Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - International Dispute Resolution

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Faculty of Law | International Dispute Resolution | Dr René Pfromm on Negotiations, April-May 2020

Dr René Pfromm on Negotiations, April-May 2020


The second semester of the IDR LL.M. has certainly come with surprises. As on-campus teaching became impossible due to government regulations in response to the global COVID-19 outbreak, all courses had to move to an online format. Despite this change of circumstances, the interactive negotiation course as part of the ADR Methods module has shown to be one of the hidden treasures of our LL.M Program. 

We had the opportunity to learn from one of the best: Dr René A Pfromm, M.A. (econ.), LL.M. (Harvard) is a specialist for strategic and legal negotiations. Founder of Pfromm Negotiations, he not only advises businesses in complex negotiations, but also optimizes his clients’ negotiation skills through customized workshops. We are grateful for having had the privilege to benefit from the latter. 

As legal practitioners, we often get caught up in the legal issues themselves instead of taking a step back and looking at the deal from a broader perspective that allows us to conceive different ways to reach our client’s goals. As a matter of fact, even though negotiation plays a major role in legal practice it is often neglected as a skill to be developed.  

During our Negotiation lectures, we learned how shaping perceptions can impact the outcome of a negotiation. In that regard, avoiding the role bias trap and refraining from unconsciously disclosing weaknesses and needs seems to be the key. 

Furthermore, we learned that it is important to identify both the best and the most likely alternatives to a negotiated agreement in order to properly recognize a walk-away point. After all, the golden rule of negotiation provides that “if you cannot walk away, you cannot negotiate”.

As Dr Pfromm explained how to achieve buy-in, an important lesson stood out to me. It was the idea that a negotiation should seek solutions that both parties can live with, since you can only reach your own goals if the opposing parties’ interests are also satisfied. A negotiation is, thus, two-fold: as much as it about understanding your client’s interests and priorities, being able to identify what you can offer that is of value to the opposing party can be just as important. For this reason, information seems to be the most crucial asset one can have in a negotiation. 

Throughout the lectures, we had several opportunities to put our new skills to practice. We negotiated in small groups, each time with a different focus: learning how to shape perspectives, how to optimize the negotiation outcome through value creation, how to identify the key questions to ask your client when preparing for a negotiation, inter alia. 

I am certain that the negotiation course will have a major impact not only on our conduct in legal practice, but also on our daily lives.


                                                                      Carolina Lana Castilho, IDR LL.M. Candidate