Negotiation and Ethics – in the Palm of Your Hand?

Friend of Indisputably, Kristen Blankley, provides this guest post on an two new cell phone apps to keep important information at your fingertips.

Who says that the answers to complicated questions arising from negotiation strategy and legal ethics cannot be answered at the tip of your fingers?  Thanks to two recently developed apps, they can.  The first app, Picture It Settled, helps negotiators visualize the pattern of monetary offers between parties and can offer suggestions on next moves, as well as predicts the likely settlement amount and time.  The second app, created by the New York State Bar Association, puts the New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics’ Opinions from 1964 to the present in a convenient, searchable, mobile application.  Both applications can be downloaded for free in the Android Market and on the iPhone App Store.

Lawyer, mediator, and professor Don Philbin of San Antonio (and friend of Indisputably) created Picture It Settled to help attorneys visualize the progress of monetary offers between parties.  The application then shows the pattern of concessions in a graph, showing both actual and predicted future moves.  The application not only predicts the amount of the likely settlement but also the time at which the settlement will occur.  The app makes these predictions based on algorithms he developed and research conducted regarding settlement of moneyed disputes.

The Picture It Settled application has particular applicability during a caucused-based mediation session, during which many offers and demands are exchanged.  This application also helps attorneys calculate their next monetary move.  The app can calculate potential “next moves” by matching previous moves (by either side), offering percentages of previous moves, or moving in whole dollar amounts based on previous moves.  In this respect, the application gives the lawyers many different options, and it makes the math very easy.  I’m quite tempted to see this application work in practice, and I’m tempted to have my mediation students try it out as part of one of their role plays.

Currently, only the “lite” version of the app is available, and a paid “full” version with increased capabilities will be available in the future.  Visit the website,, for more information on the application.

The second application is a searchable database of ethics opinions created by the NYSBA.  The application lets the user search the opinions by keyword, category, or opinion number.  Particularly convenient is the ability to search the opinion text for certain keywords.  For us ADR folks, this app has already has the terms “arbitration,” “mediation,” and “settlement agreement” within the massive database of possible “category” selections.  According to the app, the “NYSBA Ethics App provides official opinions on topics in legal ethics as prepared by the New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics.  Opinions are available from 1964 to the present and are searchable by keyword, category or opinion number.”

This NYSBA application has some obvious appeal.  This application gives what is probably the easiest access to a large bank of ethics opinions when an attorney is away from the computer.  So the next time that someone has a quick legal ethics question over dinner, document review, or travel, this app might be the way to find an answer in a pinch. 

As an avid smartphone user, I like seeing the increased offerings of legal applications, especially those in my two favorite areas of the law: ADR and ethics.  I also like the idea of increasing the use of technology in negotiation, mediation, arbitration, collaborative law, and other dispute resolution options.  An increased offering of apps for smartphones (especially free apps!) might give us increased options in our respective toolboxes.

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