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Law students win national negotiation competition

Law negotiationTaking home the silverware: Final-year law students Henry Benson-Pope (left) and Tom Jemson won the New Zealand Law Students’ Negotiation final

Failing to reach the quarter-finals in Australia was a “wake-up call”

Practice makes perfect - a cliché law students Henry Benson-Pope and Tom Jemson took to heart this year.

Failing to reach the quarter-finals of the Law Students’ Negotiation final at the Australian Law Students Association conference in July, the pair set about turning things around through sheer hard work.

Hours of practice later, they came away with the national title at the New Zealand Law Students’ Negotiation final, earning the right to represent New Zealand at the International Negotiation Competition in South Korea next year.

Aussie experience a good “wake-up call”

Tom (22) considers failing to reach the quarter-finals in Australia was a good wake-up call.

“We realised we needed a fair bit of practice because we didn’t qualify for the quarter-finals and three of the New Zealand teams made the semis.

“But we came back to beat them all at [the NZ] nationals,” Tom says with satisfaction.

He and Henry turned the situation around simply with hours of practice, but this meant they needed some willing participants to negotiate against.

“We were lucky we had the [Faculty of Law] Dean, Professor Mark Henaghan, Professor Nicola Peart and Senior Lecturer Dr Selene Mize, who were really helpful, as well as some students who had done well in the competition previously,” Tom says.

“They competed against us and told us how to improve things, or what went well.”

The practice paid off.

“We went from being the sixth-placed New Zealand team, based on our efforts in Australia, to first at nationals.”

Professor Henaghan says Tom and Henry are both very able and quick learners.

Through the practices, they were able to build up their team work and a range of negotiating tactics and skills.

Negotiating a celebrity marriage settlement

The law student competitions are based around real-life scenarios of lawyers representing the interests of their clients.

Students are provided with a set of facts about who they are representing and what they are trying to achieve and come up with a strategy to convince judges they are best representing their clients and achieving what they want.

Some of the preliminary topics at the New Zealand Law Students’ Association conference in Christchurch included negotiating the rights to an 8th Harry Potter movie and negotiating the split of assets under Michael Jackson’s will.

In the final against Auckland, the topic was negotiating a marriage settlement between “Tim Cruiz” and “Kitty Holmes”.

Otago fought hard to ensure “Tim Cruiz” came away with more than a fair deal.

Students secure top jobs

Tom, who originally comes from Nelson, and Henry (23),  from Dunedin, farewell the University this year, both securing top jobs using their Law Degrees.

However, as well as both studying towards a Law Degree with Honours, the pair completed double degrees - Henry a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Politics and Tom, a Bachelor of Science majoring in Economics.

Next year Tom begins his career as a law clerk for Chapman Tripp in Wellington, and Henry has secured a job as a clerk for Chief Justice Sian Elias in the Supreme Court in Wellington - “arguably one of the most prestigious graduate law jobs in the country”, his team-mate claims.