Law Library, The

PLEASE NOTE: This role simulation was updated in 2005 with higher dollar figures, to make it seem more realistic and worthwhile. The older version with the original dollar figures is available upon request.



Burns & Burns, a law firm, is splitting into two new firms, the smaller of which wants to sell 300 volumes from its library that form a set on a specialized topic. So far they have not received any particularly attractive offer. The small law firm of Jones and Solomon is now interested. Purchasing these books as a used set could save Jones & Solomon money over assembling a new library. Two young lawyers are meeting to discuss whether a deal is possible.



The exercise can be run in a one-on-one or two-on-two configuration. Negotiation time can range from 20-45 minutes; 30 is usual. Preparation time can be as little as 30 minutes, but it is helpful to allow time for a little outside research on the law book industry. Review can range from 30-90 minutes, and is enhanced by participant demonstrations. These can be new negotiations between people who have just done the negotiation, but not with each other, negotiations between participants who have held off negotiating until this time, or continuing negotiations between participants who have been unable to settle. Both during the basic negotiations and any demonstrations, one or both negotiators can be given additional instructions on the style of negotiation to employ.



  • This is an excellent case for exploring the uses of objective criteria. A variety of criteria can be gathered from the case and outside research, and others, with a little thought, can be inferred.
  • This case is also a convenient vehicle for exploring different systems of negotiation and how they fare against each other.
  • The relationship of BATNA to bottom line is easily illustrated here.
  • The case suggests how seldom one encounters a true single-issue negotiation. A little reflection suggests the presence of significant opportunities to expand the pie. In particular, the possibility of establishing an ongoing relationship that might lead to client referrals merits careful consideration.



For all parties:

  • List of Some Possible Objective Criteria


Role Specific:

  • Confidential Instructions for the:
  • Sellers — Burns & Burns
  • Buyers — Jones & Solomon


Teacher's Package:

  • All of the above
  • Draft Teaching Note



Anchoring; Authority; BATNA; Constituents; Cost-benefit analysis; Information exchange; Lawyering; Legitimacy; Meaning of "success"; Objective criteria; Offers, first; Options, generating; Relationship; Reservation price; Systems of negotiation; Yesable propositions

Oil Pricing Exercise


Alba and Batia are two unfriendly oil producing nations that sell a significant amount of their production to nearby Capita. Anti-dumping agreements and Capita's alternate supply options limit Alba and Batia to prices per barrel of $10, $20, and $30. Each country's monthly profit can vary from $2 to $18 million per month, depending on the two country's relative prices and consequent Pricing Board of Alba or Batia. They are instructed that maximizing their own country's profits is their sole objective.



This is a group exercise, with several people on each country's Oil Pricing Board. It is possible to have as few as three or as many as ten members of each Board. The exercise is run in 8 or more rounds, corresponding to months, and takes 2 1/4 to 3 1/2 hours to run and review.



For all parties:

  • General Instructions and Score Sheets
  • Monthly Price Report Message Forms


Teacher's Package

  • All of the above
  • Teaching Note (English version only; non-English versions do not include teaching note)



Assumptions; Commitment; Communication; Competition v. Cooperation; Compliance; Constituents; Credibility; Decision analysis; Education, as a means; Ethics; Game theory; Group process; Group-think; Joint gains; Managing uncertainty; Meaning of "success"; Message analysis; Misrepresentation; Recurring negotiations; Risk aversion; Risk perception; Trust



This is a so-called "social trap" exercise, in which long-term maximization requires unenforced mutual trust where significant short-term gains are possible by breaking that trust. In most rounds, communication must be implicit, and is hence highly ambiguous and subject to misinterpretation, usually by the projection of negative and adversarial intentions that don't actually exist. At certain points, the parties are given the opportunity to communicate explicitly, and may choose to reach pricing agreements or not (and subsequently, to honor those agreements or not).

The exercise highlights the frequency with which we make imprecise and inadequately supported assumptions, suggesting the importance of making and keeping assumptions explicit and testing them periodically.

