Teams from more than 110 U.S. and Canadian law schools competed at the 2015 American Bar Association’s (ABA) National Negotiation Finals during the weekend of Feb. 6-9 in Houston, Texas. FIU Law was the only Florida law school to compete at the finals.
The team of Omar Ali-Shamaa, a third-year law student, and Kathleen Pfahlert, a second-year law student, took second place missing out on the championship title by just one point to the University of Manitoba.
“Kathleen and Omar were just superb,” said their faculty coach, Professor David Walter. “The performance of our FIU Negotiation teams over the past seven years has been incredibly consistent. We’ve advanced to the national finals seven times in the past eight years and placed in the top five four times.”
Getting to nationals started back in November when FIU Law dominated the ABA Southeast Regionals competition where not one, not two, but three teams swept all the honors and landed two spots at nationals. It was the third consecutive year that FIU Law won the ABA Southeast Regionals. The top two teams, from each region throughout the nation, compete at nationals.
Making it to Houston required a higher intensity of strategy and preparation, but Ali-Shamaa felt confident going into the competition.
“Two weeks prior to the competition, we received the confidential facts of the case,” Ali-Shamaa explained. “Unfortunately, Kathleen and I are on different class schedules so the only time we could practice was at 10 p.m. Our Negotiation teammates helped us by serving as the opposing side so we could practice our presentation.”
Despite the short practice schedule, Ali-Shamaa and Pfahlert made the first cut, making their way to the semi-final round, which they won. Once they landed a spot to compete for the championship, they received the facts of the case.
It then became a race against the clock.
From Friday evening until midnight the team practiced. Following a 5 a.m. wake-up call, it was time for more practice. “We practiced from the moment we received the problems to the moment we began competing,” Ali-Shamaa said.
The 50-minute round is held in front of three to four judges. It’s a high-paced, challenging exercise in negotiation tactics.
Despite the one-point loss, FIU Law has a lot of which to be proud.
“Year after year, FIU Law’s competition teams continue to outperform other law schools and make an impression on the competition,” FIU Law Dean R. Alexander Acosta said. “It’s wonderful to see our students do so well their victories are proof of their hard work, their talent and their commitment.”