OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law continues to pile on the accolades, recently winning its fourth national championship this year.
The latest championship, coming at the hands of Brad Cook and Drew Taggart, both third-year law students, was captured at the 2014 National Transactional LawMeets Competition April 4 in New York City.
Cook and Taggart, from Stonewall and Madison, respectively, beat 13 other national finalist teams including Boston College, Cornell University, Emory University and University of Tennessee, and won one of seven regional competitions involving 84 teams to earn a spot at nationals.
“This victory powerfully reflects the strength of the student body at the School of Law, as you can see from the quality of the other teams at the national finals in New York,” said Matthew Hall, senior associate dean and adviser to the moot court board.
“It represents an enormous success for Brad and Drew, who poured hours into this competition, but it is also a product of the efforts of the entire Negotiation Board, Professor Mercer Bullard and of the team. We are so proud of all of them.”
The national rounds were hosted by Sullivan & Cromwell LLP’s New York office. The competition asked teams to represent one of two sides in drafting and negotiating an acquisition of a biotechnology company. Over the past several months, the students drafted agreements, interviewed their clients and marked up opposing teams’ drafts. The national rounds of the competition culminated with rounds of face-to-face negotiations April 3-4.
“The problem was released mid-December and a lot of work was put in speaking with attorneys figuring out what to put in the acquisition,” Taggart said. “It was one of the most effective practical experiences I’ve had as a law student.”
Fourteen senior practitioners served as judges at the national rounds, hailing from workplaces such as Safeguard Scientifics, Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, Pfizer, Rothschild Inc. and Bloomberg Law, among others.
“Some of the most encouraging words we received were from the judges who said they were willing to put us up against some of their fifth- and sixth-year associates,” Taggart said. “That was unbelievably encouraging.”
The UM law school’s Business Law Institute provides Taggart and other students with opportunities such as this. The institute, whose mission is “to train great business lawyers,” ties together a number of initiatives including:
- A Business Law certificate
- Negotiation Board that fields several intercollegiate competition teams
- 1L Skill Session course devoted to Contract Drafting and Negotiation
- Upper-level courses on Lawyers as Entrepreneurs, Client Interviewing and Counseling, and How to Do a Film Deal
- Transactional and Taxpayer Assistance Clinics
- Externships with governmental agencies that regulate business
- The Mississippi Business Law Reporter, a brand-new journal
- Business Law Network, a student group that recently organized the inaugural Business Law Conference
This structure, in combination with victories such as this latest triumph, seems to set Ole Miss law students apart.
“It’s a great opportunity for our students to work with faculty very closely, to write and to argue,” said Richard Gershon, the school’s dean. “This fourth championship was at Sullivan & Cromwell, one of the top law firms in the world, and our students were chosen to be the best. That says a lot.”
Taggart agrees with the significance of the win.
“My favorite part about this whole experience was learning that we can compete with anyone nationally,” he said. “I definitely learned people respect us.”