The UBC Environmental Law Group recently hosted their Annual Negotiation Competition and I was lucky enough to get one of the coveted spots. With students attending from other law schools, this competition was an excellent way to practice and develop a valuable skill that may become a large part of your future practice.
Dabbling a little bit in debate in high school, when I did my first negotiation earlier this year at a competition hosted by FMC I just assumed that it would similar… but I was wrong. Negotiation competitions are an awesome extra-curricular that put you in a real-life (-ish) situation where you are not arguing the infinite pros of your side relative to the “endless and obvious cons” of the other team. The ultimate goal here is to agree upon a beneficial outcome for all parties that is an acceptable compromise based on the bottom line for your client.
The ELG did an excellent job in drafting the negotiation scenario and threw a curve ball with the “tripartite situation”. Immediately turning to google I realized how challenging the negotiation would be as this meant there would be three parties sitting around the table. The mythical situation was set in a country called Himmalandes that had a looming energy crisis and an approaching government election. Zephyr, a corporate giant, proposed a wind power project that would run straight through one of the few remaining national parks; a park in which the aboriginal group the Caza performed the majority of their traditional hunting practices. Can you see how this might be an issue of interest for all three groups?
In their confidential information, each group is given the perspective and goals of their client and the related facts. Once you have determined your points of flexibility and your sticking points, it is key to try and imagine what the other parties are going to come in looking for and then ways to swing the discussion towards a settlement in your best interest. Representing the indigenous group, my partner and I pushed to have the project re-located to our title land nearby (instead of the park) and for a share in the project profits… and we actually got it in the final settlement! It is so fun to watch everyone settle into their roles and really play up the part. If anything else, the ELG’s Annual Negotiation Competition is a chance to hone your acting skills and maybe make an inspiring speech or two (but be warned: this is not monologue practice! With 6 students representing 3 parties you have to respectfully fight for your turn to chime in)
While different practices of law will rely heavily on negotiation and others may allow a lawyer to avoid it entirely, I would recommend that everyone sign up next year! It is fun and friendly and as usual with UBC Law activities, there is plenty of good food to enjoy afterwards.
What can you learn from Negotiation Competitions?
Negotiation planning and strategy
Teamwork and communication skills
Thinking and speaking on your feet
Flexibility and creativity
Plus plus plus…