Behavioral Ethics, Deception, and Legal Negotiation
46 Pages Posted: 20 May 2020 Last revised: 15 Jan 2021
Date Written: April 24, 2020
Research in the field of behavioral ethics finds that much unethical behavior is not the result of conscious amorality. Rather, cognitive and motivational biases enable and even encourage people who consider themselves to be pro-social to act badly without ever recognizing the shortcomings of their behavior. This Article, delivered as the annual Chris Beecroft, Jr. Memorial Lecture on Dispute Resolution at the UNLV Boyd School of Law, explores how the findings of behavioral ethics can help to better understand, predict, and potentially combat unethical behavior in legal negotiation. Its admittedly pessimistic conclusion is that legal negotiation is an activity that is likely to be rife with behavior that is unethical, or at least presses hard against ethical boundaries.
The Article summarizes the core findings of behavioral ethics research, explains why this research suggests that deceptive behavior will be common in negotiation, argues that the agency role played by lawyers in legal negotiation likely also encourages unethical behavior, and, finally, propose steps that lawmakers or negotiators themselves might take to reduce the amount of deceptive behavior in legal negotiation.
Keywords: ethics, behavioral ethics, legal ethics, negotiation, deception
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