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The ABA Provides an Opportunity for Lawyers and Judges to Contribute to Future Lawyers

The ABA Provides an Opportunity for Lawyers and Judges to Contribute to Future Lawyers

By Jeffrey Jenkins

How can the current generation of American lawyers help the next generation of lawyers?

The American Bar Association Law Student Division is seeking 85 lawyers and judges to evaluate the negotiation skills of the top 24 law student teams from across the country and Canada that are participating in the Negotiation Competition National Finals during the ABA Midyear Meeting, Feb. 8-9 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas.


“The ‘art’ of negotiation is an acquired skill, not solely obtained from books, lectures, videos or advice,” said Thomas E. Loehn, a Louisiana lawyer and judge of previous negotiation competitions sponsored by the ABA Law Student Division. “To assist [law students] in obtaining those achievements is, in and of itself, rewarding.”

Since 1985, the ABA Law Student Division‘s annual negotiation competition has promoted greater interest among law students in legal negotiation and served as a means for them to enhance their negotiating skills with feedback from practicing lawyers and judges from around the nation.

“Negotiation skills are vital to any lawyer in litigation in today’s legal world,” said North Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald W. VandeWalle, who has judged several ABA negotiation competitions. “Adversarial skills used in the courtroom remain important, but as the number of jury trials decreases and alternative dispute resolution increases, law schools must provide their students with those negotiation skills as well.”

This year, 228 teams from 110 law schools from the United States and Canada participated in 10 regional competitions held between November 2012 and January 2013. The top 24 teams qualified to participate in the national finals, to be held in Dallas. This year’s topic is small business ventures. The championship round will take place Feb. 9. At that time, the final four teams will meet to determine the national champion.

The competition consists of each team of two negotiating terms of a deal based on the scenario outlined in the competition problem. Teams will have access to general information about the situation and also to their client’s confidential file. As the competition progresses, each round poses new situations for the students to negotiate.

Competition judges will evaluate the teams on how well they serve their clients’ needs.

“The opportunity to judge the finals of the ABA Law Student Negotiation Competition finals allowed me to see how well law schools are teaching the negotiation skills,” said VandeWalle at last year’s competition championship round. “I hope the student participants recognized our interest as jurists in helping them hone these skills.”

To learn more about how to become a competition judge, visit


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