Law Students Place 2nd in National Dispute Resolution Competition

Third-year College of Law students Lauren Askeland and Anthony Estrada recently took second place in a national negotiation competition sponsored by the American Bar Association.

Coached by Professor Sukhsimranjit Singh, Askeland and Estrada advanced to the finals in the ABA Law Student Division Negotiation Competition in mid-February. The winner was a one-person team from Texas Wesleyan University School of Law.

“This is an enormous accomplishment,” said Richard Birke, director of Willamette’s Center for Dispute Resolution. “To be recognized as one of the best negotiation teams in the nation is an honor that the competitors should relish for the rest of their legal careers. We can expect that Lauren and Anthony will enjoy similar success and satisfaction in their careers.

“As a school with a specialization in dispute resolution, we all share in the current victory and the team members’ future successes,” Birke said.

The competition encourages law students to develop negotiating skills in a dispute resolution setting. Willamette’s success was especially notable because it has been more than a decade since the school has reached the finals, Birke said.

Before advancing to the finals, Askeland and Estrada won a regional competition that included students from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Canadian law schools. They both competed in the 2009 regionals on different teams and lost after the second round. They then decided to form their own team and ended up losing the nationals by just two points, Singh said.

 “They were amazing,” Singh said. “They were well-prepared, confident, brilliant thinkers on the spot and courageous. It says that anything is possible.”

 The competition had four rounds, and participants were given the scenario ahead of time. The scenario involved a new drug, a drug company that wanted to manufacture it and the market to which the drug would be distributed. Each round lasted 50 minutes and participants were scored on the tone and methods of their negotiations.

 Estrada is from Staten Island and hopes to become a mediator after a few years practicing law. He said he and Askeland made a good team because of their different approaches. He’s generally more assertive and to-the-point; Askeland provides the justification for their bargaining position. Sometimes, though, she’ll announce their offer and Estrada will explain it.

 “She’s just been the best partner a person can have,” Estrada said. “Lauren and I are really satisfied with the result.”

 Askeland, who wants to be a prosecutor or a public defender, compared dispute resolution to a puzzle.

"You figure out who people are," she said. "I like the idea that there's not one way to settle a dispute. When you're in a private negotiation you can get as creative as you want to be."