FFOI Debra Berman offers to organize a fabulous practical DR Skills exercise that goes beyond the classroom and normal competitions. She writes:
In recent times of declining class sizes, shrinking budgets, and extra focus on the bar exam, practical ADR skills training may not receive the attention it deserves. Students may leave law school without ever practicing a single negotiation or engaging in some form of legal communication with another law student or lawyer. Currently, students primarily learn ADR skills by engaging in face-to-face simulations during a narrow time frame of a one or two hour class with students they know (or are even friends with) or during extracurricular competitions. But how often do lawyers sit down across the table from one another? How often do they have such an artificially tight time frame? How often are they negotiating with their friends? In reality, lawyers do the majority of their negotiations via email or on the phone over a period of time with clients and opposing counsel they may not necessarily know. Yet we ask our students to engage in negotiation skills training that does not necessarily reflect reality. Therefore, I would like to gauge your interest in signing on to participate in an Inter-School Negotiation Practicum.
The idea behind the pilot project is simple. Your students would sign up to negotiate a fact pattern (either transactional or pre-litigation) with a student from another school and they would have complete control over how to conduct it – via email, phone, zoom, etc. They would have one month to complete it. Students would not be graded and there is no “winning or losing” like in the competitions. It is simply an opportunity for students to practice a real life legal skill outside the classroom in a non-threatening and non-judgmental manner. We would then do a debrief with our own students at the end.
One question that has arisen is whether students could only participate if they have taken a negotiation class or have some other training. However, there is a cohort of students that do not have room in their schedules and/or are not selected for teams. I envision this as an opportunity that would remain open to all students (with 30+ credits) and it would be up to each participating institution whether/how to include an educational component in advance. At the end of the day, I see real practical value for students engaging with complete strangers in an environment that more closely aligns with practice. If there is support, I am eager to have a target start date of October 1st and students would have through October 31st to complete the negotiation. If you are interested, all I need from you is to market it to your students and have them sign up on a web page that I will create. I am happy to take care of the rest. Please feel free to email me to express interest. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Assistant Professor of Clinical Studies
Director, Frank Evans Center for Conflict Resolution
South Texas College of Law Houston