Legal Role-Play:

Leaves Before the Fall

James K.L. Lawrence

Lawyers negotiate terms of an employer/employee dispute. The primary characteristic of the Leaves Before the Fall simulation is that the facts set out in each representative’s “confidential instructions” are the same – identical in every respect.

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In "Leaves Before the Fall," lawyers for an employer and a former employee attempt to negotiate a settlement surrounding the employee's termination due to excessive absenteeism. The employee's absences resulted from a difficult pregnancy and the subsequent poor health of her newborn child. Much of her leave was guaranteed under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). She now seeks compensation from her former employer.

The primary characteristic of the Leaves Before the Fall simulation is that the facts set out in each representative's "confidential instructions" are the same – identical in every respect. Will the participant assume disagreements and disconfirming (contradicting) information – the confirmation bias trap – and engage in positional negotiation? Will they attempt to exaggerate, conceal, and/or lie about the facts? Or will the participants take on a problem-solving mantle and ask open-ended questions, actively listen and search for creative options?

This two-party negotiation simulation was created by James K.L. Lawrence, a partner at the law firm of Frost Brown Todd LLP and an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law with a long historical connection to PON.



1-2 hourse – preparation (preferably outside of class)

10 min. – introductory questions

30-45 min. – negotiation

30-60 min. – debriefing



Role specific:

Confidential Instructions for:

  • Attorney for Sharon Stone
  • Attorney for Microtech


Teacher's Package:

  • Each of the above
  • Teaching note



Bluffing, Communication, Competitive/ Cooperative negotiation, Disconfirming Information, Information Exchange, Partisan Perceptions, Risk Perception

Leaves Before the Fall 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