Two Griffith law students have returned home as the top Australian team for negotiation skills, and overall runner-up to Victoria University of Wellington, at the 2019 Australian Law Student Association (ALSA) Negotiation Competition.

Yuri Banens and Ethan Barr-Hamilton share a familiar, but professional ease that’s been formed over countless competitive negotiations, and it’s this approach that served them well during the intense ALSA competition.

“Before handing off to the other team, I’d always turn to Yuri and ask him: did you want to elaborate on anything? If I missed anything, he would fill it in and it became a tactic that we both used to give us time to think,” said Ethan.

ALSA’s competition format follows a grueling schedule with preliminary rounds and the finals taking place over seven days of competition.

“We would compete at 2 pm every day and we would get our next question at 4 pm. The second that you go it, you were prepping for the next day,” said Ethan.

Yuri Banens recalls how intense the competition became, which saw them preparing well into the night.

“Ethan would go down to the hotel lobby at midnight and ask them, can you do this printing for us please?” laughs Yuri.

But preparation was key to their success. They created documents and conducted research that gave them an advantage over their competition. Ethan recalls how he dealt with one problem involving regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency of Victoria.

“I rang them up and asked to be directed to someone who could tell us about the legal levels of soil limits,” said Ethan.

“He was very helpful, that guy,” adds Yuri.

Building a partnership against the odds

Ethan and Yuri met during Orientation Week in 2018 as part of a small cohort of commencing graduate entry law students. They made small talk about podcasts and their interests. A few weeks later, Ethan would see a flyer for a negotiation competition run by the Griffith University Law Student Association (GULSA).

Despite being an open competition, which is aimed at more experienced law students, the pair entered and placed second overall in their first ever competition. Since then they’ve become accomplished competitors, participating in the inaugural 2018 Queensland Intervarsity Law Competition and winning the 2018 GULSA Junior Negotiation Competition.

Yuri says that one of the reasons why they’ve persisted together is that they enjoy the art of negotiation.

“Negotiations are great, you always learn something new. If we didn’t have other things that we wanted to do, I’d love to keep going with these competitions because it’s a beautiful art that you’ll never get perfect,” said Yuri.

Future team-ups turn towards mentoring

With their eye on the future, Yuri and Ethan want to move into mentoring and judging roles to help the next generation of law students coming through.

“I’d like to see more students take up these competitions because there is so much you’ll learn. I want to see more people doing them,” says Ethan.

According to Yuri and Ethan, Griffith has a solid foundation to build on, GLSA already run their local competitions on the ALSA format and student judges are put through training on how to run a negotiation and give feedback.

“I’ve already had first year students come up to me for guidance and I’ve sat down with them and said well this is what worked for us. It’s already starting to happen, and I really enjoy giving that advice,” says Yuri.