Student Negotiations Competition
2024 Applications will open December 2023!
Who Can Apply
The competition is open to students in all California law schools who have completed their first year of law school. Each law school may enter one team and nominate one alternate team. Teams consist of two students from the same law school. The competition is limited on a space-available basis. If more schools enroll than space is available, California Lawyers Association will select the entrants by lottery among the registered schools. If space is still available after one team is enrolled from each school, more than one team per school may participate. California Lawyers Association will select additional teams from the list of alternates by lottery. Check with your Law School Dean or faculty contact about the selection process for your school.
Each team will be e-mailed a copy of the Statement of Facts, the team’s Confidential Negotiating Instructions, and the Competition Rules on or about January 26, 2024. Each team will participate in two 60 minute preliminary rounds. After a lunch break, four teams will advance to the final round. The advancing teams will receive additional Confidential Instructions prior to the final round.
The Competition Rules can be found here or on the Rules tab. Note there are significant changes from prior years, relating in particular to COVID-19 protocols and contingencies. Please read the rules for the 2024 competition carefully.
The winning team will receive a cash prize of $1,000; the second place team, $500. Both the first and second place teams will receive recognition in California Lawyers Association’s Environmental Law Section Newsletter.
All students entered in the competition will receive one year’s complimentary membership in the Environmental Law Section. Any other student wishing to join the Section may request a complimentary membership by contacting the Environmental Law Section, Environmental@CALawyers.org.
Each law school must register on the competition website by January 26, 2024 and pay a registration fee of $225 through the online registration form. Your registration must be completed no later than January 26, 2024. Please do not attempt to register by mail or email; contact Environmental@CALawyers.org with any questions at all. The CLA Environmental Law Section will provide competition details, including the competition problem for this year as well as logistical information and updates, after all teams are registered.
Cancellations and requests for refunds must be received (not postmarked) in writing no later than February 16, 2024. No refunds will be made for cancellations after February 16, 2024, except as detailed in the Competition Rules.
Students will be judged by a panel of environmental lawyers, judges and professional mediators. Scoring criteria include preparation, execution of strategy, teamwork, outcome, oral presentation, and ethics.
Participating students will be provided with a packet of training materials about environmental negotiations.
We recommend that teams work with faculty members at their schools who specialize in environmental law and/or alternative dispute resolution. Teams that would also like a volunteer attorney mentor should e-mail the Environmental Law Section, Environmental@CALawyers.org on or before January 19, 2024 requesting a mentor. The Environmental Law Section cannot promise that it will be able to assign volunteer mentors to each requesting team.
For More Information
This competition is sponsored by the Environmental Law Section of California Lawyers Association. For more information including the Competition Rules, see below or contact the Environmental Law Section at Environmental@CALawyers.org.
All law schools in California are eligible to enter one team each, composed of two law students (J.D. candidates), each of whom has completed at least one year of law school at the time of registration. Additional teams may be entered pursuant to Rule 12. To enter the competition, a team must obtain the approval of the law school’s dean or other authorized administrator. It is recommended, but not required, that a faculty member agree to serve as an advisor. Entry forms must be submitted via the California Lawyers Association website no later than January 26, 2024. Each school may select its entrants in any way it chooses. The identity of the students on each team must be designated and communicated to the California Lawyers Association on the registration form. Acceptance of later registration, or of any individual entrants whose identity has not been disclosed to the California Lawyers Association on the registration form, is at the discretion of the Negotiation Competition Subcommittee of the Environmental Law Section of the California Lawyers Association (the “Competition Administrator”).
Prior to the competition, each participating school will receive one negotiation fact pattern. This fact pattern will consist of:
- A common set of facts known by all participants;
- Confidential information known only to the participants representing a particular party; and
- Legal background material or citations that may be provided to participants only by the Competition Administrator.
While teams do not need a thorough understanding of the underlying area of substantive law, it is important that they have a good understanding of how the law applies to the particular facts of this situation. In preparing for the competition, participants should do whatever legal research they believe is necessary or appropriate. Participants, however, should not prepare or generate any additional facts separate from the common set of facts provided to all participants. Any additional facts introduced or submitted during the competition may be grounds for penalty. Judges will have access to all fact pattern materials provided to participants.
