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Willamette University 's Center for Dispute Resolution (CDR) developed its website for academics, teacher and trainers who use dispute resolution simulations (role-plays) in their teaching. These simulations are used in undergraduate, business and law schools, in graduate programs which teach counseling and negotiation, and by private trainers working with business people, attorneys and community dispute professionals.
We hope that you will consider sending your best and favorite exercises to us. If we include our simulation on our website, you will receive monetary compensation, perpetual recognition as the author (even if the simulation is subsequently edited or updated) and the gratification that comes with knowing that you have contributed to the education of student and professionals across the country and around the world.
Submitting a Simulation
Once you have prepared your simulation in accordance with the writing and format guidelines below, please send your simulation to
email@example.com as an electronic file (preferred formats are WordPerfect or MSWord). If for some reason it is impossible for you to reach us electronically, you may submit a hard copy with a diskette (CD or floppy) to the CDR administrator at the address at the bottom of this page. Please be sure to include your name, address, email address, telephone number and the name (if any) of the institution or business with which you are affiliated.
Within six weeks after you submit your simulation, you will be contacted and informed whether your simulation has been accepted (in which case we will send you a check for $200), whether it needs editing (in which case we will inform you how to bring the simulation within our guidelines) or whether it is not suitable for our website.
Writing and Formatting the Perfect Simulation
The ideal simulation will contain a plausible set of facts, and will involve facts and issues which balance the law and equities relatively equally between the parties. Most important, a good simulation will require students to explore interests, exercise creativity, generate options and enhance their dispute resolution skills. An ideal simulation will not simply focus on the presenting factual and legal issues; rather, it will present dispute resolution issues such as ethical dilemmas, agency issues, differing conflict styles or risk tolerance, gender and cultural differences, and impartiality problems which will challenge and improve the participant's dispute resolution abilities. It will encourage students to take risks and try new strategies and tactics in order to broaden their skills repertoire.
A sample simulation is accessible by clicking on this link. Generally, simulations should be in the following format:
Table of Contents (see example below)
Logistics (see example below)
General Information for All Roles
Confidential Information for
Counsel for Role 1 (if any)
Counsel for Role 2 (if any)
Guidelines and Hints for Writing
- Facts. Time, place and other facts which might suggest particular dates or locations should be avoided and simulations should not be limited in time or place. Dates which are critical to the problem (such as delivery or offer and acceptance dates in a commercial problem) should be designated by month and day, but not by year. Likewise, dollar amounts, current events and other detailed references should be avoided except where critical to the problem.
- Gender Issues. Gender-specific roles should be avoided unless the underlying case has a gender component (sexual harassment, divorce, employment discrimination, etc.). People who are referred to in the facts but who will not be “at the table” can be referred to by gender specific titles and names. Where possible, parties should have no names (so that a student of either sex can use his or her own name) or should have gender neutral names (Pat, Lee, Kelly(ie), Robin). Participants who are acting as counsel or representatives can be referred to as “counsel for …” or “executive for…” Do not use names that are cute, clever, suggestive or controversial (except as relevant to the problem) because this will distract students and hinder them from taking the simulation seriously.
- Internal Consistency. Make sure that information is consistent in all sets of confidential instructions. For example, unless there is a dispute about facts, if both sets of confidential instructions refer to a payment being made, it should be for the same amount and on the same date. Do not introduce unnecessary ambiguities by saying “on December 11 th ” in one set of facts, and “in the first part of December” in another set of facts. Check and recheck any calculations in the roles or teaching notes.
- The Law. You may write a simulation in any area of law. Some areas are more amenable to role playing, such as contract, family, tort and labor law, but almost any area of law is fertile ground for dispute resolution (criminal plea bargains, victim/offender programs, environmental, education, and international, to name just a few).
You may provide a summary of the law in the role playing instructions if you wish to create a simulation which does not require the role players to research the law. If the law is not set forth in the simulation itself, and you do intend the role players to engage in research, then a summary of the law, with appropriate whitebook citations, should be in the teaching notes. Remember that if you are requiring participants to engage in research, they will be researching the law as it exists in their state or federal circuit, so make your discussion of the law general enough to accommodate the law of different jurisdictions.
- General Instructions to All Participants. The general instructions should include all facts known to both sides. They should include documents and exhibits known to both sides and crucial to the problem.
- Representation. A mediation can include or omit attorneys. A negotiation can include or omit parties. If parties are not to be present at a negotiation, the instructions to the attorneys should include a full description of the clients' interests, and the boundaries of the clients' acceptable settlements. When both attorneys and clients are present, their instructions may and should contain differences in strategies, interests and expectations.
- Instructions to Participants. Instructions to the individual participants should allow them to internalize their “story” about the events that gave rise to the dispute, and should also include details of the process leading to the mediation or negotiation. Facts should be particularly detailed concerning key events or actions that are central to the dispute.
The recitation of facts in the instructions to all participants may be extensive or brief. You may choose to put most of the facts in the instructions to the individual participants, if you want the mediator or negotiators to focus on the skill of fact-gathering.
The facts should also give a general “feel” for the relationships between the participant and the other parties (including the lawyers). More important, the facts should include the participants interests, expectations and goals. To assist in creating “boundaries” for the exercise, the facts may also include a strategy, including an opening offer, a bottom line, and the participant's expectation were the negotiation to fail.
Do not include too many facts; this can be overwhelming to a participant who may spend too much time and energy trying to keep track of information. Do not include to few facts; this may cause the role players to spend too much time manufacturing new facts which may skew the results or throw the negotiation off track.
- Teaching Notes. The teaching notes will help your colleagues present an effective and educational simulation which will allow participants to enhance their skills. Your teaching notes should have a short summary of the facts, a summary of the law if the law is not set forth in the instructions to participants, and should highlight the two or three skills being taught (creating options, ethics, impartiality, dealing with high conflict or emotional clients, etc.) and the strategies for dealing with those issues.