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international negotiation competition

Friday 14 August, 2009

I was lucky to be invited to the closing dinner of the International Negotiation Competition which was sponsored by the  Center for Advocacy & Dispute Resolution @ John Marshall Law School.  All of the participants & judges were there to witness the awards to the winners.  Competing teams came from 15 foreign countries, although the winners were from UC-Davis.  The judges seemed to be lawyers & law professors from in & around Chicago who specialise in negotiations, some in an international context.

The reason I’m writing about this is to pat the competing teams on the back.  Teams came from 11 countries where English is the commonly used language, (Australia, Canada, England/Wales, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Singapore, South Africa, & the US).   However, teams from Denmark, Japan, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, & South Korea had to compete in English-imagine how hard it would be to negotiate in a language that’s not your own.  Pretty tough.  The Danes came in 2nd place, & they speak excellent English, so that’s not so great a surprise, but the Koreans came in 3rd, & I think that is a fine accomplishment.

In addition, the legal systems are different, to varying degrees, in every country.  Some are code law, some are common law, as it is here in the United States.  3 of the 5 goals of the conference encourage international collaboration:

  1. focus on international disputes/transactions
  2. meet students & lawyers from other countries
  3. it helps students become aware of & experience the special aspects of international legal negotiations, including differences in negotiating styles, ethical & social norms & business practices, as well as enhanced difficulties of cross-cultural communication.

I can’t encourage these enough  To travel to a foreign country & compete on local terms with locals is a very difficult task.

This competition travels to different sites each year (2008-London, 2007-Singapore, 2006-Orlando, 2005-Dublin, 2004-Paris, 2003-Calgary, 2002-London, 2001-Orange County, CA, 2000-New South Wales, AU, 1999-London, 1998-Malibu, CA), interestingly all but Paris, English-speaking countries.  I think they should mix that up a bit.  Non-English speakers have only won twice, Koreans in 2008 & Danes in 2004.  I wonder how much bias there is in favor of English-speakers & against non-English-speakers.

Regardless, I think this is a great competition & we should try to encourage more of these kinds of competitions in many other disciplines.  When I attended Thunderbird, upper-level classses offered real-life simulations in international finance while marketing classes took on actual global advertising & B2B marketing competitions on behalf of sponsoring firms.  There are no better learning activities to apply school-fed theory to the real world, literally.  We can’t get enough of them.  (special thanks to Patricia Gill)

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