Students are prohibited from bringing any outside material to the negotiation rounds, such as poster boards, business cards, printed proposals, or other such material. Only paper and pens, private notes (for viewing only by the team members who generated them), and official competition handouts, such as rules and fact patterns, are allowed. Students may use whiteboards, if available in the negotiating room, or may post on other surfaces paper no larger than 11 x 17 to write notes for viewing and use by all parties. Competition organizers do not guarantee that whiteboards will be present in the negotiating rooms. Furthermore, competition organizers instruct judges not to evaluate students on the use of whiteboards or other note-taking tools in the competition but on the effectiveness and use of negotiation strategies.
The competition will consist of two preliminary rounds and one final round. Each team will represent two different parties in the preliminary rounds; in the second preliminary round, each team will represent a party with interests different to or differently aligned than the party it represented in the first round. Each preliminary round will be 100 minutes, with the time divided as follows: a 60-minute negotiation session (which may include one 5-minute break per team); a 10-minute period for teams to analyze their performance in private; and a 30-minute period of self-analysis and feedback from the judges (15 minutes per team). During the negotiation session, the teams will negotiate directly with each other (i.e., without the assistance of any third- party neutral). The two preliminary rounds will take place in the morning and early afternoon of the competition.
Following the preliminary rounds, four teams will be selected to participate in the final round, pursuant to Rule 14. The final round will be two hours, with the time divided as follows: a 75-minute negotiation session (which may include one 5-minute break per team); a 10-minute period for teams to analyze their performance in private, and a 30-minute period of self-analysis and feedback from the judges (15 minutes per team).
As noted above, each team may take one break of no more than 5 minutes during each round. The 60-minute negotiation period will continue during any such break. If the team calling the break specifically requests, both teams must leave the room during the break.
Because of the potential for disruption of the competition, faculty advisors and all others electing to observe the negotiations are prohibited from leaving the room from the beginning of each negotiation session through the end of the negotiation session. Once the negotiation session is complete, coaches/mentors and faculty advisors may be present in the room for the self- analysis period and feedback session for only the team they assisted. Coaches/mentors and faculty advisors may not assist with or be present for the teams’ private performance analysis, or for the self-analysis and feedback session of the team they did not assist. Each team is permitted to have only one advisor and two additional non-competing observers of their choosing attend the morning rounds. In addition, all electronic equipment, including, but not limited to, “mobile” or “smart” phones and pagers, must be turned off and must not be checked for incoming messages. Each team will be provided with a calculator for use during the competition.
Timekeeping devices will be provided to the teams in each round, and no individual identified with a participant may act as a timekeeper in a negotiation involving such participant. Decisions by the judges as to elapsed time are final and non-reviewable. The judges will attempt to provide participants with a “ten-minute” warning prior to the expiration of the negotiation period; however, the warning may not be provided in all instances and thus participants should keep a careful watch on the time.
Responsibility for timekeeping during the self-analysis periods rests jointly with the participants and the judges, each having the responsibility to terminate the period at the end of 15 minutes. The team with the letter designation closest to the beginning of the alphabet will go first in the self-analysis.
Self-Analysis and Feedback
Following the 10-minute preparation for self-analysis, each team will have 15 minutes in which to analyze its performance in the negotiation for the judges. This will take place outside the presence of the opposing team. Students will begin this 15-minute period by answering, in the presence of the judges, the following questions: (1) “In reflecting on the entire negotiation, if you faced a similar situation tomorrow, what would you do the same and what would you do differently?”; and (2) “How well did your strategy work in relation to the outcome?” The team should also be prepared to respond to questions from the judges concerning the team’s performance. In addition, the team might use this as an opportunity to explain why it chose a particular approach or even a specific tactic. The judges will provide students with feedback on their performance during the negotiations. The judges may take into consideration for scoring purposes anything said during this session.
