By Sarah Bennett
This summer I was lucky enough to be chosen to compete as a member of Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law’s negotiation team at the Consensual Dispute Resolution Competition (CDRC) in Vienna, Austria. Through a competitive application process, Chapman was selected to send both a negotiation team and a mediator to the competition. The mission of the competition is to contribute to the practice, exchange and growth of negotiation and mediation, facilitate intellectual exchange between members from various fields of alternative dispute resolution and connect students with professionals and experts. As a rising 3L pursuing a certificate in advocacy and dispute resolution, I was thrilled to have the opportunity.
The competition simulates legal negotiations with the support of a mediator. I worked with my negotiation partner, mediator, and coach to develop a strategy to negotiate an international business contract dispute. We spent the summer developing a plan to communicate client interests on both sides and practicing negotiation skills with other members of the Alternative Dispute Resolution team. At the competition, our team negotiated through three rounds with teams from India and Brazil, aided by mediators from Poland, the Czech Republic and England.
Especially challenging was the new set of confidential facts given to us only one hour before each round. We had to think on our feet and adapt our general strategy quickly. We also had to work to understand values and styles of different cultures, and to communicate in a concise and effective way. It was a challenging but rewarding experience overall, which helped our team to better understand the values and styles of future attorneys across the world. At the conclusion of the competition, Chapman received special awards in both mediation for Most Effective Opening Address and negotiation for Best Advocacy. Our team was honored to be recognized on an international stage in the school’s first year competing in this competition.
Overall, it was the most exciting, fun, and unique practical learning experience I have had in my law school career. In addition to learning more about international negotiation, I loved having the opportunity to travel with my team, meet law students and attorneys from all over the world, try new foods and explore Vienna. Being involved in this competition made me feel hopeful and excited about the future of the field. I am so thankful to my amazing coach, teammates, and to Chapman for affording me the opportunity. I look forward to taking the negotiation and communication skills that I learned in the competition forward through the rest of law school and into practice.
By Arianna del Rosario
This summer, I got the unique experience of competing in the 2018 Consensual Dispute Resolution Competition (CDRC). CDRC is held in Vienna each year, and it brings together student negotiators and mediators from all around the world. Chapman was one of the few schools that got selected to bring both a negotiation and mediation team this year. I competed as a mediator, while Sarah Bennett and Drake Mirsch competed as a negotiation pair.
This competition had many “firsts.” It was Chapman’s first year to participate in CDRC and it was Sarah, Drake, and my first time in the beautiful city of Vienna. It was also the first time any of us, including Coach Nancy Schultz, had ever eaten pizza from a Russian joint in Austria, or seen omelettes served in tiny cups. It was my first time attempting to speak German and seeing an actual palace! So not only did I have the privilege of participating in such a prestigious competition, but I also experienced a city I had never visited before.
CDRC brought together representatives from all over the globe. Some competitors had competed in, and even won, CDRC before. Some had participated in the moot court competition from which the CDRC problem was drawn. Others had real-world negotiation and mediation experience. The level of skill and ability from the people around us was both inspiring and intimidating. Even though we were competitors, I got to bond with so many of the people who were in the workshops and competition rounds with me. That meant making new friends from India, Poland, Russia, Brazil, England, Lebanon, Egypt, and more. The competition really highlighted the role that culture plays in international dispute resolution, and the multicultural setting made mingling and story sharing extremely fun.
But it wasn’t all play. Sarah, Drake, and I worked hard to represent the Chapman ADR Board to the best of our ability. While they talked negotiation strategies and techniques, I recited and drilled my mediator opening until I could say it in my sleep. Some teams had enough members to switch in and out of rounds, but Sarah, Drake, and I competed in every round. After each round, we would all meet and share exciting and entertaining battle stories. In an international competition, you can never fully prepare for everything! Culture plays such a huge role, and therefore, every round brings a load of surprises. It was interesting to see how our style and techniques worked well in some rounds, but not in others. More than anything, I learned that mediating in international disputes requires patience, flexibility, and a fair amount of humor and lightheartedness!
I am proud to say that Chapman brought home special awards in both categories of the competition. Sarah and Drake were awarded Best Advocacy, while I brought home an award for Most Effective Opening Address. Our work paid off! More than just two shiny new trophies for Coach Nancy’s shelf, we brought home a wealth of memories and lessons about life, law, culture, and resolving disputes. I am grateful to Chapman, Coach Nancy, and my team for such an enriching experience, and I am so excited for whatever comes next!