Shortly after arriving at William & Mary, I learned about the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) team. For those of you who do not know, William & Mary is the home of several competitive teams that focus on honing students’ practical legal skills. These teams take part in competitions around the country, seeking to negotiate, arbitrate and persuasively argue for their fictional clients against students from other schools. Each team focuses on a specific legal skill set, with the ADR team focusing on three particular areas: arbitration, mediation, and negotiation.
Although I am no great negotiator and prefer writing to public speaking, I was interested by the ADR team and decided to go out on a limb and try out for the team. It turned out to be quite the experience. The tryouts are spread out over several rounds during which students must demonstrate their skills in arbitration and negotiation. In the first round, students are put into pairs and asked to collaborate with their partners to devise a creative solution to for difficult, yet humorous, fact patterns.
For the arbitration section of tryouts, my partner and I were assigned the job of representing MTV in a contract dispute with the cast members of Jersey Shore. We were given a general overview of the dispute and a few confidential facts from which we needed to plan out a 15 minute presentation to a panel of arbiters. We also needed to prepare a rebuttal after opposing counsel’s presentation and be ready field any questions that the judges might ask during our presentation. While planning, we had to be very honest about the strength of our position and make plans for how to excuse our weak points. Putting together a solid defense of our position required several hours of planning and multiple rehearsals to be sure that our thoughts sounded as good out loud as they looked on paper.
On the night of the tryout, my partner and I were nervous, but felt prepared. The opposing side presented first and did a fantastic job, doing nothing to calm my nerves. When it was our turn to speak, I gripped my podium, took a deep breath and began my arguments, “May it please the panel…”. It was a difficult beginning, but as we settled into our argument the planning and rehearsal kicked in and our presentation went smoothly. Questions from the panel and rebuttal were exciting as they required me and my partner to think on our feet and produce a polished argument without having time to consider all of our options. In the end, the judges congratulated both sides on a well-argued evening and we left happy, contented that our planning and practice had paid off. I had left my comfort zone and enjoyed the experience thoroughly.
So what is the moral of the story here? Get out and try out for a competition team! The Moot Court, Transaction, and Trial Teams all have tryouts in the near future and would love to see you there. The experience is worth your time regardless of whether or not you end up making the team. Especially if speaking in front of people makes you nervous.
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