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Attributes of Highly Effective Criminal Defense Negotiators

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 30 Issue: 5 Dated: September/October 2002 Pages: 387-396
David R. Lynch; T. David Evans
Date Published
10 pages
This study examined which of five personality dimensions tended to be associated with effective negotiation in criminal court.
The Big Five Model is an organization of personality traits into five basic broad factors. These factors are extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism (or emotional instability), and openness to experience (creativity or intelligence). The degree to which highly effective criminal defenders tended to adopt a cooperative versus an adversarial negotiation style was examined. A questionnaire was mailed to every chief local prosecutor throughout seven contiguous southern States. The prosecutors were asked to rate the exceptionally effective plea bargainer on a series of seven-point Likert scales, including negotiation style, trial skills, and longevity practicing criminal law. The respondents were then provided a list of adjectives representing components of the big five personality factors. Results show that, though there were exceptions, nearly all top defense negotiators in the region surveyed excelled in emotional stability, knowledge of law, and trial skills. A very large majority chose a cooperative negotiation style even though they worked in an officially adversarial system. It is reasonable to conclude that the most successful plea bargainers for the defense would be those that are willing to cooperate and have personality traits in accord with a cooperative demeanor. Nearly one in five stellar negotiators was an introvert. Even among those who were extroverts, the tendency was to be only a little more extroverted than ordinary attorneys. A stellar negotiator did not have to be aggressive, talkative, or social to excel in negotiations, especially if one was emotionally stable, and to a lesser degree creative, conscientious, and likeable. 5 tables, 30 references