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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS 12970931

Roger Fisher papers


This collection documents the professional career of Roger Fisher, including his time in the private sector, government, as an independent consultant and, most prominently, in education as a Professor at the Harvard Law School. The collection includes: correspondence; research notes, unpublished articles, briefs, drafts, reports, speeches, and newspaper clippings.


  • 1950 - 2002

Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Historical and Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Historical and Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.


208 boxes
The material in this collection primarily reflects the professional life of Harvard Law School professor Roger Fisher. Covering a period beginning in the 1940s up to his retirement in 2002, the collection documents a career that saw Fisher work in the private sector, government, and education as well as serving as a consultant on many high profile international negotiations. The bulk of the material reflects his work as a professor of law and as a member of the Harvard community. His involvement in the co-founding and development of the Harvard Negotiation Project, and the Conflict Management Group is well documented in the collection. Also well documented is his work on the television series "The Advocates" and material related to the publication of many of his books including the bestselling Getting to YES: Negotiating Without Giving In. The collection includes: correspondence, research notes, unpublished articles, briefs, drafts, manuscripts, reports, speeches, and newspaper clippings.

Historical/Biographical Information

Roger Dummer Fisher was born on May 28, 1922, in Winnetka, Illinois, to Walter Taylor Fisher, a prominent Chicago lawyer, and Katharine Dummer Fisher. He grew up with four brothers and sister.

After serving in World War II as a weather reconnaissance pilot, Fisher graduated from Harvard with an A.B. in Government in 1943. In 1948, he graduated from Harvard Law School with an LL.B.. That same year, Fisher married Caroline (Carrie) Speer and moved to Paris where he worked on the Marshall Plan in Paris under W. Averell Harriman from until 1949.

After returning to the US, Fisher worked for the Washington D.C. law firm Covington & Burling from 1950-1956, with most of his work dealing with international issues. From 1956-1958 he served as an assistant to the Solicitor General in the Department of Justice. In 1957, Fisher argued for the United States in Roth v. United States, a landmark obscenity case, and won.

In 1958, Fisher returned to Harvard Law School as a lecturer on law, becoming a full professor of law in 1960. He soon found his calling in international law and negotiations. In 1976, he achieved tenure becaming the Samuel Williston Professor of Law.

In 1969, Fisher proposed the Peabody Award-winning television program The Advocates. The program focused on “stimulating public participation, and understanding, by focusing on realistic choices that must be made in the future, by having both sides of the question presented, and by demonstrating the interest that public officials have in both reasoned arguments and the views of their constituents.” Fisher was Executive Producer from 1969 to 1974 and then again bi-weekly from January 26, 1978 through September 9, 1979. In 1975 Fisher also worked on the WGBH documentary series Arabs & Israelis. His work on both of these programs was a manifestation of his interest in using television as a medium for communicating information about the law and current events to the public.

In 1979, Fisher co-founded the Harvard Negotiation Project (HNP) in 1979 with William Ury and Bruce Patton, serving at the director. HNP's mission is “to improve the theory and practice of conflict resolution and negotiation by working on real world conflict intervention, theory building, education and training, and writing and disseminating new ideas.”

In addition to his work at Harvard and as an author of numerous books, Fisher was a highly sought-after consultant in international negotiations from the 1960s to the 1980s. In 1981, Roger Fisher and William Ury published the bestselling book Getting to YES: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In , a seminal book in interest-based negotiation. In 1984 Fisher founded the consulting firm Conflict Management Group and with Howard Raiff and William Ury founded Conflict Management Inc. also in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Through these firms, Fisher was able to conduct negotiations and train negotiators around the world, including different South African government parties during the Apartheid.

In 1992, Fisher became the Samuel Williston Professor of Law, fully retiring in 2002.

