Have you ever apologized to a client for a failure in your professional work? Is that a good idea, or one that will get you in trouble with your partners/ lawyers/ insurance carrier/ the Court? As always, the answer is “it depends”.
Clients are people too. Even institutional clients are made up of people, and all people appreciate being told the truth and having a sincere apology when warranted. However, in general, anything that is said against your own interests can be used against you in Court. What’s a responsible engineer or architect to do?
Last week, I attended a thoughtful presentation on apologies by Burns Logan, Corporate Counsel for Jacobs, at the American Bar Association’s Construction Law Forum.
Burns’ main take aways:
1. You don’t have to actually say you are “sorry” (especially if you aren’t) to get the benefit of the strategy. You only have to include an explanation, accept responsibility, and make a reasonable offer of repair.
2. Deliver the “apology” in mediation where you don’t run the risk of it being used against you as evidence in court (most apology statutes don’t help in construction-related disputes)
The second point is key– mediation in most states (including North Carolina) is confidential. Nothing can be quoted or held against you if it is part of mediation. So, consider taking responsibility (with explanation), but do so at your mediation conference.
If you’d like to see Burns’ entire slide show, it can be found here. Thanks, Burns, for a very informative presentation.
Questions/thoughts/comments? Share below, or drop me an email.
“Sorry” photo (c) myguitarzz via Creative Commons.