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Why Decide to Use Decision Tree Analysis?

In legal disputes, clients and lawyers inevitably decide: Whether or when to litigate or negotiate? What’s a reasonable settlement value?


To make these decisions, a clients asks their lawyer or the mediator: “What’s it all worth? How much do I have to worry about a verdict so high that it will bankrupt my company? What type of investment in this litigation makes sense? What can we count on and what is uncertain about the way this case could unfold in the court system? How sure are you of your predictions? How many different ways could this turn out? What could happen to make the case jump the track? How and when will I be able to influence what happens in the litigation? How could the possible twists, turns, and demands of this litigation affect my business, my income, my professional options, or my personal circumstances? How does our decision to file or continue litigation compared to other ways that time, money, talent, and energy could be spent?”


Even where parties are committed to litigation, they are wise to consider how to strategically deploy limited resources optimal results.   In mediation or direct negotiation, parties, lawyers, and mediators are well advised to consider and analyze what settlement value both sides might accept.


Decision Tree Analysis offers a way to map a lawyer's, client's, or neutral's judgments about what might happen, what the chances are, what results would flow from twists of fate along litigation or transactional paths, and thus, what might be a reasonable settlement. When parties and counsel work through a decision tree approach, they often achieve greater emotional distance from their case.  Focusing on the analytical problem and method reduces negotiation pressure and push-back.


Consulting, coaching, and tailored workshops


Arguments for incorporating decision analysis into a legal or mediation practice or are pointless unless the reader knows what it is and how to apply it. The method’s fundamental premises, inviolable rules, gray areas, real limitations, and meaning must be understood.


Though the Risk and Rigor book is “out there” – describing decision tree analysis’s logic and application in legal cases, common mistakes and misuses, and best practice advice – it’s easier for many to learn the method in workshop sessions, or through individual or small group coaching on case examples. (A selected list of her previous workshops and presentations on decision tree analysis can be found here.) Professor Aaron will be happy to offer introductory or advanced workshops – in full day, half day, or shorter blocks over time, in person or remotely – for lawyers and mediators who wish to learn the method this way.

Recognizing that some people would rather learn the basics from reading Risk and Rigor, or various articles on the topic, and then seek to practice, Professor Aaron offers coaching sessions on how to apply the method using case examples.

Inevitably, however, a lawyer or mediator may realize a decision tree would be helpful in a current complex case, before having practiced the method enough to use it confidently.  Now there’s no time for reading, workshop, or coaching.  Settlement negotiations, mediation, or  major litigation decisions are coming up fast!  Professor Aaron also offers consulting services – building a decision tree for your case, based upon the lawyer’s assessments of possible twists and turns in the litigation.

For those uncertain about decision tree analysis: further discussion on its value for lawyers, clients, and mediators can be found by clicking here.


My workshops, courses, & presentations on decision tree analysis can be found by clicking here.

My book and articles on decision tree analysis can be found by clicking here.

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