Negotiation Teams Wins National Environmental Law Competition
Third-year day student Jessica Rafipour and third-year evening student Antwoin Wall won First Place at the Lewis and Clark National Environmental Negotiation Competition, which was held at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. In addition to Rafipour and Wall, Southwestern's other Negotiation Honors Program team of second-year day students Garrett Behrens and Tim Kuhl also advanced to the final round.
Six teams from three law schools competed, including Lewis and Clark, Willamette University College of Law and Southwestern. In both the semi-final and the final rounds, Southwestern's Rafipour and Wall defeated the host school.
"The key to our success was composed of two essential elements: active listening and teamwork," Wall said. "With negotiating, listening is as, if not more, critical than speaking. And our teamwork was amazing. By the time we arrived at the competition, we were practically able to finish each other's statements. The judges were very impressed at how well we worked together, but we could not have succeeded, especially in the final round, without the guidance of our coach, Kyle Marks '10 (former Chair of the Negotiation Honors Program). Kyle was instrumental in keeping us calm, focused, and ready to win."
For the two preliminary rounds, each team was given roughly three weeks to prepare for two problems. Once the teams advanced to the semi-finals, they were given the next problem on Saturday evening, and competed Sunday morning. For the final round, the team only had one hour to read the problem, strategize and finalize a game-plan for the negotiation. The problems focused on the impact that a state-of-the-art recycling facility would have on an eco-conscious coastal community, including impact to marine life, reputation of the community, and the financial costs and benefits of such a venture. This had to be balanced against the strong lobbying that takes place by environmental interest groups, as well as the role of government in generating revenue for the state without harming society in the process.
Wall explained that although he and Rafipour were both confident throughout the competition, they remained professional and reserved. "But when the runner-up team's name was announced, we knew that we had won," he said. "This victory has truly been one of the most exciting and gratifying experiences in law school!"
Preparation played an integral role in the both teams' success. Natalie Weatherford, Chair of the Negotiation Honors Program, planned out a schedule that required Southwestern's participants to argue against fellow teammates almost daily to prepare for competition.
"The opposing team was very challenging," Rafipour said. "I felt they were very strong and did not give into our strategies very much. But when we did hear our team name, my first thought was thank goodness all of our hard work and practices every week had paid off."