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New Student Competition Marks Growing Law-Business Synergy

Ken Taymor
Ken Taymor

By Andrew Cohen

A new competition among Berkeley Law and Haas School of Business students offers invaluable real-world training and prize money as an incentive to compete. The Joint Venture Challenge (JVC) offered this term will enable students to simulate real-world business transactions by financing, structuring, and drafting deals.

The genesis of the idea came from conversations between Ken Taymor, executive director of the law school’s Berkeley Center for Law, Business, and the Economy; and the law firm of Pircher, Nichols & Meeks. The challenge is the latest example of Taymor’s efforts to collaborate with the business school.

"We make a concerted effort to partner with Haas because it’s essential for our law students to interact with business students," Taymor said. "They need to understand the objectives, thinking, and skill sets of people they'll be providing services to throughout their careers."

Firm partners Phil Nichols and Stevens Carey '78 will serve as judges, along with Josh Myerberg, executive director of Morgan Stanley’s San Francisco office.

Later this month, teams of three or four students will receive a complex, hypothetical joint venture financing and structuring case. Each team—of at least one law and one business student—will act as advisors to a large private equity fund considering investments in two deals.  They will prepare a detailed memo addressing questions that require an understanding of the strategic and economic consequences of structuring options.

Final memos are due the last week of February, and an awards ceremony will take place in mid-March. At the ceremony, the judges will make presentations that describe the model answers. The winning team will receive a $2,000 prize; the runner up will receive $1,000. 

Eye-opening endeavor

"I suspect that many law students don’t yet appreciate how rewarding it can be for a lawyer to work with a business person to think through issues," Carey said. "This allows them to collaborate with their business school teammates in much the same way. In the process, it may create lasting and valuable relationships that carry forward into their future professions. It may also provide some useful context regarding joint ventures, which I've found to be one of the most satisfying areas of the law."

Stevens Carey '78
Stevens Carey '78

Carey, Nichols, and others at the firm helped structure the hypothetical deals. Fellow partner Leo Pircher '57, co-chair of the law school's Campaign for Boalt Hall, also played an integral role.

"It's a good opportunity to keep in touch with the law school and to give back," said Carey, who co-chairs his firm's continuing education committee. "We've had numerous conversations with Ken Taymor about how we can help, and this idea was very well received. It's something I wish I had done when I was in law school."

The competition entails financial, business, and legal analysis. Although the problem falls within the context of a real estate joint venture, Taymor said it could apply to many different industries, business organizations, and commercial relationships.

"This will be an important complement to our educational program and provide benefits similar to moot court and trial advocacy opportunities," he said. "We've been looking to do this for quite awhile, and we're grateful to Pircher, Nichols & Meeks for their help and vision in making it happen."