Fisher specializes in negotiation and conflict management. He is the co-author (with Bill Ury) of Getting to YES, the classic book on "interest-based" negotiation, as well as numerous other publications. After serving in WWII as a weather reconnaissance pilot, Fisher worked on the Marshall Plan in Paris under W. Averell Harriman. After finishing his law degree at Harvard, he worked with the Washington, DC, law firm of Covington & Burling, arguing several cases before the US Supreme Court and advising on several international disputes. He returned to Harvard Law School and became a professor there in 1958. After having lost many of his friends in the war and seeing so many costly disputes as a litigator, Fisher became intrigued with the art and science of how we manage our differences. Fisher and his students at the Harvard Negotiation Project (founded in 1979) began interviewing people who were known as skilled negotiators in order to understand what made them effective. And he started his study of conflict with the question, "What advice could I give to both parties in a dispute that would be helpful and lead to better outcomes?" This work led to the draft, "International Mediation: A Working Guide" (April, 1978), and, eventually, to the international best-seller, Getting to YES.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Roger Fisher and his colleagues taught courses on negotiation and conflict management at Harvard, but they also worked as advisors on real negotiations and conflicts of all types, worldwide; including peace processes, hostage crises, diplomatic negotiations, and commercial and legal negotiations and disputes.
In 2005, Fisher published one of several follow-ups to Getting to YES called Using Emotions as You Negotiate (with co-author Daniel Shapiro, a Harvard psychologist). Beyond Reason identifies five "core concerns" that everyone cares about: autonomy, affiliation, appreciation, status, and role. The book shows how to use the core concerns to stimulate helpful emotions in negotiations ranging from the personal to international. In Beyond Reason, Fisher documents many of his first-hand experiences negotiating around the world, from his involvement in negotiating the Iran hostage crisis to his advisory role in helping Jamil Mahuad, President of Ecuador (1998-2000), resolve a long-standing international border dispute.
Fisher received his Bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1943 and his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1948. He taught at Harvard from 1958-1992.
In 1984, Fisher founded the Conflict Management Group (CMG) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. CMG specialized in facilitating negotiations in conflicts worldwide. CMG merged with the Mercy Corps humanitarian group in 2004. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and of the International Editorial Board of the Cambridge Review of International Affairs.