Aspirations and Settlement

32 Pages Posted: 29 May 2002


The legal-academic literature on litigation settlement describes a range of factors that affect settlement outcomes, but litigant "aspirations", or ideal goals, are not among them. Negotiation scholars, however, routinely claim that high aspirations can improve bargaining outcomes. This article presents a theory of settlement that reconciles these competing approaches by situating negotiator aspirations within the standard legal-academic model of settlement. Based on that theory, the article offers a series of hypotheses concerning the role of aspirations in settlement negotiations, and then reports the results of experimental tests that demonstrate the hypotheses to be plausible. Finally, in light of the theory of the role of aspirations, the article reconsiders the usual prescriptive advice offered by negotiation scholars that litigants should set high aspirations for themselves in bargaining situations.

Suggested Citation

Korobkin, Russell B., Aspirations and Settlement. Cornell Law Review, Vol. 80, pp. 1-61, 2002, UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 02-9, Available at SSRN: or

Russell B. Korobkin (Contact Author)

UCLA School of Law ( email )

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