In this video, you will get answers to these questions:

  • What is good cop, bad cop?
  • How do you use good cop, bad cop in a negotiation?
  • What are some examples when used by lawyers?

Video Transcript

What is good cop, bad cop? That’s the question I’m going to answer today. I’m Aaron Hall, a business attorney in Minneapolis. Perhaps you’ve heard of good cop, bad cop. It’s a negotiating tactic. It’s taken from the scenario where a person is being interrogated in a police station. And you have a good cop come in and say, “Hey, I want to work with you. Please give me the information.” And then a bad cop comes in and says, “If you don’t give us this information, we’re going to crush you, blah, blah, blah.” By using the good cop, bad cop approach, the theory is the good cop is able to solicit information, leveraging that kind of rapport that’s being built while the bad cop is creating fear.

So here’s how it’s used in negotiation. I’ve seen lawyers who will play good cop and make their client the bad cop. They’ll say, for example, “My client is crazy. My client wants to litigate this to the end. He is so angry. He wants to sue your client. He is willing to spend millions of dollars to fight over this.” I, on the other hand, as the client’s lawyer, I want to give him some good advice and I want to help the client be rational, logical and reasonable. So we’re going to try to figure out some settlement option here, but I got to tell you, let’s get a deal done because you don’t want to deal with my irrational client.

So there you have, it is a little example of how a lawyer might use the good cop, bad cop approach. Now the more lawyer might flip it. Maybe the client is the good cop and the lawyer is the bad cop. I see this less often, but here’s what that looks like. The lawyer says, “Look, we can sue you for damages. We can sue you for attorney’s fees. We’re going to go after you. I’m ready to go after you hard. I love a good fight.” You can see kind of this bullying mentality. However, as much as I’m chomping at the bit, the lawyer may say, “My client is interested in just doing a deal, trying to be fair and get this done. My client wants to work something amicable out with you.”

That said, I don’t think we should. I think we have really strong claims. I’m ready to move forward. I’m ready to fight hard. So you can see there the lawyers using the one personifying the fear or creating the fear and the client is in the role of the good cop. The lawyers trying to use that client to say, “Hey look, they’re good. They’re trying to be reasonable. Why don’t you work out here?” The whole idea is that if you find yourself being the recipient of the good cop, bad cop routine, typically they’re trying to work on you psychologically, both from a fear of harm that could come to you as well as a desire for something positive.

So there you have it. That is the good cop, bad cop negotiating tactic and an example used by lawyers. For additional information on these or other topics, negotiating contracts, et cetera. You can see the link in the description below which goes to Please keep in mind there’s a disclaimer in the description below. I do these general educational videos to try to help people avoid legal trouble, but it’s no substitute for getting legal advice from an attorney. And if you’d like similar videos like this in the future, you’re welcome to subscribe here in this channel. Thanks for joining me here today. Again, I’m Aaron Hall. You can learn more about me at