  • May 28, 1922 b. Roger Dummer Fisher to Walter Taylor Fisher (d. 1991), a Chicago lawyer, and Katharine Fisher (nee Dummer) (d. 1961)
  • 1942-1946 U.S. Army Air Force
  • 1943 Graduated from Harvard with a B.A. in Government
  • 1948 Graduated from Harvard Law School with an L.L.B.
  • September 1948 Married Caroline McMurtrie Speer (1922- 2011 and had two sons, Elliott and Peter
  • 1948-1949 Assistant to the General Counsel of the Economic Cooperation Administration in Paris
  • 1950-1956 Covington & Burling, Washington, D.C. law firm
  • 1956-1958 Assistant to the Solicitor General
  • 1957 Presented oral argument for U.S. government in Roth v. United States
  • 1958 Returned to Harvard Law School as Lecturer of Law
  • 1965-1966 Guggenheim Fellow in the International Relations Department of the London School of Economics
  • 1967 Involved in the island of Anguilla's attempt to secede from the newly formed Associated State of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla by drafting the Anguilla constitution and drafting a year-long agreement with Britain.
  • 1969-1970 Originator and Executive Editor of The Advocates public television series
  • 1974-1975 Executive Editor of Arabs and Israelis public television series
  • 1976 Appointed Samuel Williston Professor of Law
  • 1979 Co-founded the Harvard Negotiation Project with William Ury and Bruce Patton
  • 1981 Publication of Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In, which Fisher co-authored with William Ury
  • 1984 Co-founded Conflict Management Group (CMG) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (CMG merged with Mercy Corps in 2004)
  • 1984 Co-founded Conflict Management Inc (CMI) with Howard Raiff and William Ury in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (CMI is now CMI Concord)
  • 1992 Appointed Samuel Williston Professor of Law, Emeritus


These are only some of Fisher's numerous publications

  1. Essays on Intervention - Roger Fisher, Richard A. Falk, Michael H. Cardozo &William T. Burke, 1964
  2. International Conflict and Behavioral Science , 1964
  3. International Conflict for Beginners , 1969
  4. Dear Israelis, Dear Arabs: A Working Approach to Peace , 1972
  5. Points of Choice: International Crises and the Role of Law , 1978
  6. Improving Compliance with International Law , 1981
  7. Getting to YES: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In - Roger Fisher and William Ury, 1981
  8. Beyond Machiavelli: Tools for Coping with Conflict - Roger Fisher, Elizabeth Kopelman, Andrea Kupfer Schneider,1994

Series List/Description

  1. Series I. Correspondence, 1958-2004 1958-2004 Containscorrespondence to and from Fisher covering a variety of topics. Thetitles for Subseries A, B, C, and D are those used by Fisher.
  2. ___ Subseries A. Early Correspondence, April 1958 -December 1967 April 1958 -December 1967
  3. ___ Subseries B. Correspondence files, 1980-1991 1980-1991 Arrangedalphabetically
  4. ___ Subseries C. Correspondence files, 1990s 1990s
  5. ___ Subseries D. Correspondence files, 1990s for programs andindividuals Arranged alphabetically
  6. ___ Subseries E. Miscellaneous Correspondence Loose correspondence found while processing thecollection. Arranged alphabetically.
  7. ___ Subseries F. Internal and External correspondence, 1983-2004 1983-2004 Externalcorrespondence 1983-2004 (outgoing) and internal correspondence(incoming) 1987-1991, arranged chronologically within External andInternal.
  8. ___ Subseries G. Additional MiscellaneousCorrespondence There is some originalorganization to this material. Most of this is incomplete, butattempts were made to respect Fisher's arrangement whenever possible.
  9. Series II. Teaching, 1960-2000 1960-2000 Fisher taught at Harvard Law School from 1958 until 2002. Healso taught at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government (KSG), theLondon School of Economics, the Naval War College, Air War College,and the NATO Defense College. The bulk of the material in this Seriesis from his teaching at the Law School.
  10. ___ Subseries A. Harvard Law School Thesefiles are arranged alphabetically by class title.
  11. ___ Subseries B. Kennedy School ofGovernment Fisher teachingmaterials for KSG courses.
  12. ___ Subseries C. Social Science 174 (Coping with International Lawseminar) Fisher teaching materials for theCWIC course.
  13. ___ Subseries D. Non-Harvard Teaching Fisher's teaching materials from the London School ofEconomics, the Naval War College, theAir War College, and the NATO DefenseCollege.
  14. ___ Subseries E. Administrative Fisher's Harvard Law School administrativefiles.
  15. Series III. Harvard Negotiation Project (HNP) 1980-2006 1980-2006 HNP materials, mostly related to the Negotiation Workshops taughtby Fisher
  16. ___ Subseries A. Negotiation Workshops Negotiation Workshop materials arranged chronologically from1980-2006
  17. ___ Subseries B. Administrative and Subject files Administrative and subject files relating to thenegotiation workshops and HNP operations.
  18. ___ Subseries C. Program of Instruction for Lawyers (PIL)1991-1995 1991-1995
  19. ___ Subseries D. Program on Negotiation (PON) Arranged alphabetically
  20. Series IV. Management Groups Fisherco-founded or played an important role in the creation of severalmanagement groups. Conflict Management Group(CMG) is a non-profit consulting group through which Fisher didinternational work and Conflict Management, Inc.(CMI) is a for-profit consulting firm specializing intraining people in mediation and negotiation. In 2004, CMG mergedwith Mercy Corps
  21. ___ Subseries A. Conflict Management Group (CMG) Arranged alphabetically
  22. ___ Subseries B. Conflict Management Inc. (CMI, CMI Concord, and CMIInternational)
  23. ___ Subseries C. Conflict Clinic Materials relating to Conflict Clinic, including papers related toits founding
  24. Series V. International Consulting, 1960s-1990s. Materials relating to Fisher's various international negotiations,arranged alphabetically by country and region. He served in different roles at the request of various individuals, groups, and governments.
  25. Series VI. Arms Control, 1950s-1980s 1950s-1980s This materialdocuments Fisher's work in Arms Control negotiation as an independentresearcher, a member of several organizations, and on the behalf ofthe government.
  26. ___ Subseries A. Enforcement and Disarmament Materials relating to arms control, especially enforcement anddisarmament.
  27. ___ Subseries B. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) Materials relating more directly to thepolitical situation between the United State and the USSR during theCold War era.
  28. ___ Subseries C. Lawyers Alliance for Nuclear Arms Control(LANAC)
  29. ___ Subseries D. Council for a Livable World (CLW)
  30. ___ Subseries E. Additional Papers & Research Additional papers, reports, and research related to armscontrol. Most of the material was not created by Fisher.
  31. Series VII. Writings This seriescontains material related to Fisher's writings including books andarticles. Material can include drafts, research materials and notes,and correspondence.
  32. ___ Subseries A. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In There was enough material related to thewriting of this book that it was organized separately from Fisher'sother books.
  33. ___ Subseries B. Additional books written by Fisher This subseries contains material related to other bookseither authored or co-authored by Fisher excluding "Getting to Yes".Contents include research material and notes, drafts, andcorrespondence.
  34. ___ Subseries C. Published Articles Published articles written by Fisher.
  35. ___ Subseries D. Un-published Articles Articles written by Fisher that were not completed or otherwisenot published.
  36. ___ Subseries E. Interviews Interviewswith Fisher and reviews about books published by him.
  37. ___ Subseries F. Publishing Information
  38. Series VIII. Assistant to the Solicitor General 1960s-1990s 1960s-1990s

