Offering

The art of offering and counter-offering is governed both by legal dictates as well as by a code of professional conduct – the two not necessarily coinciding. Legally, for example, having made an offer, one is free to withdraw it any time prior to its acceptance by the other party or before any time limitation on the validity of the offer expires. Professionally, however, one is expected to maintain the offer, unaltered, until it is either countered or accepted, or until its time limitation has expired. Again, legally, while negotiations continue, one can alter what has already been ‘agreed’. Professionally, this is frowned upon, although it may be that such ‘back-broking’ is acceptable if terms subsequently revealed during negotiations substantially affect what has previously been settled and which one party ought to have disclosed to the other at an earlier stage. Incidentally, you will often hear the expression ‘counter-offer’ and when actual negotiations are proceeding (especially near the closing stages) you will even come across the words ‘Accept-except’ which obviously means that the party saying it is prepared to accept the other’s offer with only a few (although they could be vital) alterations. However, let us be very clear on one point, when one makes a counter offer one is in fact saying ‘I decline your offer and I now make you the following firm offer’. Consequently until both parties have agreed on all and every detail, there is no contract and the one last in receipt of an offer (or counter offer) from the other is free, at any time, to ‘walk away’ from the negotiations. Just because the parties have started to negotiate this in no way binds them to continue although to break off capriciously and without warning whilst it may be legally permissible, it would not be counted as ethically good practice.