LAWGENRL 424 - Negotiation, Mediation, and Dispute Resolution

Credit points: 15 points
Offered: First Semester
Contact hours: Lectures - 4 hours per week
Course Coordinator: Ana Lenard & Nina Khouri
Restriction: LAW 447

This is a limited-entry course.

Course description

An introduction to negotiation, mediation and dispute resolution covering: (i) a conceptual study of these processes including the study of the function of law, roles of lawyer, ethics, analysis, cultural and socio-economic factors; and (ii) a practical study of these processes including criteria for choosing resolution methods, techniques, attitudes, problem solving strategies, communication techniques, and effectiveness.

Course overview

Traditionally, litigation was the default method of dispute resolution for legal disputes. Today lawyers must take a more strategic and creative approach to dispute resolution. Over recent decades there has been an exponential growth in the use of negotiation, mediation and other dispute resolution processes both in New Zealand and internationally. These processes are now recognised within the formal court system in New Zealand and are used in all areas of legal practice, including family, employment, resource management, criminal, construction, insurance and commercial law.    

This course is an introduction to the theory and practice of dispute resolution. Your ability to understand communication and conflict, to negotiate effectively and to navigate different dispute resolution processes with confidence will make you a better lawyer, business person and citizen of society.

In this course, you will learn practical skills for lawyers involved in conflict diagnosis, communication, negotiation, and mediation, along with the theory and law behind these processes. You will practise skills through participation in practical exercises, group work and class discussion.

The semester is structured as follows:

• Introduction and overview: overview of dispute resolution processes in New Zealand and internationally, the spectrum of dispute resolution processes, from negotiation and facilitation, through mediation, conciliation and expert appraisal, to arbitration and litigation.

• Negotiation: core principles of different approaches to negotiation; game theory and co-operation; how to prepare for negotiation and the use of best alternative to a negotiated agreement (“BATNA”) / worst alternative to a negotiated agreement (“WATNA”) / realistic alternative to a negotiated agreement (“RATNA”) analysis; negotiation strategy and tactics; selected aspects of conflict and communication theory, including conflict diagnosis (understanding the causes of conflict), conflict behaviour, the components of communication and the relevance of communication to conflict, including specific communication skills.

• Mediation: mediation and its distinct phases; assessing suitability for mediation; legal framework issues such as privilege, confidentiality, enforceability of agreements to mediate and mediated agreements, legal incentives to settle and selected liability issues related to mediation; mediation advocacy skills including preparation for mediation and strategies for effective client representation in mediation.

• Dispute resolution and the civil justice system: the proper role of private settlement processes in the civil justice system, with a case study based on disputes arising from the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence.

• Conclusion: themes, key learning points and the future of the field of dispute resolution.

• Online throughout the semester: Group discussions on specific current issues in dispute resolution, namely the relevance of gender in negotiation, negotiation ethics, cross-cultural issues in negotiation and mediation, power dynamics and the role of the mediator, online dispute resolution, statute-based mediation, restorative justice, and the role of dispute resolution teaching in legal education (details below).

We hope that you will enjoy the course, find it intellectually stimulating and rewarding, and see personal and professional use in it.


  • Participation (including contributions to online discussions of other groups) (10%)
  • Online group discussion project (15%)
  • Online group discussion project (15%)
  • 1500 word reflective report (20%)
  • 3000 word research essay (40%)



This is a limited-entry course. A maximum of 52 students may enrol.

Ballot amongst on-time applicants with preference given to LLB and LLB(Hons) students in their final two semesters of study and/or enrolled in LAW 498, thereafter to GradDipLaw and GradCertLaw ahead of COP students and those from other programmes. Temporal enrolments thereafter.   

Students can add their name to the ballot from 1 November when enrolments open. 8 December is the closing date to have indicated interest by enrolling on the waitlist.

The ballot will be conducted around 12 December.

The outcome of the ballot will be advised a few days thereafter; those students who have not had their enrolment confirmed will be placed on a new waitlist. If any of the selected students withdraw from the course, the class will be topped up from the waitlist.