Legal Training Through Performance by Marty Finestone

Oct 06, 2021

I’ve had several conversations in the past couple of weeks with in-house counsel who want to help the business become more self-sufficient and use self-service tools. A common thread in these conversations is the frustration of training and educational materials prepared by legal being ignored.

FAQs, guides, and playbooks require lots of time for preparation and it can be frustrating when that work is forgotten or worse, ignored. That sucks, but let’s not take things personally. Let's zoom out and consider why these resources may be ignored and forgotten.

As a legal designer, everything I do is through a mindset that is human-centered design and empathetic to the user. With training or self-service materials, legal design suggests that we need to strongly consider the possibility that existing materials may not have been accessible, useable, or useful to the audience.

Here's my tip for what I've found to be a very engaging, useable, useful, and accessible training tool on contact negotiation: perform a mock contract negotiation. It's education through demonstration. Watching a live (or recorded) mock negotiation promise is a dynamic and engaging experience, which is a stark contrast from static text materials.

Mock negotiations allow the audience to be shown and not told why the organization cares about certain things or takes certain positions. The audience taps into multiple senses when they watch a mock negotiation. Information because sights and sounds and not words on the page. Context is established. The audience will come away with a deeper and richer understanding of what you are training them on.

In the spirit of this theme, running a mock negotiation session involves minimal prep time. No slides, no script, no editing, no stop-starts, and no getting in your own way.

How to Do It

All you need is a few minutes to devise the fact pattern and locate an agreement to negotiate from, you and your negotiating partner read those over and then let spontaneity and your skills do the rest on the day of the negotiation.

Get a colleague in your department, or if you are the legal department get an outside peer or, feel free to ask me, each of you take a “side” in a mock fact pattern and role play the negotiation of the contract as a training exercise.

A good mock negotiation will have you periodically breaking the fourth wall to pause the role play to explain the rationale of your arguments and choices to the audience. Examples include explaining why you raised a particular point, why the other’s sides request is accepted, or why there is a need to check on something and get back to the other side.

How to Do It Well

Some planning, housekeeping, and formatting advice:

  • You can run this live either virtually or in-person.
  • Unless you plan to run more than one session, you won’t have time to negotiate and explain everything. Cover what’s important to you and your organization, including the risk allocation. The “stuff that legal just cares about” is still important.
  • Let yourself negotiate live in the moment. Your performance will be much better if you don’t prepare what you will say.
  • Record the session for future use.
  • Leave time at the end for Q&A and make it easy for attendees to send questions afterward.
  • Use this as an opportunity to explain the why behind your playbook’s content. When I run mock-negotiations, I often explain to the audience why I made an argument, what I assume the other’s sides position or interests to be and then the arguments I anticipate them to make and how I would respond to each point.
  • Stuck for an idea for what contract to use? Try your standard vendor agreement, an initial redline of your sales contract by a customer, or a customer’s agreement they wanted you to sign.

Ok, now go try it! Feel free to email me at [email protected] if you'd to brainstorm or bounce an idea of me!


Marty Finestone is a lawyer, legal designer, artist, playlist-maker, husband, and dad.

Marty runs his own legal consultancy, Legal Adjacency, which helps legal departments thrive through legal design. His specialty is simplifying legal docs and legal ops.

Sign up for Marty’s newsletter, With Less. With Less is a weekly newsletter dedicated to helping legal creatively do more with less! Each issue is filled with snack-sized articles, tips, and other content about contract simplification, strategy, legal operations, and creative ideas.

Discover more articles, videos, and interviews on the Blog!

We have a lot of content to inspire you, inform you and help you on your journey with Legal Design and Innovation.

BACK TO THE BLOG