The competition consists of three rounds: two preliminary rounds in which all teams participate, and a final round in which four teams participate. This schedule is subject to adjustment at the discretion of the Competition Administrator.
|8:30 – 9:00||Check-in and registration.|
|8:50 – 9:20||Judges’ briefing.|
|9:00 – 9:20||Opening remarks, welcome, and team orientation.|
|9:30 – 10:30||Round 1 Negotiation. [Each side may request a 5-minute break during this 60-minute period, and any such break will not extend the time.]|
|10:30 – 10:40||Preparation for self-analysis. (Judges begin filling out score sheets and comment sheets.)|
|10:40 – 11:10||30-minute self-analysis.|
|11:10 – 11:20||Judges complete score sheets and comment sheets.|
|11:10 – 11:35||Competition break.|
|11:35 – 12:35||Round 2 Negotiation. See above regarding breaks.|
|12:35 – 12:45||Preparation for self-analysis. (Judges begin filling out score and comment sheets.)|
|12:45 – 1:15||30-minute self-analysis.|
|1:15 – 1:25||Judges complete score sheets and comment sheets and decide on final ranking of teams.|
Break for lunch, scoring, afternoon assignments. Lunch will be provided.
|1:45||Announcement of finalists.|
|1:45 – 3:00||Preparation for Final Round.|
|3:00 – 4:15||Final Negotiation Round. [Each side may ask for one 5-minute break during this 75-minute period, and any such break will not extend the time.]|
|4:15 – 4:25||Preparation for self-analysis. (Judges begin filling out score sheets and comment sheets.)|
|4:25 – 4:55||30-minute self-analysis.|
|4:55 – 5:05||Judges complete score sheets and comment sheets.|
Every effort will be made to ensure that the fact pattern and rules are clear. The Competition Administrator shall organize concurrent orientation sessions prior to the First Round. All student participants representing a particular side will meet together and be afforded the opportunity to ask questions. This session will be held while the judges are being briefed.
No one other than the student participants, their coaches/mentor, the advisor for each team, and the person(s) conducting the orientation will be permitted to attend.
The Competition Administrator will have complete discretion in answering questions related to the fact pattern and rules. However, participants are prohibited from creating, adding, or introducing any new facts to the fact pattern.
Because teams representing each side will meet separately, if one group raises a question regarding the general background information (i.e., the information known by both sides), any clarification will be communicated to the other group and to the judges. As in any negotiation session, the facts are subject to reasonable interpretation by the parties. Whether a team’s interpretation is reasonable is not a matter that should be resolved by the person conducting the orientation session. Questions of reasonableness of an interpretation are entirely within the discretion of the judges and are not reviewable.
Submission of inquiries relating to the simulated fact patterns in advance of the orientation session must be in writing. Under no circumstances will additional facts be provided, and inquiries will be accepted only if absolutely necessary—as determined by the Competition Administrator—to clarify a bona fide and fundamental question. Request for clarification must be received in writing by the Competition Administrator by 3 p.m. on February 16, 2024, via e-mail to email@example.com. The response to inquiries (as well as the actual inquiry) will be provided to all participants; however, the identity of the party seeking clarification will remain confidential.
Judges and Judging Criteria
Each round will be observed and evaluated by a panel of two judges. The number of judges may be reduced at the sole discretion of the Competition Administrator.
Teams will be judged on eight categories: (1) preparation – law, facts, and options available (10 possible points); (2) preparation – negotiation strategy and tactics (10 possible points); (3) execution of strategy, adaptability, flexibility, and creativity (10 possible points); (4) outcome of the negotiation (10 possible points); (5) oral presentation (6 possible points); (6) teamwork (6 possible points); and (7) ethics (6 possible points). The maximum possible score in a round is 58 points. In each of the categories, there is a “neutral” score (“5” in a category with a 0 to 10 scale and “3” in a category with a 0 to 6 scale), awarded if nothing strikes the judges positively or negatively about a team’s performance in the category, or if the positive and negative are equally balanced.
In the “preparation – law, facts, and options available” category (10 possible points), judges will assess whether the team understood the law and the facts; whether it was able to apply the law to the prescribed set of facts and frame appropriate legal arguments; whether it realistically assessed the implications of the options available to resolve the matter; and whether the team thought of creative solutions for the problems it faced. A well-prepared team will be well-versed in the facts and the law, understand the reasonable range of settlement options, have anticipated its opponents’ arguments, and have realistically assessed the strengths and weaknesses of its own position and its opponents’ position.
