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Berkeley Law Duo Wins State Bar Negotiations Competition

Matt Warren ’10, Jeslyn Miller ’10
Jeslyn Miller and Matt Warren

By Andrew Cohen

After winning the recent California State Bar Student Environmental Negotiations Competition with teammate Matt Warren ’10, Jeslyn Miller ’10 felt a sense of joy that extended far beyond personal satisfaction.

“Berkeley Law has only sent students to negotiations competitions for a few years and hadn’t placed in the top four at this one,” Miller says. “So it was an exciting win for us individually and as a team, but also because it demonstrates the growth of negotiations and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) opportunities at the law school.”

Three negotiation classes are now offered to first-year students, several to upperclassmen. Berkeley Law’s Board of Advocates also puts on an internal negotiation competition, which drew 30 teams this year. Miller says, “that emphasis on negotiations, a tremendously useful real-world skill, is fabulous.”

No argument from Warren, who placed fifth at last year’s event with classmate Andrew Robertson. “This should help further cement ADR’s place at Berkeley Law,” he says. “Although ADR is the newest wing of the Board of Advocates system, it’s widely considered one of the most practical and useful skills for future attorneys.”

Students at the competition received a fact pattern—based on real environmental cases—and confidential data for their side of the negotiation. In each round, they inquired about the other party’s facts, presented information about their client’s interest, and brainstormed creative solutions for mutual agreement. The judges all had experience in environmental law, and state-court justices evaluated the final round.  

The Berkeley Law team’s fact pattern involved mining activities that created some polluted and contaminated areas. Miller describes the competition—which involved suits between the state, county, mine, and the mine’s corporate president over who would bear the clean-up cost—as “a neat intersection of environmental law, negotiation tactics, and presentation skills.”

Warren says those tactics and skills are second nature to Miller, who won the ABA Law Student Division Negotiation Competition western regional as a 1L and last year went to Copenhagen with three other Boalt students for an international negotiation competition on climate change. Warren calls Miller “a negotiations legend,” and Miller says Warren’s “calm and reasoned negotiation style helped us establish great rapport with the judges.”

Both students received training help from environmental law faculty, area practitioners, and fellow students. Board of Advocates ADR co-directors Monica Ager ’11 and Nathan Salha ’10 and Negotiation Competition co-director Kelly Dagger’12 opposed them in practice rounds, and professor Holly Doremus ’91, lecturer Jessica Notini of the Northern California Mediation Center, and local attorney Robert Olken offered substantive insight and strategic pointers.

In the final round, Miller and Warren defeated a team from UC Hastings School of Law—which Warren attended before transferring to Berkeley Law. Warren says he and Miller focused on “positive solutions that could expand the pie and create mutual gain, rather than fall into an adversarial trap of tossing blame back and forth between parties.”

Miller notes that while ADR has been viewed “as the baby sister to the bigger and well-supported trial and moot court teams,” that is starting to change. “It’s getting more and more attention, and we enjoyed being part of that.”