Business and Commercial Dispute Negotiation Role-Play:

PowerScreen Problem

Bruce Patton, Mark Gordon and Andrew Clarkson
Two-party integrative negotiation between the lawyers for business partners concerning the ownership of a new computer program one of them has developed

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SCENARIO:

HackerStar, Inc. is a small closely-held corporation that develops and markets software for microcomputers. The six-year-old company was founded by Hacker, a brilliant programmer who is responsible for the company’s products and became its manager, and Star, a dentist and computer hobbyist who provided the capital. Hacker and Star are each 50% owners. The company has done moderately well, but now faces a crisis resulting from a dispute between the partners over the ownership and disposition of PowerScreen, a new product developed by Hacker, at least partly on his own time and definitely against Star’s wishes. The company lawyer has referred Hacker and Star to separate counsel in order to avoid a conflict of interest. The exercise revolves around the meeting of these lawyers. At issue is the ownership of PowerScreen and the future of HackerStar, Inc.

 

MECHANICS:

This exercise is designed as a one-on-one negotiation between lawyers. Individual preparation takes at least two hours; there are moderately extensive financials of potential relevance. Individual preparation can be followed by about an hour of group preparation among the negotiators who will represent each side (in separate negotiations). For the negotiation, allow 45-60 minutes, and 30-60 minutes for review. After having participants negotiate this case, it is often useful to show them (perhaps after a break) The HackerStar Negotiation. In the videotaped negotiation, the principals conducted their own negotiation, with their lawyers assisting. The tape shows an example of fairly good principled negotiation, but still raises questions about goals, tactics, and the outcome.

 

MAJOR LESSONS:

  • This negotiation present the opportunity to use a careful analysis of the interests of the parties to craft a recommended agreement to solve a realistic business dispute between partners in a high-tech business.
  • The issues divide more or less neatly between the dispute over PowerScreen, and the question of how to improve the management structure of the company in general (assuming the dispute is resolved). The former seems more of a distributive problem, the latter a joint problem to be solved. The question arises as to which should be addressed first.
  • The negotiation over PowerScreen can be centered nicely around objective criteria or, alternatively, addressed in a more positional manner.
  • How to reestablish a good working relationship between the disputants is a key question vital to the long-run success of this negotiation.
  • Representatives of Hacker and Star in this negotiation clearly have limited authority. It is important to explore the question of exactly what the product of the lawyers’ meeting should be.
  • Participants may opt to recommend arbitration or some other form of third party intervention in the event that they, or their clients, cannot resolve the PowerScreen problem. The question of BATNA should be clearly addressed in advance.
  • If a preparation by side session has been used, preparation and group process issues can usefully be raised when debriefing participants.

 

TEACHING MATERIALS:

For all parties:

  • General Instructions

 

Role Specific:

Confidential Instructions for:

  • Stanley Star’s Attorney
  • Allen Hacker’s Attorney

 

Teacher’s Package (43 pages total)

  • All of the above
  • Teacher’s note

 

PROCESS THEMES:

Apologies; Agenda control; Attorney/ Client relations; Authority; BATNA; Commitment; Communication; Constituents; Cost-benefit analysis; Creativity; Credibility; Currently perceived choice analysis; Decision analysis; Drafting; Emotions, role of; Fairness; Financial analysis; Information exchange; Interest analysis; Lawyering; Legitimacy; Meaning of “success”; Mediation; Misrepresentation; Objective criteria; Options, generating; Personality; Reality testing; Relationship; Risk aversion; Separating the people from the problem; Systems of negotiation; Threats; Trust; Yesable propositions

 

PowerScreen Problem Attributes

Time required:
1-2 hours
Number of participants:
2
Teams involved:
No
Agent present:
Lawyer
Neutral third party present:
None
Scoreable:
No
Teaching notes available:
Yes
Non-English version available:
French, Spanish, Czech
PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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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.