Checkmate – Early Moves Define Negotiation Outcomes

33rd Annual Litigation Update Institute, State Bar of Texas, 2017

Chess grandmasters report that, while a match may last hours, the board is set in the first few moves. Players send strategic signals early and then work for hours to implement their plan while taking account of, but not being controlled by, their opponent’s moves. They relentlessly run their plan.

Effective negotiators also send strong strategic signals in their first few moves. Since litigators are used to weaving simple stories from complexity and constantly threading evidence through the ultimate questions for the fact finder, they are already experts at strategic planning. Those skills are the grist of a successful negotiation. The question is whether, through research, we can draw insights about negotiation strategies that can help lawyers add value for their clients in real-time.