    This series consists mainly of printed briefs related to casesFisher was involved in while working in the SolicitorGeneral's Office.Some of these publications are annotatedby Fisher. One box is mainly correspondence, research, and drafts.

  39. Series IX. The Advocates
  40. ___ Subseries A. Subject Files
  41. ___ Subseries B. Administrative Files
  42. ___ Subseries C. Television research Fisher was a strong advocate for using the medium of television asa means to disseminate both legal issues and current events to abroader audience.
  43. ___ Subseries D. Audio Visual Three boxesof film reels from The Advocates and Arab and Israelis.
  44. Series X. Speeches, 1962-2005 1962-2005
  45. Series XI. Professional Associations

    Fisher was a member or speaker for a number oforganizations, conferences, seminars, and organizations. Arrangedalphabetically.

  46. Series XII. Subject Files Material included in this series spans the entirety of Fisher'scareer. These folders were discovered out of their original context(i.e. filing system) --if, indeed -- they were ever part of one andsubsequently grouped by date range. After reviewing Fisher's careerthe cut-off date of 1980 was selected as reflective of atransitioning of his priorities and energies. This is very subjectiveon the archivists part and the date served as much as anything toseparate a large group of material.
  47. ___ Subseries A. Subject files, 1950-1979 1950-1979 This period coversFisher's work at Covington and Burling, the Solicitor General'soffice and slighty beyond his naming of the Samuel WillistonProfessor at Law at Harvard Law School.
  48. ___ Subseries B. Subject files, 1980 - 2000s 1980 - 2000s This period witnessed the creation of theHarvard Negotiation Project and the Consulting Management Group, aswell as the publication of Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In.
  49. Series XII. Family
  50. ___ Subseries A. Correspondence
  51. ___ Subseries B. Family
  52. ___ Subseries C. Financial

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by the Fisher family in 2011.

Processing Information

Processed by Stephanie Reiches, March 2012
Link to catalog
Fisher, Roger. Papers: Finding Aid
Harvard Law School Library, Cambridge, MA 02138

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository

Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.

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