Sixteen teams from nine different law schools from throughout the Northeast took part in the ABA Regional Negotiation Competition at HLS on November 13–14, 2010. Approximately 35 judges, all practicing lawyers in the Boston area, evaluated the teams and chose the winners. A team comprised of two first-year law students from Boston College Law School won first place and advanced to the ABA’s National Negotiation Competition in Atlanta, GA.
Adam Brown ‘11, and Jacob Slowik ‘12, made up the team from HLS, and spoke highly of their experience. They were coached by Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program Associate Toby Berkman ‘10. “The judges’ comments were extremely helpful in assessing and improving our negotiation skills,” Slowik said. “All of the teams were very professional and it was a pleasure to discuss strategies and tactics at the conclusion of the competition. Overall, it was a very useful day for my own development as a negotiator.”
For Brown, the experience reinforced many of the lessons he learned while taking HLS’s Negotiation Workshop. “Whether through success or what we wished we’d done better, the experience refreshed our belief in the fundamentals of persuasive negotiation: uncovering common interests, making collaborative first moves, and insisting on authenticity,” Brown said. “A familiar refrain for sure, but with practice made all the more convincing.”
Bridget Devoy ‘12 and Dana Dombey ‘12 served as competition co-chairs. They began planning the competition last spring and were in charge of organizing roughly fifteen volunteers from HLS and other neighboring schools. “Throughout the day, Hauser was filled with dynamic conversations and last-minute preparation,” Devoy said. “Everyone was very invested in the competition, and Dana and I were thrilled to help facilitate this process.”
Harvard hosts the competition only every eight years, and Devoy and Dombey were excited to have the opportunity to welcome other law schools to the Harvard campus. “We were incredibly happy to host the teams,” Devoy said. “It was great meeting the various competitors and introducing them to Harvard.”
Over the course of the two-day competition, the teams were given a tour of the library and enjoyed viewing the various artifacts of legal history housed in the Caspersen Room. After the first full day of competition, the teams attended a wine and cheese reception in the Hark South Dining Room where Thaddeus R. Beal Clinical Professor Robert C. Bordone ‘97, announced the finalists. Professor Bordone praised the participants for the excellence they demonstrated throughout the entire day and congratulated the competition organizers on a job well done.
Teams were evaluated on the quality of their preparation, flexibility, teamwork, and self-analysis, as well as their ability to achieve an outcome that served their clients’ interests and improved the relationship with the other side. “Throughout the competition, judges commented on the talent and skill of the competitors,” Devoy said. “It was clear that the students were extremely prepared and it made for a very exciting atmosphere.”
Each round of competition involved a different simulated negotiation scenario. The first round involved a negotiation between a media company and a cable service provider loosely based on the contentious recent negotiations between News Corporation and Cablevision. The second round involved a negotiation between a media company and a computer company over the creation of a website offering streaming or downloadable television programming. The third and final round involved a negotiation over intellectual property rights in news stories posted on the Internet.
After the final round, the judges took extra time to evaluate the four remaining teams and commented on how difficult their decision was given the talents of all the participants.