Videography courtesy of Ira Graham III Photography & Film.
COLUMBUS—Law school provides students with many important skills, but it’s still very different from practicing law. At a recent Group Mentoring Event hosted by LCLD Member firm Frost Brown Todd LLC, LCLD Mentees got a taste of what it’s like to be a practicing lawyer.
“The materials from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School provide a great introduction to negotiations in the legal world,” said Erin Orndorff, Senior Associate at Frost Brown Todd, who led the exercise (featured in the video above).
Mentees and their practicing lawyer Mentors were divided into pairs; one person was tasked with representing “Sally Soprano,” an opera singer looking for work, and the other represented the Lyric Opera House, seeking a soprano for an upcoming performance. Each side received a set of materials to prepare them for the negotiation, with background information on the client and what they hoped to get out of the negotiation. After reviewing their materials individually, each pair was sent to a separate room to carry out their negotiation.
“My goal was to not go over a certain amount of money, and I did that, but the opposing counsel was very stern in her position,” said Nastasssja Stanton (pictured left), a Mentee and 1L at Capital University Law School, who represented the Lyric Opera House. “It was very good practice for future negotiations, to know what to say, what not to say, and which route to take based on what the client said.”
Each pair discussed the appropriate salary for the singer, but many also haggled over other concerns: Should the opera house provide Sally with a vocal coach? Was her salary contingent on ticket sales? How much would the opera house spend on marketing her performance? Could Sally be guaranteed only spring water and vegan meals in her dressing room?
“As a 1L, I haven’t had the opportunity to go into live action as a lawyer, so it was really cool to take some of those skills that we’ve learned and apply them,” said Diandra Gordon, also a Mentee and 1L at Capital University Law School. “It was great to think outside of the box and outside of what was on the paper to really advocate for my client—Sally became a vegan!”
After completing the individual negotiations, participants regrouped and talked over their negotiations, with Orndorff providing feedback on the negotiation strategies.
“All of the teams did a great job recognizing the Best Alternative to a Negotiation Agreement (BATNA) even though they had not heard of the concept before," Orndorff said. And while practicing lawyers proved stiff competition for the students, the exercise didn’t only benefit the Mentees.
“I usually only negotiate settlement agreements—things that aren’t quite as spicy,” said Annie Duprey, Mentor and Managing Associate at Frost Brown Todd. “It was fun to do a transactional negotiation.”
Following the exercise, Mentees had time to network with one another, their Mentors, and the other practicing lawyers in the room. Bill Nolan, Mentor and Managing Partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, took the time to touch base with his Mentee, Sasha Brooks, and ask about her resume.
“One of the things we talked about at our first meeting was helping Sasha find a job this summer, so we’re going to look at her resume tomorrow,” Nolan said. “She has 14 siblings and she’s the first in her family to go to law school; I think that’s special and shows a certain drive, so we want to bring that out on her resume.”
“There are a lot of mentoring programs out there, so I’m really glad LCLD is doing something a little different.” — Diandra Gordon, 2018 Mentee
Brooks, who is also a 1L at Capital University Law School, said she thinks both her Mentor’s support and the negotiation exercise will be helpful as she applies for jobs this summer.
“I think having this experience will help me put myself out there more and talk about my purpose for working at that law firm and what I can bring to the table,” she said.
Mentee Diandra Gordon also felt that the experience left her feeling more prepared for her future: “There are a lot of mentoring programs out there, so I’m really glad LCLD is doing something a little different. Not only are you matching people, but you’re doing these group events and making sure that we’re talking to our Mentors and having a meaningful experience.”
LCLD would like to thank Michelle Harrison, Erin Orndorff, and Noel Shepard from Frost Brown Todd.
For more information about the Success in Law School Mentoring Program, contact Program Manager Nancy Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Ira Graham III Photography & Film