Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA

News Release

Law Students from Around the Country Gather at Southwestern's Entertainment Negotiation Competition October 15, 2013
Law Students from Around the Country Gather at Southwestern's Entertainment Negotiation Competition

Texas A&M Team takes First Place

As a premier institution for the study of entertainment law, it makes sense that Southwestern would also create and host an entertainment law negotiation competition, the first and only national competition of its kind.

The Southwestern Entertainment Law Negotiation Competition was created in 2010 by Southwestern's Associate Dean Nyree Gray and Professor Cristina Knolton, co-advisors of the law school's Negotiation Honors Program. Now in its fourth year, this national competition continues to grow. The 2013 competition held on campus October 5 and 6 featured 28 teams from 18 schools throughout California and the United States.

At this year's competition, Christopher Brown and Joshua Graham of Texas A&M University School of Law won First Place. Second Place went to Brian Lowry and Kyle Bonacum of UC Hastings College of the Law. Tami Carson and Jessi Castro of Chapman University Fowler School of Law earned Third Place, and Justin Schultz and Pedrom Ghafoori of UC Hastings College of the Law rounded out the top four placements. Teams from Liberty Law School, the University of Mississippi tied for fifth place, and those from Chapman and UC Davis tied for sixth place.

Top 4 SELN Competition Teams
(from left to right) The two teams from UC Hastings; the winning team from Texas A&M; and the Chapman team

Competitors received two problems on September 13, giving them approximately three weeks to prepare for the event. Teams selected for the final rounds had one night to work on the final problem for the second day of competition.

The final round problem involved the (fictional) "Vox Studios" making a film that used two of the same characters that were going to be featured in a "Stark Studios" film. "LA Comics" owned the rights to the characters and had inadvertently granted exclusive licenses for the use of the characters to both studios. To complicate matters further, the directors for each of the studios had creative control over the use and look of characters. A dispute arose over who was going to use the characters and how the characters were going to be portrayed.

"What made the negotiation challenging is that four different parties' interests were represented at the table," Professor Knolton said. "The directors' interests and the studio's interests did not perfectly align. However, the students were able to effectively represent their own client's interest and still reach agreement that would make all four parties at the table happy."

To ensure fairness and propriety, Southwestern did not compete, but members of the school's Negotiation Honors Program played an integral role in organizing the competition. As a board member of Southwestern's Negotiation Honors Program, April Macaraeg knows first-hand the efforts that students put forth to prepare for the competition.

"A negotiation competition is like an accelerated, extra class, and competition day is your final exam," Macaraeg said. "You spar so much that you understand the problem and you don't have to refer back to the fact pattern. And when you make it to the final round, you know you've aced that exam! Then learning and understanding a whole new fact pattern overnight is that bump up in your grade. Our hat's off to all of the competitors because we know how much time and energy it takes to participate in this kind of competition."

A mix of professors, alumni, faculty and local attorneys judged event. The final round judges - Southwestern alumni Angela Rose White '78, COO of David Rose Music Publishing; Raj Sardesai '93, Vice President and Chief IP Counsel of Avery Dennison Corporation; and business attorney Paul Bent '78 - heaped praise on the winners. White said the top team's performance was "really well done [and provided a] very accurate analysis" She told the team, "You knew what your strengths and weaknesses were. You set the tone for negotiating well." Bent praised all of the finalists, saying, "It's very difficult to judge a competition like this where everyone is so good."

Tim Kuhl '12, a Southwestern alumnus and former Chair of the Negotiation Honors Program Board, has written the problems for the competition for the past three years. Of his contribution, Professor Knolton explained, "He is always able to base the problems on cutting-edge issues in the entertainment industry and does a great job of making the problems challenging and realistic, yet appropriate for a law school negotiation competition."

Teams from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Hastings, Pepperdine, Thomas Jefferson, Cal Western, University of Georgia, University of Mississippi, Texas Tech, Texas Wesleyan, La Verne, Liberty, Cardozo, Western State, Tulane, William and Mary, Chapman, and University of South Dakota participated in this year's competition. Ten of the schools sent two teams. Click here for more information about the Southwestern Entertainment Law Negotiation Competition.