Five Negotiation & Mediation Roleplays that can be Taught in 2-Hours or Less*

Picture of HLS Langdell LibraryFitting meaningful learning into one class period can be challenging. Below, five of our best Negotiation & Mediation Roleplays are represented that can be taught in two-hours or less.

1. Balance the Budget!:

Total Teaching Time: 1 hr-1hour 15 minutes
Learning Objective(s): To explore the impact of multi-party decision making.
Description: You have recently been appointed by the mayor to serve an interim appointment as a city councilor for your hometown of Jackson City. This is a very challenging time for Jackson City which is currently projecting a $25 million deficit for the coming year. In order to do so, the mayor asked the city manager’s office to conduct an analysis of current revenues and expenditures, and put forth some proposals for reducing the deficit.
Given her public commitment to balancing the budget, the mayor is refusing to accept anything less than a $25 million reduction. If the city council cannot reach such an agreement, the mayor plans to close all city offices and cease all payments by the city treasurer’s office. Agreement is reached by majority vote.

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2. Diego Primadonna:

Total Teaching Time: 1 hour-1 hour 45 minutes
Learning Objective(s): To practice probing for interests; to understand the concept of a zone of possible agreement; to identify sources of value; to produce value-creating options; to practice distributional strategies
Description: The Rio Nacionale Football Club has fallen on hard times. Diego Primadonna, a former star for Rio Nacionale, is looking to make a comeback. After being traded to another team, Diego played two successful seasons and then was sidelined with a serious injury to his left knee. Three seasons ago, following surgery and months of rehabilitation, Diego returned to the field. While he doesn’t have quite the same playing ability or flair that he had in his youth, Diego still commands the name recognition of a legend.
Weeks before the season is set to begin, Rio Nacionale placed their star forward on the short-term injury list. At his own initiative, Diego got in touch with the Director of Player Personnel for the Rio club to ask if there was any possibility that they might be interested in signing him. The Director of Player Personnel seemed interested, so the two asked their agents to see if they could negotiate a deal to sign Diego to Rio Nacionale for the upcoming season.

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3. Family Property Dispute Facilitation:

Total Teaching Time: 1-2 Hours
Learning Objective(s): To provide experience facilitating a meeting where participants bring a diverse set of concerns; to develop and manage a process for facilitating conversation; to develop the ability to work with a partner; to uncover underlying interests of parties.
Description: You have been hired by the Ohio Family Property Preservation Organization to help resolve a dispute between members of the Jones family over their family land. The family land has been the subject of controversy for the last eight years, since the family matriarch passed away, leaving the land to each of the four Jones children in a joint tenancy. Currently, the four Jones siblings have a very poor relationship with one another and consequently have not been able to agree on what to do with the property. The situation regarding the property has become precarious because none of the family members has paid taxes due on it in the past year, and the state is threatening foreclosure. You will be facilitating a meeting with the family members.

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4. Kesnia:

Total Teaching Time: 2 hours
Learning Objective(s): To practice using objective criteria; explore the disadvantages and advantages of disclosing information; practice negotiating as a team; practice exploring and integrating the other side’s interests into the bargaining process.
Description: Kesnia is a country that recently emerged from a five-year civil war. When the war first broke out, many individuals feared for their safety and fled the country. During the first year of the conflict, the Kesnian government passed an act that provided that the property belonging to the people that fled the country was to be controlled by the State. It also authorized local authorities to temporarily accommodate military personnel in such property. When the conflict ended five years later, the government determined that persons whose property had been taken over by the government during their absence had the right to receive compensation for the use of their property. Compensation is determined by the “fair market value” of 1) whatever the rent for such property would be, and 2) any damage that was more than the usual wear-and-tear to be expected of a tenant. The NGO Program Associates are representing Sophia. Government soldiers occupied her apartment for 48 months. During their occupation of the apartment, they made many changes to her apartment, including throwing out some of her antique furniture and soundproofing a room. The Government Representatives are part of a task force that is in charge of conducting settlement negotiations on behalf of the Kesnian government. The task force has limited funds that it must work with to settle roughly 1,000 claims.

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5. Hong Kong Property Deal:

Total Teaching Time: 1:30-2 hours
Learning Objective(s):

• Bargaining range (both positive and negative bargaining range); also known as zone of possible agreement (ZOPA);
• First offers in a distributive negotiation: how and when to present a first offer;
• Gathering information to determine the other party’s intentions and goals;
• Managing information about our own intentions and goals; and
• Introduction to integrative strategy
Description: The Hong Kong Property Deal is a simple two-party negotiation that appears to have a single distributive issue (price), but contains several hidden issues that offer integrative opportunities.
Lee Wing and Terry Jones each operate a business next door to each other on Tai Po Kau Harbour Road. Between their two businesses is a small lot that is unattractive as a separate building site because it sits between two large warehouses. Lee Wing purchased the small lot in 1990 for $70,000.
Wing has decided to move to Australia, and has arranged to sell his construction material importation business to Bill Ling. Ling has gathered the necessary funds to buy Wing’s business and warehouse, but can only offer $50,000 for the small vacant lot (which he neither particularly needs nor wants).
Terry Jones conducts the Hong Kong business for Australian-based Outback Foods from the lot on the other side of Wing’s vacant lot. Unbeknownst to Wing, Outback Foods is having great success in Hong Kong and could use some extra space to expand its warehouse. Indeed, Terry Jones has a budget of up to $200,000 to purchase additional space for a warehouse.
Wing called Jones yesterday, and the parties are about to meet.

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* Outside class preparation may be required, teaching times are estimates

About Lisa Brem

Lisa Brem is the Case Studies Program Manager at Harvard Law School.
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