College of Law negotiation team places third nationally

FIU team returns from the American Bar Association National Negotiation Competition Finals in Boston with third-place honors after rising to the top of a field that included 224 teams from 114 law schools.

The FIU College of Law’s Board of Advocacy Program, which consists of trial, appellate and negotiation teams, has been quietly making a name for itself around the country. Most recently, the negotiation team, comprised of second-year law student Nicole Grimal and third-year law student Ashley Vandercar, earned third place at the American Bar Association (ABA) National Negotiation Competition Finals in Boston earlier this month. This is the best the team has done in a competition involving more than 200 teams.

The competition began in November with regional competitions and a field of 224 teams from 114 U.S. and Canadian law schools.

At the finals, Nicole and Ashley advanced through two preliminary-round negotiations with Ohio State and Liberty. They defeated the University of Miami, Albany and Hamline in the semi-final round to secure their position as one of the four championship round teams. Teams in each round negotiated for 50 minutes and then delivered a 10-minute self critique of their performance to panels of four or five attorneys and judges. The FIU team of Grimal and Vandercar came up short against the Northwestern law school team in the finals to finish third.

The team was coached by law professor Brian Spector and law professor David Walter. Both worked with the team at the finals in Boston. The two professors work closely with the team and often give constructive criticism to the students during practice sessions.

“I can’t underscore enough the amount of work these students put into this,” says Walter. He estimates the students put in more than 100 hours and that Grimal and Vandercar, in particular, practiced eight hours each day in the two weeks prior to the competition.

Describing the negotiation competitions he says, “Each team has to represent a client in some sort of problematic situation, and they negotiate with each other to get the best outcome for their client.”

During each round, a negotiation team is scored on a 100-point scale. A judge sits in on each round but offers no input. Walter says the students are scored on their ability to create options when there is a problem in the negotiation process. Students earn points for coming up with a novel idea that is amenable to both parties.

“In a sense, they’re not arguing with the other side, they’re trying to reach an agreement,” says Walter. “Students take it very seriously and work very diligently to turn out the best brief, the best oral argument.”

Another one of the College of Law’s teams — the appellate team — did not fare as well in a recent competition. Appellate team members Jeannine Rodriguez, Mary Thwaites, Luda Kogan and Vanessa Harlacher – all third-year law students – did not advance past the prelims on Februrary 21 at the Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition in Miami on Februrary 21. The competition centered on appellate advocacy in international law.

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