Negotiation Competition

Posted in Law School on Nov 09, 2013

One of my classmates from summer semester wanted to compete in a negotiation competition and she asked if I would be her teammate. At first I thought, no, because I feel like I have ZERO extra time, which is part of why I have not being writing. The other part being that classes got so hard I couldn’t face reflecting on life.

This is not to say I am not enjoying my first year, because I am, immensely. It’s just that I’m a little behind on outlining. Every moment spent here, where I’m clearly documenting my slacking off, is less time spent thinking about I should really get on that outlining business or playing more Bejeweled while feeling bad about the lack thereof.

Anyhow, the competition is only one day, from 5pm to 9pm. So, in the end, I thought why the hell not. And I really miss this gal whom I sat next to most of my summer class.

We both thought this would be a great way to get our feet wet and really, 4 hours was not a lot to spare. This was correct only in part. The time sink was actually a lot more. There was the preparation of thinking about what each side would like. And preparing what to say. We met three times before the competition at around 2 hours each, and there were informational videos we were required to watch.

The competition is two rounds of negotiations. The first was a signing on a contractor contract. The second one was a contract renegotiation. Both of our matches were against 3Ls. I won’t lie, I was a little scared when I heard that and I’m pretty sure it affected the outcome of the first match. Especially when the guy in the first match got in our face.

The first team told us they had just taken a negotiation class and they wanted to do the competition to see how well the techniques they were taught works. I did not want to compete ever again after the first match with them. It went really poorly. We had very clear lines of where we were not allowed to cross. Obviously they did too, except they went rogue and drew their line out further because their strategy was play SUPER hardball. Their line was so far, there was actually no middle ground and we ended up agreeing to not a god damned thing and ran out of time in a pissing match. Both teams were reprimanded by the judges for having not accomplished anything for their clients, who by the way wanted to build a good relationship. The other team was told there might be an ethics violation because they misrepresented their client by drawing the line way further out than what they were told to do.

The second match, the other group started talking and conceding to points right away, which put us at ease after that last pissing match, and we actually talked and worked every single point out. It was fun. Both teams accomplished what they set out to do, and we had time left. In a 30 minutes competition, we were close to done when they called 5 minutes. I kept feeling like we missed something because it went so smoothly. Both teams were praised by judges for working so well with each other and making the negotiation look easy. It looked so easy that the one male judge thought it was wise to comment on how this negotiation was probably easy because we were all female negotiators and ladies play nice with each other. Soon as we left the room, the four of us rolled our eyes so hard, and asked, “Did that just happen?” Just because we were all prepared and made it look easy, some old white dude shaded us for being “female”.

The first team we went up against didn’t place with their super aggressive style. Mind you, they are super nice people so we spoke to them in between matches and their second match didn’t go so well either, they didn’t finish up the renegotiation. I think whatever they learned in their negotiation class made them play to hard. The second team we went up against placed 4th. We ended up placing 5th out of 10 teams, which we happy with. We’re pretty sure the first team screwed us up, and screwed themselves even more, but honestly, we were happy.

A big part of why my friend wanted to compete was because she was told these competitions are the only way we will get critiqued as lawyers. That was truly the best part of the competition. As poorly as that first match went, we got the most useful critiques out of that one. Things that I do that I’m not even aware of doing, I get defensive and I stop trying to progress the conversation. I have poor posture when I don’t feel good about the situation. I need to project my voice. When the first negotiation was going so poorly, one of us should have stopped and asked everyone if this was truly how our clients wanted to be represented.

All in all, it was a great experience. We learned a lot and definitely want to compete together again next year.

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