Business and Commercial Dispute Negotiation Role-Play:

Bullard Houses

Ron Karp, David Gold and Mox Tan
Two-party, multi-issue real estate negotiation between representatives for a buyer and seller, where BATNAs are important

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SCENARIO:

Downtown Realty, Inc. owns the historic Bullard Houses, a set of 51 attached brownstones in the city of Gotham. The Houses, occupied for decades by the city’s wealthy elite, have fallen into disrepair and are currently occupied only by a few low-income families. Downtown Realty has been prevented from demolishing the Houses by the Gothic Landmark Commission. Consequently, Downtown is eager to sell the property, and has several offers on the table. One offer proposes to convert the Houses into apartments, another into townhouses, and a third into a sophisticated marketplace. Downtown has not yet seen the offer of a fourth developer, Absentia, Ltd. Absentia is unfamiliar with Downtown’s other offers, but is confident that its offer will be appealing, although it is unwilling to reveal its exact plans. Each of the four offers presents a quite different financial package, each of which must be evaluated by Downtown in terms of present value. Both sides must take into consideration financial needs, tax implications, personal interests, and future dealings with the city Zoning Board. The negotiation involves attorneys representing Downtown Realty and Absentia, Ltd.

You can see students practicing the Bullard Houses negotiation game in this free video:

Bullard Houses was also used in a recent study at the University of California, Berkeley on the role gender plays in negotiation. The study focused specifically on whether the stereotype of women being more easily misled than men, was actually true. You can read more about the study and it’s findings here.

MECHANICS:

This case is essentially a one-on-one negotiation, but can be run effectively using teams of two. Individual preparation takes several hours, and involves extensive, but simple, present value calculations. Playing time can run from 40 minutes to one hour. Debriefing time should not be less than 30 minutes; substantially more is possible, up to 90 minutes.

 

TEACHING MATERIALS:

For all parties:

  • General Instructions

 

Role specific:

Confidential instructions for:

  • Seller
  • Buyer

 

Teacher’s Package:

  • All of the above
  • Teaching Note

 

PROCESS THEMES:

Attorney/Client relations; BATNA; Confidentiality; Information exchange; Lawyering; Message analysis; Misrepresentation; Objective criteria; Political constraints, dealing with; Preparation; Quantitative analysis; Undisclosed principles

 

MAJOR LESSONS:

One of the main issues in this case is whether to settle at all. The complexity of information exchange may impede settlement in a single negotiation session. This situation brings up the general point that the best outcome of a negotiation sometimes is not to reach an agreement.

Several interesting questions of confidentiality are raised here, since the sellers have promised one of the developers not to reveal information about their offer, and the buyer’s agent is under strict orders not to discuss his principal’s plans. Under what circumstances, if any, can the attorney reveal information, and what other ways are there to avoid suspicion?

This case requires careful analysis of the available information both before and during the negotiation. Beforehand, negotiators should work through a variety of simplified, but reasonably realistic financial structures (bonds, mortgages, loans, etc.) to make a judgment about the relative worth of the various offers and possible alternatives. During the negotiations, while much information cannot be revealed, what can has important, probably unforeseen, but not obvious implications for the other side.

 

Bullard Houses Attributes

Time required:
1-2 hours
Number of participants:
2
Teams involved:
No
Agent present:
Non-lawyer
Neutral third party present:
None
Scoreable:
No
Teaching notes available:
Yes
PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You are then permitted to view the document on your computer and either print the number of copies you purchased, or forward the electronic file as many times as the number of copies you purchased. You will only receive a link to one electronic file per document. So, if you order 25 soft copies, you may either forward copies of the link to 25 people via e-mail, or print (and/or photocopy) 25 hard copies of the document.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

The purchase price and handling fee are the same for both soft and hard copies. Soft copies do not entail a shipping fee.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 781-966-2751 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 781-966-2751 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, then you should order a single Teacher’s Package for that role simulation. A PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package is also available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. There is no need to order participant materials as well as a Teacher’s Package, as all Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters. Please note that the materials in Teacher’s Packages are for the instructor’s review and reference only, and may not be duplicated for use with participants.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

If you wish to order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Participant Copies.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required; the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Participant Copies.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.

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