Boston University School of Law

February 12, 2010

Dustin Guzior and Ariel Soiffer

Dustin Guzior ('10) and Ariel Soiffer ('10) win ABA’s National Negotiation Competition

Class of 2010 students Dustin Guzior and Ariel Soiffer won the 25th annual Negotiation Competition National Finals. The competition was held by the American Bar Association’s Law Student Division February 5-6, 2010, at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Orlando. This is the first BU Law team in the history of the ABA competition to win the national title.

Soiffer and Guzior advanced to the National Competition after excelling in both the BU Law competition and the New England Region 1 competition. At the two-day National Finals, they competed against 24 teams, and ranked sixth among the 16 teams making it to the semifinals.

“We managed to pull an upset and advance from our seed, to be one of the four teams that made it to the finals,” said Soiffer. “We went up against the team that was ranked first in the two beginning rounds—they had almost perfect scores in the first two rounds.”

The competition simulates legal negotiations in which law students, acting as lawyers, negotiate a series of legal problems. The simulations consist of a common set of facts known by all participants and confidential information known only to the participants representing a particular side. All of the simulations deal with the same general topic, but the negotiation situation varies with each round and level of the competition. This year’s tournament theme was “Labor & Employment Law.”

In the final round, Soiffer and Guzior represented a law firm for the Republicans, while their opponents represented a law firm for the Democrats, in a fictional state called Orechusetts where the Democrats have a 55-45 majority in the Legislature.

“Our problem was to work on a bill dealing with arbitration clauses before a legal dispute commences, in the employment, franchise and consumer context, as well as whether unions might give up their statutory right to sue based on arbitration clauses,” said Soiffer. “Our opponents had two choices: build a bill with us, or build a bill on their own.”

Added Guzior, “Our client gave us a choice: destroy the bill or collaborate in a way that the bill would be completely bipartisan. We ultimately went with collaboration, and that's what got us the win. If you're doing it right, the negotiation should be about sharing ideas, not fighting over who gets what—of course, we didn't hesitate to advocate zealously if the other teams wanted to go that route. At the end of the day, we were the most flexible. There's no doubt that we were underdogs in the competition, and our win was a wonderful surprise.”

The pair thanked their coaches, Nadia Oussayef (’11) and Stephen Pessagno (’11), student directors and coaches John Yarwood (‘10) and Ben Boudreaux (‘10), and BU Law Visiting Professor Ilana Hurwitz, who helped prepare them for the competition.

Soiffer and Guzior will represent the United States when they compete at the International Negotiation Competition in July 1-4, 2010, to be held at Bond University on the Gold Coast of Australia. "We're excited to see what other countries bring to the table,” said Guzior. “It will be a totally different game, and we plan on spending a lot of time researching what other countries expect out of a negotiation pairing."

After graduation, Soiffer will join Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP in Boston, and Guzior will go to NYC to work for Sullivan & Cromwell LLP.

Each year, BU Law students compete in the ABA Negotiation and Client Counseling Competitions. BU Law holds two alumni-judged intraschool competitions to choose teams that serve as regional representatives. These competitions are part of BU Law’s writing and advocacy programs, are judged by alumni, and are directed by a student board of directors (who serve as the teams’ coaches at the regional and national levels).

Reported by Sandi Miller


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