The danger of self-fulfilling assumptions is also illustrated. Parties can turn cautious competitors into the cutthroat adversaries they fear by proceeding with pre-emptive ruthlessness.

The difference between reacting to the other side's moves (or one's perception of what those moves mean or will be), and acting purposefully to influence the other side to (re)act constructively, is easily illustrated by comparing the experience of different teams. The monetary variation tends to be dramatic between cooperative and competitive games, and analysis usually suggests that to establish the former, some teams have to take a risk. Players face the tension between seeking high short-term gains and low short-term risk inherent in a competitive strategy, and lower but more stable long-term gains inherent in a cooperative strategy.

The exercise presents rich opportunities to observe, analyze, and critique intra-group dynamics and decision making.

Negotiation Pedagogy Video Series, Part III
This unscripted video, available separately, shows PON faculty member Sheila Heen running and debriefing the "Oil Pricing" exercise, interspersed with excerpts from a post-workshop interview with the instructor.
Order the video here.

Sally Soprano I


If you are new to teaching negotiation or are looking to go in-depth on the fundamental negotiation concepts, the Sally Soprano All-In-One Curriculum Package will provide you with everything you need to teach negotiation.

The All-In-One Curriculum Package makes it easy to teach negotiation, track learning outcomes, and includes materials for the instructor as well as for students.

Materials include: 

  • Instructor’s Guide – Guide for instructors on negotiation concepts, simulation logistics, and debriefing simulation participants.
  • Instructor Background Reading List – List of background readings for instructors to complete before using the simulation to gain a better understanding of the negotiation concepts.
  • Student Background Reading List – List of background readings for students to complete before the simulation to gain understanding of the negotiation concepts.
  • Confidential Role Instructions – Confidential role-specific materials for participants in the exercise.
  • Pre-Negotiation Surveys – After completing the background reading and/or presentation of the negotiation concepts, participants complete the online Pre-Negotiation Survey to benchmark their understanding of the key learning points the game is intended to teach.
  • Agreement Outcome Form – Participants reporting the results of any agreements reached in the simulation.
  • Post-Negotiation Survey – After finishing the simulation, but before the debrief, participants fill out the Post-Negotiation Survey so Instructors can gauge participants understanding of the issues and concepts.
  • Class PowerPoint Presentation – The first part of the PowerPoint slide deck is for the instructor to use to introduce negotiation concepts, how to participate in a negotiation simulation, and Sally Soprano. The second part is for the instructor to use in debriefing the simulation with participants.
  • Feedback Survey – At the conclusion of the exercise, participants can give feedback on the process and outcomes.

The Sally Soprano All-In-One Curriculum Package requires a minimum of 90 minutes of class time, but is best run in a two and half or three-hour class. To order this package, you must purchase a minimum of ten copies. A separate copy must be purchased for every participant in the exercise. The materials are all single use and must be re-purchased for subsequent uses.


Sally Soprano is a distinguished soprano who is now somewhat past her prime. She has not had a lead role in two years but would like to revive her career. The Lyric Opera has a production scheduled to open in three weeks, but its lead soprano has become unavailable. Lyric’s representative has requested a meeting with Sally’s agent to discuss the possibility of hiring Sally for the production. Neither knows much about the other’s interests or alternatives. There is a wide range of possible outcomes.

NOTE This exercise is a modified version of the exercise Sally Swansong I, developed by Norbert S. Jacker and Mark N. Gordon. Sally Swansong I is still available upon request. The Spanish, Swedish, and Dutch translations are based on the original Sally Swansong exercise. See also Theotis Wiley, a variation of this simulation set in the context of a potential endorsement contract between a basketball player and an athletic shoe company.


