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ADR Society Places 4th at 16th Annual Environmental Law Negotiations Competition

April 13, 2015

On March 13, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Society sent Frances Maldonado, Will Burkett, Dane Watson and Puneet Layal to the California State Bar’s 16th Annual Environmental Law Negotiations Competition in San Francisco, California.

A total of 26 California law schools participated in the Environmental Law Negotiation Competition held at Golden Gate School of Law. The prestigious negotiation competition helps students build essential negotiation skills by providing a forum in which students, acting as lawyers, attempt to negotiate a complicated environmental legal problem under time constraints in an area of law they may not be familiar with.

The competition consists of two 100-minute preliminary rounds where teams of two negotiate directly with each other and are judged by a panel of environmental lawyers, judges and professional mediators. Following the two preliminary rounds, four teams are selected to participate in the final round. Students are evaluated on preparedness, negotiation style and tactics, execution of strategy, adaptability, teamwork, oral presentation, outcome and ethics. To be successful in the competition students must be well versed on the facts and law, understand the reasonable range of settlement options, anticipate opponents’ arguments and interests, and realistically assess the strengths and weaknesses of their position.

This year’s problem dealt with air contamination on tribal land where a large oil company had continually emitted harmful pollutants into the region for over 54 years. TJSL teams acted as counsel for environmental advocate groups (first round), representing the interests of a fictional indigent tribal community, and the Environmental Protection Agency (second round) against attorneys for a large oil company accused of violating the permit requirements of the Clean Air Act. The teams excelled in showcasing effective communication and ability to quickly assess the interests of “Big Oil” in order to reach a negotiated agreement.

Layal and Watson who were coached by ADR Society Vice-President Mark Marion, put forth a valiant effort. They faced tough competitors but held their ground and used their leverage effectively to advocate for their clients interest. Marion was very pleased with Layal and Watson’s performance, “Having the opportunity to coach Dane and Puneet and observe them compete against two teams and hold their own, was a tremendous experience.”

Maldonado and Burkett coached by ADR Society President Chelsea Grover, defeated their competitors and advanced to the final round. “It was so exciting to hear our names among the finalists. I really had to take a minute to process what was going on,” said Maldonado. Only four teams advanced to this stage and the excitement was overwhelming. Grover explains, “We never know how the judging is going to go at these competitions. It can be quite subjective, so we just tried our best to eliminate places for the judge to score us down. I am incredibly proud of Frances and Will, the dedication they put into preparing for this competition was outstanding.”

Maldonado and Burkett were given one hour to read a new fact pattern and prepare a negotiation strategy for the two-hour final round. Upon receiving the final problem, the entire team went into high gear; Grover explains, “Everyone came together and helped Frances and Will prepare for the final round. ADR members are a close knit group, and seeing everyone step up and help was really awesome.” In reflecting on the competition as a whole, Maldonado echoed Grover’s sentiments, stating, “the best part of the competition was during the last moments of our final round when I spotted the team huddled together towards the back of the room silently cheering us on. Having our team come together at the end of a long day made the endless hours spent preparing for the competition totally worth it.” Maldonado and Burkett placed 4th out of 26 teams.