In the “preparation – negotiation strategy and tactics” category (10 possible points), the judges will assess things such as how well the team had prepared for the negotiation by selecting a strategy for the negotiation (or for individual issues, if different strategies were used for different issues); whether the strategy fit the facts, the law, the client’s objectives, and the team members’ negotiating style or styles; whether the team anticipated the strategy and tactics of the opposing team; and whether the team thought of creative approaches to the negotiation.
In the “execution of strategy” category (10 possible points), the judges will assess how well the final outcome of the negotiation advances the interests of the team’s client. It is understood, however, that one team cannot control whether an agreement is reached; if the other side is simply intransigent, no amount of negotiating skill can bring about an agreement. The judges will be instructed not to penalize a team for rejecting a proposed settlement that is worse, from the team’s client’s point of view, than no agreement at all. The goal of the competition is
to demonstrate the teams’ negotiation skills; therefore, wholesale “take it or leave it” positions are discouraged.
The “oral presentation” category (6 possible points) will assess the articulateness, clarity, persuasiveness, and effectiveness of the team’s oral presentation.
The “teamwork” category (6 possible points) assesses how effective the team members were in sharing responsibility, backing each other up, not undercutting each other, and generally working together as a team. In real negotiations, one member of a team of two lawyers might do most or all of the talking, either by plan or as a result of the flow of the negotiation. However, to make this competition educationally valuable, and because real negotiations often involve a division of labor, the student teams are asked to divide the speaking responsibilities relatively evenly between the two team members. In the event that, prior to the day of the Competition, the Competition Administrator requests or requires a two-person team to split and compete as single- person teams for the preliminary rounds, as discussed in Rules 12 and 13 below, each single- person team shall be awarded a “teamwork” score equal to the arithmetic mean of all of the other teams’ “teamwork” scores. In the event that, on the day of the Competition, the Competition Administrator requires a two-person team to split and compete as single-person teams for the preliminary rounds, as discussed in Rule 14 below, each single-person team shall be awarded a “teamwork” score equal to the arithmetic mean of all the other teams’ “teamwork” scores, plus one bonus “teamwork” point. In the event that one member of a team does not appear on the day of the competition and the present member of the team elects to compete as a solo competitor as contemplated in Rule 14, that single-person team shall be awarded a “teamwork” score equal to the arithmetic mean of all of the other teams’ “teamwork” scores.
Ethics (6 possible points). In most sessions, the Competition Administrator expects the score for both teams in the “ethics” category to be “3,” the neutral score. Nonetheless, ethical issues may arise. If a team is scored very low (1 or less) for an ethical lapse, the judges will alert the Competition Administrator, which, pursuant to Rule 10, may decide to disqualify the contestants.
Briefing of Judges
Judges will be briefed before the first morning round and before the afternoon round in conformity with the Negotiation Competition Instructions for Briefing Judges.
The team’s designated advisor and other mentors or coaches may advise the team in its planning and preparation for the competition, including the final round. No one, including team coaches and advisors, however, may give advice or instructions to, or attempt to communicate in any way with, any of the participants during the period from commencement of the participants’ negotiation session through completion of the self-analysis and final scoring period for that negotiation session. No participants or other persons identified with a participant may attend a negotiation session of any other team (apart from the session that the team itself is participating in), and only coaches/mentors and faculty advisors of the team that they assisted are permitted to
attend the self-analysis period and feedback session for the team that they assisted. In addition, pursuant to Rule 2, each team is permitted to have only one advisor and two additional non- competing observers of their choosing attend the morning competition rounds. Nor may the participants, their coaches, advisors, or any other person connected with a team communicate with another of its school’s teams where that school has more than one team entered in the competition until all of that school’s teams have completed the round.
The mere act of communication, receipt of information, or attendance proscribed by this rule will constitute a violation, regardless of the substance thereof and regardless of whether initiated by a participant or by any other person. Violation of this rule may result in disqualification. See Rule 10 for procedures. Harmless error will not be a defense to a complaint based on violation of this rule, because of the appearance of impropriety occasioned even by casual exchanges unrelated to the substance of the negotiation.
