From EFOI Debra Berman:
In our zeal to teach integrative bargaining, many of us tend to use negotiation role-plays that have multiple items to creatively bargain about. But is that actually doing a disservice to our students? While I certainly believe it is beneficial to teach our students to think outside of the box and encourage integrative problem solving, in the “real-world,” often times money is the primary topic to be negotiated. Are we creating false expectations amongst our students?
I bring this up now because 400 students from all over the country just completed our Inter-School Negotiation Practicum which was a month long negotiation based on a pending law suit. The case documents can be found here.
First, I should start by pointing out that almost all students reported enjoying the exercise and found it to be particularly beneficial to negotiate against someone they didn’t know over a long period of time.
However, a handful of responses I received from the post-negotiation questionnaire, along with an observation from a professor that required her students to participate, indicate that some students were frustrated by the lack of creative options. Interestingly, however, there were in fact a number of outside-the-box options that students came up with. Yet they expected even more. Here are several of the comments I am referring to:
I wish the negotiation allowed for a little bit more creativity.
Having more than one thing to negotiate (or two if you include the NDA) would have made this more interesting.
I expected there to be a multitude of contentious issues up for debate. However, there seemed to really be only one: financial compensation. When there are more things at stake, you get the opportunity to leverage things against the other party and make more concessions and compromises. I found this to be less lively.
Sometimes I hear similar comments in my mediation class about one simulation in particular. I make sure that one of our five full-class, recorded mediations is essentially a money-only negotiation. Some students report that they feel that simulation is more challenging since there are fewer creative options.
So my question to you is this: Are our students’ expectations realistic? Are they going to be blindsided when they enter legal practice? Should we ensure that they are exposed to a range of different (yet realistic) simulations that don’t necessarily come along with the more sexy, creative options that we tend to see in classes and competitions? I welcome your thoughts.
Assistant Professor of Clinical Studies
Director, Frank Evans Center for Conflict Resolution
South Texas College of Law Houston