On a weekend in November, sixty students and more than thirty distinguished alumni gathered for the Law School’s fourth Transactional Lawyering Competition. Spearheaded by Professor Charles Whitehead and presented by the Clarke Institute for the Study and Practice of Business Law (BLI) and the Cornell Business Law Society, the event is essentially a “moot court” for students who are interested in becoming deal lawyers.
Divided into two-person teams of buyers and sellers, participants engaged in mock negotiations over the sale and purchase of a hotel and resort property in upstate New York. They were judged by a distinguished group of deal lawyers from around the country and abroad, many of them Cornell alumni and many returning for their second or third time as instructor-judges.
“It is a thrill to see that Cornell Law School is leading the way in bridging the gap between the theoretical foundation of a traditional legal education and the practical skills that the marketplace for transactional legal services demands,” said instructor-judge Thomas Malone ’05. “When transactional lawyers leave law school, they invariably face a steep learning curve; Professor Whitehead’s exercise offers them an early boost.”
The competition culminated on Sunday afternoon in a packed lecture hall, where the winning buyer and seller teams were announced. The two teams then participated in a closing exhibition round, with feedback from instructor-judges Allan Tessler '58, Rebecca Prentice '82, and Robert Feiner '85.
Prentice observes, "Professor Whitehead and his colleagues have created a remarkably effective program. The participants (whether student competitors or alumni judges) brought both enthusiasm and seriousness to the exercise. I was particularly impressed to see how much the students improved as the rounds progressed. By the end, I could picture them negotiating real transactions on behalf of real clients."
On the winning seller's counsel were Christopher Burwell '15 and Philip Goldstein '15. "My teammate and I learned a tremendous amount from the alumni judges, who offered specific and substantive feedback on our markup and negotiation strategies," says Burwell. "And I enjoyed applying the legal and business knowledge that I've gained at Cornell to the sort of deal that I might encounter in my career after graduation."
Adds Goldstein: "The experience was invaluable. A light bulb went off regarding how transactional lawyering works, and it definitely played a part in our performance. I feel that I and all those involved in this competition and Cornell Law's Deals classes will definitely have an advantage over our peers as we enter the job market."
On the winning buyer's counsel were Kelsey Baldwin '14 and Major McCargo '14. Says McCargo, "The Transactional Lawyering Competition is one of the most valuable learning experiences I've had since I arrived at Cornell. The feedback from the judges was very insightful and enlightening. Moreover, it was fun trying to figure out how to reach a mutually beneficial agreement while protecting our client's interests as much as possible."
"Cornell's program is the only intramural transactional lawyering competition in the country," notes Professor Whitehead. "None of this would be possible without the strong support of alumni who bring real-world experience to students, and students who put in the extra work necessary to develop transactional skills in law school. I would like to thank both for working to make the competition a success."
That success reflects the widespread interest of Cornell Law students in transactional lawyering, which was also evidenced the week before when 130 students flocked to a three-hour "Anatomy of a Private Deal Negotiation." Sponsored by the BLI and the Cornell Business Law Society, the mock deal negotiation was presented by five senior lawyers from Kaye Scholer under the leadership of senior partner Joel Greenberg.
The BLI was established in 2007 by a founding gift from Jack G. Clarke LL.B. '52 and his wife, Dorothea S. Clarke. It provides a locus for law faculty with particular expertise in such areas as securities regulation, financial institutions, international economic law, intellectual property, transactional lawyering, business organizations, and ethics and corporate culture.
John Alexander '71 (Sayles & Evans)
John Altorelli '93 (DLA Piper)
David Barrie '78 (Barrie International)
David Boehnen '71 (Dorsey & Whitney)
John Calandra '91 (McDermott Will & Emery)
Robert Davis '78 (Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton)
Jacqueline Duval '92 (Ziff Legal Group)
Robert Feiner '85 (Feiner Wolfson)
Todd Feinsmith '91 (Pepper Hamilton)
Dean Fournaris '91 (Wiggins & Dana)
Ashley Gillespie, M.B.A. '00/J.D.'01 (Morgan Stanley)
Joel Hartstone '70 (Stonegate Capital Group)
William Haubert '91 (Richards, Layton & Finger)
Denise Hauselt '83 (retired, Corning Incorporated)
James Hill '91 (Morgan Stanley)
Adele Hogan '85 (Hogan Law Associates)
Jim Kaput '86 (Zebra Technologies)
Robert Lee '81 (Wells Fargo & Company)
Thomas Malone '05 (Latham & Watkins)
Stephen Maloy '76 (Jincheng Tongda & Neal)
Ira Marcus '74 (Marcus, Brody, Ford, Kessler, & Sahner)
Harry Messina, LL. B. '57 (Woods Oviatt Gilman)
Raymond Minella '74 (Cornell Law School, Clarke Business Law Institute)
Dale Okonow, J.D./M.B.A. '83 (The Watermill Group)
Andrianne Payson Livingston '00 (DLA Piper)
Philippe Pradal, LL.M. '08 (Jones Day)
Rebecca Prentice '82 (Paramount Pictures)
J. Brett Pritchard '90 (Lord, Bissel & Brook)
Jay Rakow '77 (Pacific Capital Group)
Elke Rehbock '04 (Dentons)
Mack Rosoff (Rosoff & Co.)
Richard Ross '99 (Perkins Coie)
Ira Roxland '67 (SNR Denton)
Andy Stamelman '83 (Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti)
Alan Tessler '58 (International Financial Group)
Sara Werner (Denton's US)