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Texas Wesleyan Wins National ABA Negotiation Competition


Vol. 39 No. 9

Sarah E. Jelsema, a third-year student at Harvard Law School, is the 2010–11 National Student Director of the Negotiation Competition.
What strategies would you use if you represented a pharmaceutical company negotiating a licensing agreement with a researcher who had found the next big pediatric AIDS drug? How would your approach change if you represented the researcher?

Students negotiated this intellectual property scenario, among others, at the ABA Law Student Division Negotiation Competition National Finals on February 11–12, at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Atlanta.
Twenty-four teams of two students participated in the competition. These teams earned the right to compete at nationals by placing highest among the 216 teams that competed in regional competitions in the fall. They conducted their negotiations in front of panels of lawyers and judges, who ranked the teams based on the effectiveness of their negotiation strategies and who gave the students constructive feedback.

Ross Tew, a student at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, won the competition. Lauren Askeland and Anthony Estrada from Willamette University College of Law placed second. Victoria Adams and Cody Kees from the University of Arkansas School of Law took third place, and Hal Coopersmith and Tavish DeAtley from Fordham University School of Law placed fourth. These four teams won books and cash prizes.

Tew competed in and won the National Competition by himself because his partner, Danny Ippolito, was unable to compete. Ippolito’s wife was in labor when Tew left for Atlanta. Despite his success flying solo, Tew is glad that Ippolito will be able to compete with him at the International Negotiation Competition in Copenhagen this summer.

After the competition, Tew explained that both he and his coach were extremely surprised with his success because he was competing by himself.

“Trying to stay focused and hammer down the detailed concessions we had to have was the biggest challenge without having Danny there,” Tew said. During the negotiations, he tried to keep a quiet, deliberate tone to direct the conversation.

The highest-placing Canadian team, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, will join Texas Wesleyan at the International Competition.  Osgoode students Daniel Del Gobbo and Brandin O’Conner placed first in the Region 6 competition and were semifinalists at nationals.

Looking back, students found the Negotiation Competition to be a valuable experience for a number of reasons. “If nothing else, competitors get to know the other students they practice with better. Jobs are scarce and networking means everything right now. Couple that with real, tangible skills that students can point to when interviewing, and it only makes sense to participate,” Tew said.

Students often prepare for the competition by taking classes in negotiation or alternative dispute resolution, working with coaches and advisers, and participating in dispute resolution programs at school. After the competition, Estrada expressed gratitude to Willamette’s faculty adviser, Professor Sukhsimranjit Singh. “He made sure that we entered each round prepared with both a thematic and tactical strategy. One round we would focus on soliciting the other side’s interest and engaging in creative problem solving, and the next we would focus on hard numbers and tangible offers. Adaptability was important. There are always surprises, and we were trained to expect the unexpected. This paid off when we were paired against teams with different strategies.”

Tew similarly credited his professor, Kay Elliott Getting, for helping him understand the importance of “knowing the big-picture motivations of our client and anticipating what the other party would need.”

“It was a great learning experience, and I’m glad that I competed. I look forward to competing in Copenhagen with Danny,” said Tew.

Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.