Notre Dame Sydney Law Society

2017 Negotiation


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Negotiations Overview, Hints, and Tips

‘The ability to successfully negotiate on a client’s behalf is an essential skill for any lawyer. It’s a skill that applies in a range of contexts, not just litigation and dispute resolution. If you can learn the art of negotiation, it will make a big difference to your success in legal practice’.

– Rob Cutler, Chief Executive Partner, Clayton Utz

What is involved?
Negotiation involves a mock mediation. Two parties receive a set of general facts which explains the dispute. Each side then receives a set of “confidential facts” which reveal your clients side of the argument, what they want and what they can negotiate. The negotiation runs for roughly an hour which encompasses a 40 minute negotiation, a 5 minute time out which can be requested by either party at any time. There is also a 5 minute self-reflection section after the negotiation followed by some commentary by the judge.

Time Commitment
To succeed you need to prepare. You don’t necessarily have to complete research for the negotiation but sometimes it helps to get your head around a particular concept or try to get an edge on your opponents. No need to reference cases and any law’s you may need to refer to will be provided in general facts.

At the start of the negotiation one team will be seated at the table waiting whilst the other will enter. When you come to the table shake hands and introduce yourselves. Once you take your seats you should exchange and talk about an “Agenda” (This shouldn’t reveal your confidential facts) which will guide the order of points which you and the opposition want to address. Take 5 mins to review the other team’s agenda and agree on a starting point.

Negotiations will then begin with both parties explaining the interest of each party and working through each point in the plan. For each point, both parties will have something they want for their client – try to find an outcome which is best for your client but is also fair for the other party. Use the negotiation as a whole i.e. if you concede one point then push to get more of what your clients wants in another section.

If you start feeling frustrated, remember to stay calm and slowly work through each issue systematically. If you feel like you are running out of time and continue going in circles, take a 5 minute break with your team member, discuss strategy, regather your thoughts and come back.

Whilst getting both parties to agree on the day is excellent it doesn’t have to happen. In practice, negotiations can go for months so it is fine to say that an issue can be resolved at a later date.


Total marks are out of 100 with 10 marks allocated per each section

  • Negotiation planning: This includes both the Agenda which you will hand over to the other team as well as your “secret” plan which combines the general facts and confidential facts into a formula which you can use to see whether to push or concede a point. This includes your research. Make sure to provide a copy to the judge.
  • Adaptability: When something springs up you didn’t expect you have to figure out a solution which benefits your client. Sometimes this means flipping your entire plan on its head and thinking on the spot. This is often a good time to take the 5 minute break and figure out a plan with your partner.
  • Session outcome: You receive marks for this section if you achieve what your client asked.
  • Relationship between teams: If your opponents are your friends, someone you have met or even someone you have competed against before then use it to develop a relationship. This means referring to each other by name, having respect and staying calm during discussion.
  • Exploration of interests: This involves asking your opponents what their client wants and saying what your client wants (Without revealing too much).
  • Creativity of options: Relative to exploration of interests, this section involves you having multiple solutions for conflicting issues.
  • Teamwork: This is how well you and your partner work together. This means both members contributing equally to the conversation and allow each other room to put points forward. If only one person speaks the entire time then it is not good teamwork.
  • Negotiation ethics: Contrary to common belief, you have to be honest when you are a lawyer. This means not lying about confidential facts, not trying to trick the opposition into agreeing with you and also finding a middle ground rather than trying to ruin the other team’s client’s life.
  • Communication: This section is relative public speaking skills. You have to be clear, concise and get your point across. Don’t rush your sentences, think each sentence through and relate each sentence to an actual point.
  • Self-Analysis: This is the section you can either chat to your partner or also include the judge. Here you should speak about what you did well, what you can improve on, what surprised you and what issues you should resolve with regards to your own team.

These are how the rounds are marked but be aware that these points are allocated for the whole negotiation and not in isolation.

General Hints and Tips

  • Wear a suit or corporate wear
  • Act like a real lawyer – Harvey Spectre, Mike Ross and Rachel Zane are great examples for competitions
  • When negotiating monies if you want to get something cheap then do a fair low ball offer – vice versa if you want to get more money then initially overprice
  • Share, swap and talk about the agenda (so the judge is aware of issues and direction of negotiation
  • Know your clients limits – if your client has $50 000 to invest in a business total, don’t buy a business at $70 000 – simply agree to disagree on the critical issues (or agree to decide later)
  • Know what client wants you can concede – this is mostly based on common sense, for example if your client is a lawyer and wants to keep a cat because he doesn’t want his ex to get it but if you give up the cat you can get the money in the disputed joint account then give up the cat – your client will understand
  • Have a guess at what the other team has in their confidential facts and loosely plan to counter it – be prepared to be wrong
  • Check your time – you only have 40 minutes to actually come up with solutions
  • At the end of the negotiation review what you agreed and disagreed on and make sure both parties are clear on the outcomes.

For more information, refer to the Competitions Guide.


We acknowledge the long-term sponsor of our negotiation competition, Clayton Utz, and thank them for their support.


Photo Gallery

2016 Clayton Utz Negotiation Grand Final (Full Photo Album)

2015 Clayton Utz Negotiation Grand Final (Full Photo Album)

2014 Clayton Utz Negotiation Grand Final (Full Photo Album)

2013 Clayton Utz Negotiation Grand Final (Full Photo Album)