The Competition Administrator reserves the right to limit the number of observers in a competition room. No challenges to the Competition Administrator’s decision will be considered.
Team Identification and Pairing Rounds
Each team will be assigned a random letter by the Competition Administrator. The names of team members’ schools are not to be divulged to the judges of the morning rounds until the second-round score sheets have been collected. In the unlikely event that a judge asks a team member which school the team member represents, the team member should respond that the rules do not permit the divulging of that information until the competition is completed. The Competition Administrator will randomly match opposing sides for the first and second rounds. No team will negotiate against the same team in both the first and second rounds of the competition. Furthermore, if there is more than one team per school, the Competition Administrator shall vary the random selection in order to avoid placing teams from the same school in the same bracket in a round.
Any serious ethical lapses and/or any violations of these rules that may affect the results of the competition will be resolved on the day of the competition by a majority vote of the members of the Competition Administrator present at the competition. The decision of the Competition Administrator shall be final and non-reviewable.
No costs incurred by participants in the competition, including travel, lodging, and incidental costs, will be reimbursed by the California Lawyers Association Environmental Law Section. This Section 11 shall not apply to judges.
Uneven Number of Registered Teams or Where Space Permits: Additional Team or Team-splitting
The Competition Administrator may permit one or more additional eligible teams to participate in the competition if either the number of teams registered does not equal a multiple of two or if there is additional interest and available space, at the discretion of the Competition Administrator. At the option of the Competition Administrator, such additional teams may represent any school participating in the competition. Any additional team must otherwise qualify for participation in every respect; however, only one side of the simulated controversy will be represented by students competing for the same school.
In the event that the number of teams registered does not equal a multiple of two once the registration period for the Competition has closed and after the participation of additional teams has been solicited, but before the day of the Competition, the Competition Administrator shall request a volunteer team from among the group of registered teams to split apart to compete as single-person teams during the preliminary rounds of the competition. If more than one team volunteers, the team will be chosen by lot from amongst the volunteer teams, or if no team volunteers, the team will be chosen by lot from among all registered teams. If one of the single- person teams qualifies for the final round of the regional competition, both team members will proceed to the finals. For determining the top four teams to go to the final round, a split team shall be evaluated based on the higher scoring team member for both morning rounds combined, and that score will be used for computing an overall final score in Rule 15.
Withdrawal of Registered Team After Close of Registration Period but Prior to Competition
In the event that the number of teams registered does initially equal a multiple of two, but at some point before the Competition one team withdraws its registration, the Competition Administrator shall solicit interest of an additional team to register for the Competition. In the event that no additional team registers to take the place of the team that has withdrawn, the Competition Administrator shall request that another registered team volunteer to split apart to compete as single-person teams during the preliminary rounds of the competition. Only those teams representing the side of the team that failed to appear will be eligible for participation as individuals. If more than one team volunteers, the team will be chosen by lot from amongst the volunteer teams. If no team volunteers, the team will be chosen by lot from among all teams representing the side of the team that failed to appear. If one of the single-person teams qualifies for the final round of the regional competition, both team members will proceed to the finals.
For determining the top four teams to go to the final round, a split team shall be evaluated based on the higher scoring team member for both morning rounds combined, and that score will be used for computing an overall final score in Rule 15.
Failure of Registered Team to Appear on the Day of the Competition
There is always the possibility that because of illness or other emergency an entire team will not appear on the day of the competition. In this unlikely event, the Competition Administrator shall request that another registered team volunteer to split apart to compete as single-person teams during the preliminary rounds of the competition. Only those teams
representing the side of the team that failed to appear will be eligible for participation as individuals. If more than one team volunteers, the team will be chosen by lot. If no team volunteers, the team will be chosen by lot from among all teams representing the side of the team that failed to appear. If one of the single-person teams qualifies for the final round of the regional competition, both team members will proceed to the finals. In the event a single-person team under this rule begins competing, the absent team forfeits. For determining the top four teams to go to the final round, a split team shall be evaluated based on the higher scoring team member for both morning rounds combined, and that score will be used for computing an overall final score in Rule 15. In the event that, due to illness or other emergency, one member of a team does not appear on the day of the competition, the present member of the team will be given the option to compete as a solo competitor. If the present member of the team declines that opportunity, the Competition Administrator shall request a team to split apart per the above.
