The best way to prepare for a negotiation competition is by practicing. While it may seem like an intimidating and difficult task, there are many ways that you can practice with ease in your everyday life so as long as the conditions suit them well enough then these techniques will work out nicely! Practice makes perfect after all; what better time than now?
What is Negotiation?
Negotiation is a way to resolve conflict that doesn’t involve going through the court system. When two people can agree on something without litigation, it’s usually better for both sides involved and saves everyone time spent waiting around at lawyers’ offices or jails while proceedings happen outside their homes (or wherever).
What is Negotiation Competiton?
Negotiation competition consists of two teams. Each team has a client and counsel. The participants can take different roles in a negotiation competition i.e., client or counsel. A participant’s role is either fixed for the entire competition or the roles are switched in upcoming rounds. Each side would consist of a client and counsel negotiating with the opponent team. It is important to practice with your teammate to ensure coordination and understanding. Practicing would ensure that no one interrupts each other during the rounds.
The Negotiation Problem
Two types of information are provided in a negotiation competition i.e., general and confidential information. Firstly, general Information is given to both the negotiating teams. It may contain a brief introduction about the parties, the dispute between them, stand of each party. This information is usually given a few days prior to the preliminary rounds. Secondly, confidential information given to each team is different. This information is usually given one hour before the round. Participants are required not to disclose it to the other team.
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Demarcation of the roles
The teams must decide who will play which role. The demarcation of roles is essential for the smooth functioning of the round. Teammates should not interrupt each other and one person should not overshadow the other. Coordination between teammates is very important in a negotiation competition.
The client deals with the factual matrix of the problem. For instance, in a child custody problem, the client should speak about parental relationships with the child, parents’ work schedules, etc. If a settlement has been reached, the final approval should be given by the client. It is advisable that the client refrains from dealing with any legal aspects of the problem.
The counsel should ensure that the client’s interests are protected. The counsel proposes the agenda for the negotiation competition. These agendas constitute the main discussion of the problem. Agenda setting is important to ensure that the session runs smoothly. Legal aspects must be dealt with by the counsel. However, the counsel must remember that the negotiation competition is not a moot court competition.
Thus, the client and counsel should complement each other.
When the round commences, each participant will begin with their opening statement. The length of the opening statement depends on the total time of the round. Usually, it is for 3-4 minutes. Firstly, the participants will exchange pleasantries and introduce themselves i.e. their names, their roles. For instance, Good afternoon, I am Mr. X, and I am the CEO of ABC company. Secondly, the participants may thank the opponent team for requesting or responding to the request of negotiation as opposed to choosing litigation to resolve the dispute. Thirdly, they may point out that they intend to reach a mutually beneficial settlement. The client focuses on the facts of the problem and the counsel highlights the important interests of the client. For instance, in an employment law dispute, the interests of the client may be ‘fair compensation and fair workplace environment’
After the opening statements, the counsel for either side generally proposes an agenda for the negotiation round. The other party’s counsel may accept the agenda as it is or suggest modifications. Setting the agenda in the correct chronology is extremely important.
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The negotiation round consists of:
- Offers and counter-offers: The participants then proceed to communicate to each other their viewpoint on the first agenda, and present offers and counteroffers. It is important to listen to the other party, and accommodate their thoughts to the extent possible. The aim is not to dominate the other party, but to arrive at a mutually beneficial solution.
- Questions: During the round, the teams may also ask questions to each other. Asking question is essential for discovering the confidential information. Understanding the reason behind their stand can help to arrive at a conclusion. It is beneficial to already prepare the questions you wish to ask before the beginning of the round.
- Agreement: It is not necessary that for a successful negotiation, the parties have to agree on all the items on the agenda. Thus, the parties should not quickly agree on something only for the sake of agreeing. It is not necessary to reach a settlement if the client’s interests are getting hampered. Teams should prepare possible solutions beforehand. Try to keep both parties’ interests in mind and be creative with the solutions you offer.
The round ends with the closing statement given by all the participants. The participants may thank each other for their cooperation and time. If the negotiation reached a settlement, one of them may propose to draft an agreement with the modifications agreed upon. If no settlement is reached between the teams, one team may propose to schedule another negotiation. The teams must recognize each other efforts in the closing statement.
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In addition to the actual negotiation, some competitions require that the parties also submit a negotiation plan, prior to the actual negotiation. It is essentially a document outlining the objectives and goals of the negotiation, interests of the client, the negotiation strategy, the points that are in favor of, and against the client, etc. The exact requirements of the plan may be specified in the rules of the competition concerned.
Negotiation competitions are certainly a very enriching experience that all law students must consider participating in. This blog briefly provides the details of a negotiation competition and how to prepare for it. There are several videos of such competitions on YouTube, which offer insight into the format and are useful resources.