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Law team negotiates advancement to national finals

USC Gould students make their way to Transactional LawMeet finals in New York

by Maria Iacobo

For the second straight year, three USC Gould School of Law students are on their way to the National Transactional LawMeet finals, a mock negotiation experience for students interested in pursuing a career in transactional law.

The students were one of two teams — from each side of the negotiation — to win the Western Regional round held at UCLA. Eighty-four law schools competed in seven regional meets; 14 schools are headed to the finals in April, to will be held at the New York office of Sullivan & Cromwell.

Jennifer Cohen, Dilveer Vahali and Christopher Partin will represent USC; Professor Michael Chasalow is their adviser. Cohen and Vahali were members of last year’s winning team.

“This time we knew what we were getting into,” Cohen said, referring to the regional. “We were prepared and could consider ahead of time of the types of arguments the other teams might make, so we had well thought-out responses. We had a lot of fun.”

The competition’s aim is to provide students with a meaningful and engaging simulation of transactional practice. The annual event has been gaining in popularity with law schools; this is the second year USC Gould has participated.

Chasalow said he is a “huge fan” of the competition.

“If we could do it for every law student, it would be incredible. The mock transaction is both sophisticated and intricate enough to engage the students, but not so complex that it becomes overwhelming,” he noted. “Students need to learn and digest a lot of material, but once they do, they become invested. You’re really negotiating your deal, and it provides an authentic experience.

“In addition, you have practitioners who have been doing this for 15 or 20 years in the community who are sitting in the room and then giving each team meaningful and helpful feedback on how they might improve.”

USC Gould students

Christopher Partin, Dilveer Vahali and Jennifer Cohen, with the help of Professor Michael Chasalow, won a regional round of the 2014 National Transactional Lawmeet.

Looking for more experience in transactional law, Partin joined the team at Chasalow’s suggestion.

“It’s been a really good experience,” Partin said. “I’m surprised at how much I actually got into the mode of being the negotiator — not just acting. I think it was really cool.”

The students spent several months preparing for the competition. A 50-page merger document was reviewed, with several rounds of draft agreements exchanged between the competing teams prior to the meet.

The finals will continue the same case negotiated in the regional competition, but the competition’s organizers will introduce additional facts that can alter the dynamics of the negotiation. Teams will represent the buyer or seller of a business involved in a dispute with a significant licensor, focusing on the negotiation of an indemnification provision and a “holdback” of the purchase price.

Vahali said he’ll use some of the feedback he received from the attorneys in the first round at the New York finals.

“It was helpful,” Vahali said. “I can tailor my negotiating style and be cognizant of it in the future.”

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