University of Montana School of Law students recently took first place in the American Bar Association-sponsored Law School Regional Negotiation Competition held Nov. 7-8 at Seattle University.

The team competed against other law schools from throughout the Northwest and western Canada, and this year additional competitors from other Rocky Mountain states and the Midwest joined the field.

UM team members Nick VandenBos of Bozeman and Lindsay Thane of Missoula, both second-year law students, advanced to the final round after earning the best score of 24 teams during the opening Friday and Saturday sessions.

“Negotiation competition tests preparation as well as a team’s ability to react to situations on the fly,” VandenBos said. “You prepare for months to be able to improvise – that’s what makes this kind of competition exciting. You learn to trust your partner and read your opponent.”

“Negotiations have been my most beneficial and rewarding experience in law school, both in terms of the practical skills and the relationships I’ve built with my team,” Thane said. “The way we challenge each other in practice and incorporate the feedback we receive has strengthened us as a team.”

Also competing at this year’s event were third-year law students Samir Aarab of Oslo, Norway, and Elizabeth Musick of Memphis, Tennessee. Aarab and Musick are slated to graduate in May.

First-year law students Kathryn Ore of Missoula and Dylan Vinzant of Scappoose, Oregon, made their first appearance as alternates.

Under the direction of their coach Klaus Sitte, a UM adjunct faculty member, the team put in many hours preparing for the two-day competition. In addition to coaching the UM negotiation team, Sitte teaches alternative dispute resolution and negotiations. He has coached the law school’s negotiation teams since 1990, with six previous teams making national appearances – earning second and third place – and one team making an international competition appearance.

The VandenBos/Thane entry into the final round marks the 18th time UM teams have advanced to compete among the remaining four teams. VandenBos became the first UM School of Law student to participate two successive years in the national competition.

“Sam and I have prepped more teams for nationals than any other previous UM negotiation team,” Musick said.

“I can say with confidence that we have a very strong negotiations program and I am proud to have been a part of it,” Aarab said. “Working with and being on this team has been very rewarding.”

For Vinzant and Ore, this year’s competition consisted of observation and reflection.

"I find myself applying the principles and fundamentals of negotiations, we've learned in practice and competition, in everyday interactions," Vinzant said.

“Watching our experienced team members was fascinating as they applied what we've learned,” Ore said. “We’re already developing and crafting new ways to incorporate what we learned at regionals into next year’s competition season.”

VandenBos and Thane will travel to Houston for the national competition in February 2015. The national competition will bring together the top teams from the U.S. and Canada. The competition is held in conjunction with the American Bar Association’s Midwinter Meetings.