It wasn’t quite March Madness yet, but New Orleans experienced a level of competition that surpassed the Final Four when 24 teams from 23 law schools across the nation competed in the ABA Law Student Division National Negotiation Competition during the Midyear Meeting on February 3–4. Bobby Mir and Ben Tozer from the University of Minnesota Law School won the competition in exciting fashion.
Mir and Tozer started their journey to the finals in the regional competition round last November when 228 teams representing 116 law schools vied for a chance to head to New Orleans in February.
This year’s topic was real property. In the final round, Mir and Tozer competed against Christopher Bell and Hannah Carter from Regent University School of Law, Torrey Rainey and Christina Scott from Atlanta’s John Marshall School of Law, and Jessica Stabler and Kevin Kemp from Washburn University School of Law.
During a round of competition, each team represents a client and they attempt to resolve a dispute between their clients. Opposing teams are provided fact patterns with general information about the dispute and a set of confidential facts pertaining to their clients. After learning the facts and preparing a strategy, teams negotiate for 50 minutes in front of a panel of legal professionals who judge and provide feedback on the effectiveness of their negotiation strategies.
When asked whether they had a specific method of preparation or strategy, Mir and Tozer said that “instead of trying to nail down any one strategy, either for the competition or a particular round, we make sure to understand our facts, our client, the underlying interests for both parties, and once we sit down, our opponents.”
While negotiating, the team said active listening was the key to understanding the interests and objectives of the other side because, in the end, this is a problem-solving meeting and not a contest.
Students who compete at this level often prepare for the competition by taking classes in negotiation or alternative dispute resolution, working with coaches and advisors, and participating in dispute resolution programs at their schools. Mir and Tozer did just that. They attributed their success to Mary Alton, their coach; their teammates, Jade Holman and David Morine; and supporters Professor John Matheson, Emily Van Vliet, and Danielle Bailey. Mir and Tozer said that without those individuals’ support and criticism, success might not have come so easily.
Mir and Tozer will now advance to the International Negotiation Competition in Ireland where they will represent the United States.