”

Focus on the work that no one else can do- and outsource the other stuff. We’ve leveraged Lawtrades for overflow work so that my team can focus on the highest value sales deals.

What efficiency aids and technology platforms do you leverage to create more bandwidth?


Hylan, “We’ve empowered our sales-legal team to become product specialists”

It’s very hard to know a lot about all the products we have. We leverage those product resources and job aids to build and match up expertise.

Hayley, “Collaboration and knowledge sharing is so important”

We’ve created annotations for the business. It’s a quick reference that anyone from the company can access. We share knowledge at team meetings, and keep on-going communication.

Ariana, “It’s helpful to have that collateral immediately available”

We utilize Guru, a knowledge base software where you can create and memorialize institutional knowledge. It makes it so much more accessible to new team members coming in.

What mistakes have you made?


Ariana, “Embrace failure as an opportunity to be better in the future”

Make sure someone on the ground within the company is driving the deals. Consider employing a legal primary that owns the deals from beginning to finish and who can make strategic calls for the business when necessary.

Hylan, “Don’t fake it if you don’t have an answer”

Faking is both confusing and a bad path to take.

Hayley, “Sometimes commercial is the last to know”

Try to get more entrenched in other parts of the business so you can be a strategic partner early on and be one of the first stops, rather than the last.

What are some strategies to get customers to use your paper?

49:13- 52:15

Ariana, “Equip your sales team with talking points about why going with your paper is faster...but go beyond that”

Assess what your average deal size is. You shouldn’t be putting in above average work amount for any deal that is below average in terms of revenue .

What do you look for when you are interviewing candidates for a role on your team?


Hylan, “I want to see who is going to be a fit for the team.. and who’s coachable”

Of course, you want to ask about privacy expertise and negotiation style- but make sure they are a good overall fit that can grow with the team.

Hayley, “Someone who is capable of having a million fires thrown at them during negotiation is someone I would love to hire”

You need to find someone who is not going to take negotiations personally, someone who is proactive, and someone who can see the bigger picture.

At Lawtrades, we have a diverse talent network from around the world. Check us out the next time you’re looking to hire flexible legal professionals.


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