Lawyers & ClientsThe Initial Interview


Robert H. Mnookin and Susan Hackley

An illustration of interviewing and listening techniques appropriate for lawyer-client interviews, featuring Harvard Law School Professor Robert Mnookin



Developed by Professor Robert Mnookin of Harvard Law School, this video illustrates interviewing and active listening techniques appropriate for lawyer-client negotiations or for similar agent-principal negotiations. Specifically, the video demonstrates effective, pragmatic ways for lawyers to establish a solid professional relationship with their clients based on effective communication skills.

In Lawyers and Clients: The Initial Interview, Mnookin provides negotiation advice and commentary interspersed with two simulated lawyer-client interviews based on the PON role simulation “Eazy’s Garage (Four-Party Version)” (also available through the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center). In the two interviews, different actresses portray Susan Garfield (a customer thinking of suing the owner of an automobile repair garage over what she perceives to be an unfairly high repair bill), and different actors portray Susan’s lawyer. As the lawyers interview their respective clients, Mnookin interrupts their conversations with observations on practical maneuvers the lawyers could use in order to demonstrate empathy, to explore interests behind their client’s positions, and to explain the legal opportunities and risks involved in the case.

This video provides a visual illustration of the theories presented in Mnookin’s book Beyond Winning: Negotiating to Create Value in Deals and Disputes (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000; also available from the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center). Professor Robert Mnookin is the Samuel Williston Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Program on Negotiation.

The 2008 re-release of this video on DVD includes a chapter index as well as extensive teaching notes.


Lawyers & Clients Attributes

Time required:
30 minutes – 1 hour
Teaching notes available:
Produced by:
Robert H. Mnookin (featured) and Susan Hackley (producer) Program on Negotiation, 1998
Run Time::
35 minutes

PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

Close window

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 will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.

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

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (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, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 301-528-2676 (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, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. 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.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

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 “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.

If you are ordering hard copies, 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 “Quantity.” 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.