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Law students negotiate their way to the top

In a first for DLS, five teams of law students go head-to-head with some of Australasia’s best.

Deakin law students have blitzed their way through to the semi and grand finals of a major Australasian law competition held recently in Canberra.

Competing in the Australia Law Students' Association (ALSA) Australasia Negotiation Competition, Burwood students Georgia Di Salle and Erin Ritchie notched up second place in the grand final while Geelong students Madeline MacDonald and Reid Hadaway made it through to the semi-finals.

A delegation of five Deakin teams representing Burwood, Geelong and off-campus law students, competed in a range of categories – Negotiation, National Championship Moot, Client Interview and Witness Examination – against some of the best legal students from 40 universities across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.









Fourth-year student Erin Ritchie, who is also president of the Deakin Law Students’ Society (DLSS), said it was the first time Deakin law students had competed in the annual ALSA Conference competitions.  

‘The DLSS has attended in the capacity of representatives in the Australia Law Students Association Council but not as competitors. As one of the only law schools in the country not represented, we saw this as something that needed to change,’ she explained.

Her team-mate Georgia Di Salle, also a fourth-year law student and communications’ director of DLSS, said the most challenging aspect of the negotiation competition was participating in six gruelling competitions over four consecutive days.

‘The negotiation questions varied between building disputes, employment contracts, negligence compensation and government agreements. For many of the questions, we had to undertake research regarding various issues in order to be prepared going into the negotiation. This involved examining different legal rules, as well as researching information that was relevant to the facts.’

Over the six negotiation competition rounds, the Deakin students were judged by Australia National University (ANU) academics and legal professionals.

Erin and Georgia said that from the outset, they learned to work well together as a team and quickly complemented each other’s negotiation styles.

‘We received feedback from the judges that we appeared to be on the same page and never contradicted one another. Competing with so many teams from different universities across Australia – as well across the Asia-Pacific region – meant that we were exposed to various negotiation tactics from other competitors. This gave us insight into how to handle different tactics and personalities within the negotiation room.’

While the fast turn-around time between each round was challenging, the bonus was a boost in their mediation skills.

‘The intensity of the volume of questions and material to get through, as well as the level of preparation which was required of us, has exponentially improved our negotiation skills. You could say this was also one of the most rewarding aspects as well to come out of competing in the competition,’ said Erin.

Attending a conference with 600 other law students from diverse range of universities and participating in a high-level international competition provided both Erin and Georgia with enhanced legal negotiation skills and stronger professional networks.

‘The competition forced us to take a very hands-on and intense approach that we hadn’t been exposed to in the classroom,’ said Georgia. ‘It was also great to meet law students from around Australia and receive feedback from legal professionals who have experience in real-life negotiations.’

Nearing the completion of their combined arts/law degrees, both Erin and Georgia have made the most of Deakin’s Global Mobility program by participating in international study stints.

Erin studied at the University of Leicester (UK) for a semester (and also participated in a study tour of the USA) while Georgia undertook a semester at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic and will be completing a study tour to the Middle East later in 2017. 

Both students plan to participate in further inter-varsity law competition opportunities and, encouraged by the ALSA competitions, Erin will compete in the Herbert Smith Freehills–National Law University Delhi International Negotiation Competition in India later this year.

‘It was the most incredible experience being able to compete against law students from not only Australia, but New Zealand and around the Asia-Pacific,’ she said. ‘It was also very interesting to see how different students approached different problem questions and used various negotiation tactics.’

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