Scoring and Final Round
The competition will be judged and scored in accordance with the Criteria for Judges. At the end of the two preliminary rounds, the teams will be ranked according to each team’s cumulative score from the preliminary rounds. [A single score shall be assigned for each round, based on the average of the individual scores assigned by the judges of that round.] The four teams with the highest scores will proceed to the final round. The final round will involve new confidential instructions.
The first-place team and the runner-up will be determined based on the best cumulative score from the preliminary and final rounds and announced immediately following tabulation of results. The first-place team will receive a cash prize of $1,000 and recognition in the California Lawyers Association Environmental Law Section Newsletter. The runner-up team will receive a cash prize of $500 and recognition in the California Lawyers Association Environmental Law Section Newsletter.
If it is necessary to break a tie to determine the four teams advancing to the final round, or to determine the rankings in the final round, the tie will be broken by choosing the team achieving the best (highest) aggregate score in the outcome of the negotiation category for all completed negotiations. If the tying teams have achieved the same score in that category, the tie will be broken by choosing the team achieving the best (highest) aggregate score in the “preparation – law, facts, and options available” category for all completed negotiations. If the tying teams have achieved the same score in that category as well, the tie will be broken by choosing the team achieving the best (highest) aggregate score in the “preparation – negotiation strategy and tactics” category for all completed negotiations. If the tying teams have achieved the same score in that category as well, the tie will be broken by choosing the team achieving the best (highest) aggregate score in the “execution of strategy, adaptability, flexibility, and creativity” category for all completed negotiations. If, after application of all these tiebreakers, the first and second place teams are still tied, both teams shall be declared the winner and each team will receive the $1,000 first place prize, and no team shall receive the $500 “runner-up”
prize. If, application of all these tiebreakers, the second and third place teams are still tied, the second and third place teams shall each receive the $500 “runner-up” prize. If, after application of all these tiebreakers to determine which four teams advance to the final round, there are two fourth-ranked teams remaining, determination of which team advances to the final round shall be made by coin toss.
Availability of Judges’ Comments
Competition judges are encouraged, but not required, to submit written comments evaluating the students’ performance. Upon request to the Competition Administrator, competitors may receive any written comments submitted by the competition judges about that team’s performance. No one other than competitors may obtain written comments from the judges, and no competitor may receive judges’ written comments about any other team’s performance. The written comments reference in this section are not the same as score sheets; the Competition Administrator will not make any competitor’s raw scores, or any judge’s score sheets, available to anyone, including competitors.
For purposes of the competition, assume that federal and California law apply, as appropriate under the circumstances.
Interpretation of These Rules
The Competition Administrator will resolve any disputes concerning the interpretation of these rules, or of the judging rules, and reserves the sole right to interpret the rules. The Competition Administrator’s interpretations shall be final and unreviewable.
Congratulations to our 2023 Winners!
Congratulations to the schools that participated in ELS’ 21st Annual Student Negotiation Competition held at UCLA School of Law on Friday, March 24, 2023:
- First Place | UCLA School of Law, Samantha Yeager & Emmett Barnes
- Second Place | Chapman University, Shehzaib Rahim & Paula Dizon
- Third Place | Empire College School of Law, Kathleen Cuschieri & Sania Grandchamp
- Fourth Place | UC Berkeley, Jesse Reit & Kelly Cook
- Chapman University, Ryane Skinner and Ryen Cordova
- UC College of Law, San Francisco, Ariel Kahn and Hannibal Huntley
- UC College of Law, San Francisco, Margaux Payton and Fernanda Gonzalez
- UC Davis, Samantha Ramadan and Blaine Dyas
- UCLA, Katherine Meek and Akif Khan
- Western State College of Law, Amanda Hazelton and Stefanie Espinola