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When Albany Law School 3Ls Joseph Pidel and Doris Gama (both Class of ’21) began the LawMeets 2020 Mergers and Acquisitions Boot Camp this summer, they expected to get a rigorous learning experience, sharpen their negotiation skills, and gain a broader understanding of mergers and acquisitions and the business law sector.
They certainly did that—and more.
Pidel and Gama placed among the final 10 teams out of 124 teams nationwide.
During the eight-week boot camp, teams took on the role of counsel to one side of the transaction. They drafted, marked up, and negotiated a simulated, leveraged buyout of a U.S. software company by a Beijing-based private equity firm. Teams worked with a coach—in the Albany Law School duo’s case, Professor Ted De Barbieri, who served as a sounding board and offered guidance throughout the competition.
The negotiation sessions were observed by seasoned practitioners who offered the teams specific feedback. The virtual format allowed for unique interactions and a wider pool of participants, which Gama and Pidel made sure to take advantage of.
“Every time we had a negotiation, I made sure at the end to ask [the judges] if they have any advice for new, incoming attorneys,” Gama said. “Specifically, what they think we should be preparing right now as we enter the work fields. I think that was a really great opportunity.”
Learning to negotiate in a virtual format presented a new set of challenges. But Pidel and Gama found some crafty ways to make it work.
“While in the middle of the negotiation we used Google Docs to share notes,” Pidel said. “We were creative, I suppose.”
“We had a good work ethic. When we got down to negotiating, what helped was having classes [online] in the spring. It didn't feel so much like you were talking at a screen anymore,” Gama said. “The only difficult part was when you wanted to sidebar with your partner. But we adjusted and would turn off the camera and mics and would simply FaceTime each other.”
Pidel and Gama started the boot camp as acquaintances. They ended the summer as friends—all while coordinating time zones, schedules, and technology. The shared experience allowed them to get to know one another and enhance their teamwork and communication skills.
“Having an opportunity to go up against people of all different experiences and backgrounds was really interesting to see. Before and after each negotiation, you get to know the other team a little bit better,” Pidel said. “So, it's really interesting to learn of the competitors’ different backgrounds. Some were parents, some were returning students, some LL.M. students. It was really interesting to see where they were from.”
For Pidel, the program gave him a new perspective on negotiations and he also sharpened his editing skills through the swift rounds of revisions. Participation in the boot camp also granted the pair access to LawMeets webinars on specific topics within business law. He’s looking forward to taking the newfound knowledge into his last year of law school as Executive Director of the Moot Court Program.
“I can't think of any competitions off the top of my head that provide access to such learning opportunities. Because of COVID-19 and doing this online, we have access to that,” he said. “We were given [some] unique experiences along the way.”
For Gama, the boot camp became more than great summer legal training. The experience was an opportunity to add something to her resume after her original summer plans dissolved due to COVID-19 concerns.
“It was a great experience for me. I learned a lot, specifically about mergers and acquisitions and I think it really solidified what I want to do in the future,” she said. “The competition sharpened my communication and negotiation skills and I got to meet a lot of great people along the way. For me it was a really great experience.”