Materials for the standard version include:

  • Confidential Instructions for:
    • Sally Soprano’s Agent
    • Lyric Opera’s Business Manager
  • Post-negotiation handouts:
    • Some possible criteria for establishing salary
    • Some creative options
  • Teacher’s Package includes:
    • All of the above
    • Teaching Note

PROCESS THEMES Anchoring; Attorney/Client relations; Authority; BATNA; Bluffing; Confidentiality; Constituents; Fairness; Information exchange; Interests, dovetailing; Lawyering; Legitimacy; Meaning of “success”; Misrepresentation; Objective criteria; Offers, first; Options, generating; Pareto optimization; Precedents; Risk aversion; Risk perception; Systems of negotiation; Trust


This exercise is an excellent vehicle for comparing principled negotiation and positional bargaining.

The knowledge that one’s BATNA is weak often leads people to negotiate much less vigorously than they otherwise would. Is this ever justified? If so, under what conditions? The case affords a good opportunity to point out that any such analyses should be based on a consideration of the parties’ relative BATNAs.

The available data allow a number of more or less equally persuasive arguments about what a “fair” salary would be. This is at a minimum good practice in developing and using objective criteria. Beyond that, the case presents the more difficult challenge of finding an objective basis with which to judge the applicability of alternative objective criteria.

Good negotiators put the distributive issues in this case in perspective and reduce their importance by dovetailing interests with creative options that expand the pie. This case has an enormous potential range of such creative options.

Since the case does have a strong competitive element, there is ample opportunity to explore techniques for indirectly and directly extracting information from the other side. Likewise, techniques of protecting oneself from “giving up” the possibility for gains that were unforeseen can be explored and discussed.




A digitally enhanced version of this simulation is available through the iDecisionGames platform and includes the following features:

  • An Instructor’s Guide summarizing the negotiation concepts covered in the simulation, a quick review of simulation logistics, and a ready-to-use set of debriefing slides;
  • Highlights from background readings that will help both students and instructors gain a better understanding of negotiation concepts and methods covered in the simulation;
  • Pre- and post-simulation questionnaires instructors can use gauge each student’s grasp of the core concepts before and after participating in the simulation;
  • PowerPoint slides that introduce key concepts before the simulation and highlight lessons for debriefing;
  • Real time, interactive, data analytics provided via the iDecisionGames platform.

To order the Sally Soprano Enhanced Package click here.

Sally Soprano II


Basic facts are the same as in Sally Soprano I, except that as a result of a discussion between Sally and the Lyric Opera's Artistic Director, all available information is known by both sides. The principals have left their agents to work out the details of a deal, knowing that something mutually advantageous is possible.

NOTE: This exercise is a modified and improved version of the exercise Sally Swansong II, developed by Norbert S. Jacker, Deborah Winter and Bruce Patton. Sally Swansong II is still available upon request.



This negotiation is best one-on-one, although two-on-two is possible. Allow 10 to 30 minutes for negotiation. Sally II is usually done as a follow-up to Sally Soprano I with 5-10 minutes preparation and a 20 minute negotiation. The language of the case does not specify whether the negotiators are lawyers or not. Allow at least a half-hour for debriefing. Discussion can extend much longer (up to two hours).



This case is a litmus test of what participants believe, on an unconscious psychological level, constitutes success in a negotiation. Is it "winning," doing better than the other side, or is it achieving an objectively good outcome, one that satisfies your client's interests about as well as possible? Some participants with a competitive orientation will not settle this case, although that is against the interests of both clients. The question is usually framed, before handing out the case, "Would more information make this case easier or more difficult to negotiate? Participants' answers correspond to their orientation on "success"–"good outcome" negotiators say "easier", competitive bargainers say "harder."



For all parties:

  • General Instructions


Teacher's Package:

  • All of the above
  • Teaching Note



Anchoring; Attorney/Client relations; Authority; BATNA; Constituents; Fairness; Interests, dovetailing; Lawyering; Legitimacy; Meaning of "success"; Misrepresentation; Objective criteria; Offers, first; Options, generating; Pareto optimization; Precedents; Risk aversion; Risk perception; Systems of negotiation