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Legal Competition Showcased Deal-Making Skills

March 09, 2010

Students from 10 law schools around the U.S. came to the Earle Mack School of Law on March 4 and 5 to take part in a novel competition that focused on deal-making skills.

The First Annual Transactional Lawyering Meet required students representing fictional buyers or sellers to negotiate the purchase of a manufacturing company's business by a private equity investment group. Teams worked to hammer out a letter of intent that would serve the best interests of their respective clients, each of whom wanted a deal on their own terms. Transactional lawyers from some of the nation's leading firms served as judges during the competition and provided feedback on the students performance.

The goal was to give students interested in transactional law the same opportunity to test their skills that future litigators receive in moot court and mock trial competitions. Unlike moot court, this competition required students to achieve a result that would benefit both clients.

As the meet began, Professor Karl Okamoto, who directs the Business and Entrepreneurship Law Program, welcomed teams from Columbia Law School, Cornell Law School, the Emory University School of Law, the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, the Temple University Beasley School of Law, the University of Georgia, the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the Washington & Lee School of Law.

"You are our seed investors," said Okamoto, who worked with students to create the competition.

Teams met in small conference rooms throughout the law school during three rounds of negotiations before finalists from the University of Georgia and Indiana University were selected to argue a final round.

The competition concluded with an exhibition round in which accomplished practitioners demonstrated how they would have tackled the same deal. This gave students who had become well acquainted with the proposed deal a chance to experience what Okamoto calls an "aha moment." This approach has proven very effective in Okamoto's Transactional Lawyering class, which includes simulations that are judged by veteran practitioners.

Lisa R. Jacobs, a partner with Pepper Hamilton, said the students in the competition negotiated as ably as fourth-year associates.

Jeffrey P. Bodle, a partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius, praised the students for their skills and the law school for creating the meet.

"There's no way that I would have been able to do that," Bodle said of his own legal education.

The competition was preceded by a conference involving law faculty from the Brigham Young University, Cornell University Law School, Emory University, Indiana University, Loyola Law School-Los Angeles, New York Law School, Suffolk University, Temple University, the University of California-Davis, the University of Connecticut, the University of Georgia, the University of Maryland, University of New Mexico, the University of Oregon, the University of Pennsylvania and Washington & Lee University. The conference explored new approaches to teaching transactional law.