Session 3: The Art of Negotiation & Contractual Pitfalls

Date: December 2, 2016
Location: AIA National
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Lucy Moore, AIA and Constance Lai, AIA, NCARB, LEED BD+C CQM-C

Session 3 PDF


The third session is focused on the art of negotiation and contractual pitfalls. It was organized by Lucy Moore and Constance Lai at the AIA National Headquarter, Washington, D.C. The session included three presentations by Mike Koger, Kirsten Kulis, and Leslie Mulligan respectively.


During lunch, Price Modern introduced the firm’s practice and products to the group on how they transform the way people think, collaborate and perform by creating modern office designs for smarter, happier and more productive work environments.


Mike Koger started his presentation with how to limit architect’s potential liability. He discussed some basic approaches such as being selective in accepting clients and incorporating limitation of liability clause in the contract, etc. After that, he emphasized on the concept of indemnity and its impact on architect’s everyday practice. The group was intrigued by the profoundly different legal implications depends on the way indemnity clauses are worded in the contract. Mike’s case studies were very helpful for the audience to understand the concept better. He then presented other negotiation strategies for architect’s benefits such as how to use the ownership of intellectual property to help getting paid, and how architects could use the standard of care to protect themselves from unreasonable claims. At the same time, overstating a firm’s performance in marketing material could be harmful to the company in dispute, even though it is not hard evidence.


Following that, Kirsten Kulis, who is a GSA Liaison, did a presentation on Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NPHA). She first gave a general introduction to the NPHA and ACHP (Advisory Council on Historic Preservation), including its related programs and organizations. She then broke down Section 106 to a step by step process, including initiating the process, identifying historic properties, assessing adverse effects and resolving adverse effects. Each of the four phases is later discussed in detail with the group, followed by several case studies, including the old post office project in Washington D.C. Kirsten mentioned that bringing sketches and alternatives in back pockets is beneficial for the architects to help prevent deadlock conditions during the negotiation process. It helps people to reach consensus more quickly during the meeting.

Lastly, Leslie Mulligan from Watershed Associates was focused on negotiation skills. She
started her presentation with an image of two acrobats, making the point that negotiation
happens with movement. The difference between persuasion and negotiation is that persuasion is one-way movement, however, negotiation is all about offering different alternatives depends on the interaction. She discussed on how to push for dialogue that could discover the real need instead of the position held by people, as there could be a difference between what people want versus what people say what they want. During her presentation, there was a mini-activity when the group was divided into pairs of two to discuss what they have in common quickly. To find out as many shared things, the group experienced the fact that building a relationship through small talk could get people more comfortable in negotiating. After that, Leslie discussed the different types of negotiation such as those which are more outcome oriented, such as buying a car, or those which are more relationship oriented, such as deciding which movie to see with a family member. She underlined that people should use different negotiation methods depend on the actual scenario.


Session 3 gave the scholars an excellent overview of negotiations and contractual issues in the architecture industry. Mike Koger’s presentation covered typical tips and mistakes to avoid. Case studies are very helpful to illustrate abstract legal terms that are unfamiliar to architects. Kirsten Kulis was more specific in historic preservation while Leslie Mulligan included a comprehensive on people’s negotiation skills. Many speakers mentioned the importance of offering different alternatives and bringing options to the table. The presentations and discussed were stimulating and inspiring for young architects to learn to do work in a financially sounder and less risky way.