What is Negotiation?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 17 February 2020
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Negotiation is a process used to reach agreements. Each party engaged in the negotiating generally has some input. Although this process is usually not outlined by law, it can be a very important legal tool. It can also be the cause of several types of legal problems because the agreements reached by this process are often contractual.

It is common for individuals to have differing views and desires. Although there are many occasions when differences can persist without adverse effects, there are also many occasions when reaching an agreement is essential. In these instances, negotiation is commonly used.

This process usually requires the active participation of all the parties involved. Negotiating is essentially the same as bargaining. All parties may have to compromise, but the goal of each party is generally to have the outcome as much in his or her favor as possible.

There are numerous areas of law where negotiating is a common tactic. An example of how this process is used in criminal law can be seen during the plea bargaining process. A plea bargain is an agreement that is reached when there are differing views about how the criminal charges against an individual should be handled. Negotiating does not have to be limited to two parties, and this is an instance where it often is not. In many cases, the defense, the prosecution, and the judge are involved. The outcome is that charges are often reduced, changed, or dismissed.


Contract law is another area of jurisprudence where negotiating is common. In these situations, instead of settling a dispute, parties are usually trying to reach an agreement with regard to the terms that will define their future relationships. This is seen when agreements need to be reached regarding the sale of goods or the employment of services. In these cases, issues that are subject to negotiation can greatly vary, but they may include price, quality, or frequency of usage.

Negotiation is also a tool that is commonly used in civil law. Vast numbers of civil matters are settled outside of court rooms. This is usually possible because the parties are able to reach an agreement following periods of dialogue and the exchange of evidence.

The agreements reached by negotiating are often legally binding. This is especially true when a contract is signed as a result. It is important for people to realize, however, that in many jurisdictions certain agreements are binding based on oral contracts, and the fact that a party engaged in the negotiation may be used to prove that he or she indeed intended to enter into an agreement.


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