How to be a Better Plea Bargainer

44 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2021 Last revised: 16 Nov 2021

See all articles by Cynthia Alkon

Cynthia Alkon

Texas A&M University School of Law

Andrea Kupfer Schneider

Marquette University - Law School

Date Written: September 1, 2021


Preparation matters in negotiation. While plea bargaining is a criminal lawyer’s primary activity, the value of this skill is discounted by law schools and training programs. A systemic model can be used to improve plea bargaining skills. This Article offers a prep sheet for both prosecutors and defense attorneys and explains how each element of the sheet specifically applies to the plea bargaining context. The prep sheet is designed as a learning tool so that the negotiator can learn from the sheet and then make their own. The sheet highlights important considerations such as understanding the interests and goals of the parties, the facts of the case, the law, policies behind the law, elements of an agreement, how to communicate with the other parties, and more. The serious power imbalances and constraints inherent in the plea bargaining process make preparation crucial. Alkon and Schneider urge lawyers, scholars, and clinicians to become part of the ongoing conversation so that the practice of law can be improved for the benefit of all.

Keywords: criminal procedure, negotiation, plea bargaining, lawyering skills

Suggested Citation

Alkon, Cynthia and Schneider, Andrea Kupfer, How to be a Better Plea Bargainer (September 1, 2021). Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 66, No. 1, 2021, Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper 21-45, Marquette Law School Legal Studies Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Cynthia Alkon (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102
United States

Andrea Kupfer Schneider

Marquette University - Law School ( email )

Eckstein Hall
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201
United States

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