‘How does one negotiate?’ You ask ...

The Deal

  • Two teams
  • One set of common facts/general info
  • Each team has their own set of confidential info-related to their client’s interests
  • The negotiation lasts 50 minutes from when the judge tells the teams they may begin
  • The two teams discuss the various issues
  • Facts will be obtained one or two days in advance
  • NB: Sit at an angle so you can see both your partner and the other team

Aim as a Negotiator

  • Satisfy as many of your client’s interests as possible
  • Prioritise – you won’t get all your client’s interests (the problems are often designed so that the two teams will not be able to agree completely and there must be compromise)
  • Your client will often have an unspoken interest in maintaining good relations with the other party

Refer to the Competitions Handbook for an example problem: Zoril and Environmental Protection Agency

Time Management

  • 50 min negotiation + 10 minutes per team for self-reflection
  • First state: ‘All negotiations that take place here are confidential and are made without prejudicing our client’s right to litigate’
  • First 5 min: introductions, agree on an agenda for the various issues in order of importance to both parties
  • Then work through each issue, always focussing on the underlying interests involved – don’t get bogged down
  • 45th min: recap everything you’ve agreed upon, make sure both teams are clear on the terms of the agreement and what has to happen going forward
    • Identify if you only agree to something on principle
    • Summarise all the agreements to make sure each party knows what they agreed to. This. Is. Important.
    • If you’re running out of time and you didn’t cover all the issues, just schedule another fictitious meeting.
  • NB: The judge will not give you time warnings – once you hit the 50 min mark, the judge will halt the negotiation and move straight to self-reflection
  • Each team has the option of a 5 min break during the 50 min (clock does not stop)
  • Each team will have different foci – if the other team is obsessed about one point, let them have their say (let each team identify their goals)
  • You may reveal your client’s underlying interests (though there will be some that you cannot reveal … your confidential info will probably specify that it cannot be revealed)
  • Time management is tres important! If you haven’t covered all interests by the end of the 50 min break, that means you haven’t acted on behalf of your client well. And you will be executed.
  • NB: You must reach an agreement by the end of the 50 min


  • In-depth legal research is not necessary
  • Important to go in with a firm idea of what your client’s interests are and what you are or aren’t willing to agree to
  • With your partner, try to answer the following questions about your client:
  1. What is the most important to them?
  2. What is least important to them?
  3. What concessions are they prepared to make?
  4. What are your best and worst case scenarios?
  5. What are your client’s options if no negotiated settlement can be reached? (BATNA)

Preparation - BATNA

  • BATNA: Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement
  • What will your client do if you can’t reach an agreement with the other team?
  • Not to be confused with a bottom line
  • When evaluating an offer/suggestion by the other team, always remember the consequences of not reaching an agreement by the end of the negotiation (if you don’t reach an agreement, you will have to settle it in court, which is what you want to avoid)

Principled Negotiating

  • You’re not here to haggle. Always strive to:
  1. Understand interests
  2. Create options
  3. Separate the people from the problem
  4. Aim for/rely upon objective standards

eg. In the case of selling a car, don’t start haggling when each team offers different amounts. Refer to the current market value for the car.

The facts often do not state everything you need – Investigate standards prior to the negotiation – bring evidence if necessary (even from wiki!)

Be firm, not pushy, and don’t automatically assume that your client’s interests are in direct conflict with those of the other team.

The Judging Criteria

Each is from 1 to 7 – the lower the score, the better

1. planning and preparation
2. flexibility in deviating from plans or adapting strategy;

  • keep throwing out new solutions if you can’t come to an agreement
  • be ready to adapt (to changing primary interests)

3. teamwork;

  • can be the big determinant
  • keep an eye on your team member
  • give your partner room to speak – don’t cut them off
  • share the load (this is best shown by finishing each other’s sentences. The judges ALWAYS love this! Okay, I’m joking.)

4. relationship with the other negotiating team;

  • Pretend. (at the very least) To. Like. Your. Opponents.
  • Use positive language
  • Refer to them respectfully (their names?)
  • ‘What does your client think about _?’ - If they’re being especially difficult, ask what their primary interests are.

5. negotiation ethics;

  • If you reveal information your client has specifically said not to.
  • Lying about client’s interests.
  • Honesty.

6. negotiated outcome and whether it served the client’s goals; and

  • How much did you get? Did you achieve your client’s interests?
  • Preparation and identifying your client’s interests.

7. self-analysis.


  • Great place to score extra points
  • Be self-critical, reflect on your strategy’s effectiveness
  • Explain to the judge why you made certain decisions/took a certain approach
  • Judge will usually ask you: ‘If you could do this negotiation again, what would you do the same and what would you do differently?’
    • Show that you recognise your mistake/s. Own up to all your screw-ups!
    • Then suggest how you could fix this in the future.
  • A ‘How we did it' thing – what we did during our prep … our strategy was … and it worked/didn’t quite work because …
  • Justify focus on primary interests v secondary interests – ‘these were our client’s interests … we believe we served these interests etc.’

Final Comments

  • Identify interests, keep the BATNA in mind
  • No need to research the law – researching other items (cost of soundproofing as an example) is a good idea
    • Look outside the box when coming up with solutions within the grounds of the funds limitation

Have fun :) and don’t be intimidated!