In preparing for the National Student Negotiation Competition for England and Wales, we interviewed Nina Kelley former student at the University of Law, Bloomsbury and qualified barrister, winner of last year’s competition with her negotiation partner Juliet Mullany about her experiences at the International Final, held this year in Lucerne, Switzerland.
How did you find the International competition?
I would say it was definitely a little bit daunting at first. Representing your country in anything is quite a big ask and puts some pressure on your shoulders. Thankfully everyone is in the same position.
The competitors all have very different levels of training, and all have their own style and approach to negotiation. However, the atmosphere is very friendly and I was impressed with the level of English from those for whom it is a second language, especially when you start entering into complex legal issues such as equity. Representing England and Wales we did have this slight advantage – being native English speakers – but it is also a disadvantage: you cannot use a different language for quick private tactics discussions with your partner.
The scenarios are also all very enjoyable as they are based on real life cases. They are also linked between each other, but with a different type of relationship to work on: an amicable relationship, a business like one and a difficult relationship. You get to practise on all different angles.
What skills are you asked to put in practice?
Obviously the competition engages knowledge of the law to deal with contracts and agreements. You also need a good commercial awareness of what might be desirable for a company or individual to gain from a negotiation. It requires you to have an awareness of what somebody not present would want. This in turn leads you to search for creative solutions. There might be different ways other than money to reach an agreement (Equity, shares, future working etc). There are many options which might not be obvious at first but that can lead to a win-win agreement.
You also need some strong negotiation skills and these you also develop on the way. The amount of styles encountered is vast, every country has its own – some very stereotypical! British and Canadian teams are very polite negotiators, Americans have a much stronger style…! The competition is very life-like, and it gave me the opportunity to explore different styles of negotiation and how you would respond to them appropriately. It is stereotypical but also quite funny and all the teams laughed about this when comparing each other’s style.
You also use numerous soft skills to handle the negotiations (Bargaining effectively , laying down your bottom line at the right moment, being strong when needed) You have to be a good listener to show that you are taking on board the needs the other side is expressing. You sometimes feel you are on the same page but you still need to dig deeper to find “other ways” for you and the other party to achieve their goal and find other ways to deal with the facts.
What happened after the competition?
Clearly it looks great on your CV and application to say you represented England and Wales in an international competition, facing law schools from the whole world. The standards of the competition are very high, pushing participants to surpass themselves. Generally I think doing the competition encouraged me to look further into other means of negotiation and resolving disputes adding to my panel of professional and personal skills.
I was then fortunate to obtain a job at CEDR (the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution) and became much more involved in Alternative Dispute Resolution as it is something I have been interested in for a while. Using the soft skills I developed during my studies and preparing for the competition, I became a CEDR accredited mediator. I will soon be extending my role with CEDR as an adjudicator on consumer disputes, a role that involves understanding the law, but also being able to understand underlying needs, feelings as well as framing and expressing the settlement in a way that can be best understood and accepted by all parties.
Information on the National Student Negotiation Competition for England & Wales: https://www.cedr.com/foundation/competition/
News Article on the 2016 Competiton: https://www.cedr.com/news/?item=The-2016-National-Student-Negotiation-Competition