On Saturday Lewis Katz Hall in Carlisle was home to a little March Madness of its own when forty-four students and twenty lawyers gathered for the second annual Negotiation Marathon at Penn State Law. Organized by Professor Nancy Welsh to sharpen students’ negotiation skills, the event provided an opportunity for students to receive direct feedback from talented and trusted negotiators.
The attorneys chosen to ‘judge’ this event came from a wide array of practice areas,” said Professor Welsh. “But every one of them was recommended by his or her peers as both effective and trustworthy, and all of them share a commitment to mentoring law students and preparing them for the realities of legal practice.”
Hailing from Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Harrisburg, the day’s judges included H. Laddie Montague ’63 of Berger & Montague, the Hon. Albert H. Masland ’82, Paula McDermott ’86 of Post & Schell, and public defender Quo Judkins ’06.
“This is a great event that did not exist when I was a student here,” said employment practitioner Jeffrey Elliott ’82 of Kozloff Stoudt in Wyomissing, PA. “Being able to negotiate well is hugely practical for lawyers who will be involved in civil litigation. They will encounter ADR privately and through a whole range of court-ordered processes.” In addition to his private practice, Elliott is a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
Students were responsible for three sets of facts pertaining to labor and employment issues in higher education. Over lunch participants had an informal dialogue, in part about culture and diversity within the profession.
“This was a chance to practice preparing a case both mentally and emotionally. Being responsible for three sets of facts for three different negotiations is indicative of real life,” said Thomas Caldwell ’11, who added that the feedback from attorneys was “invaluable.”
“If you are prepared and know your stuff, there is only one way you can screw up and that is to pretend to be someone else,” said Attorney Schaun Henry ‘97 of McNees Wallace & Nurick in Harrisburg who focuses on labor and employment law. “Know your stuff but be yourself.”
Attorney David Fitzsimons ‘84 of Martson Law Offices in Carlisle agreed. “To thy own self be true. If someone acts differently to you because of who you are it’s their weakness, not yours,“ he said.
“To thy own self be true unless you are a jerk,” quipped another judge. In a more serious tone, the judges were in general agreement that credibility is key.
“Credibility is easier to lose than it is to gain. Once you’ve lost that, you’re done,” said Attorney Michael Winfield of Rhoads & Sinon in Harrisburg, PA. He is a partner in the firm’s litigation department and concentrates his practice in the areas of construction law, public contracts, commercial litigation, and alternative dispute resolution. He is a litigator, arbitrator, and mediator.
In addition to maintaining their credibility, future attorneys were encouraged to preserve civility. Attorney Joseph Metz ’80 of Dilwoth Paxson in Harrisburg said to his students, “most of the time the person you’re negotiating with is not your enemy.”
Students who participated in the February 2010 ABA Negotiation Competition encouraged participants to try out for the 2010-2011 team, one of ten moot court teams
typically fielded by Penn State Law.