Steinberg: Students showed me the money [Corrected]

April 14, 2012|By Leigh Steinberg

All semester I have been preparing my students in our Sports and Entertainment Law class for the ultimate negotiating showdown.

Last week, they delivered brilliantly. They are a gifted crew, a testament to Dean Erwin Chemerinsky's plan to attract the best and brightest to the young School of Law program at UC Irvine.

I created a negotiation problem for them to tackle based on a contract negotiation for the first pick in the 2012 National Football League Draft. They were divided into teams of two to give them the ability to strategically decide how to divide up responsibilities.


An earlier version misspelled the following names: Flor Tataje, Jigar Vakil ,Justin Greely and Jenifer Swanson.

One group became agents who were representing Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

The other group were general managers who were negotiating on behalf of the Indianapolis Colts.

Each side was presented a set of common facts. Then, each group was given private information unique to them. They each had a long laundry list of items to include in the final contract. And there were points on a scoring sheet to give them some guidance on what to prioritize.

They were asked to agree on a location for the setting. Then, they had to construct a contract which had some years of length, the amount of guaranteed money and in what form, voidable years, options, incentives, full or partial guarantees for injury and skill, off-season training or weight clauses and a cap number.

They were given the problem on Wednesday and told to show up to class Thursday at 3 p.m. with training camp set to open at 8. Local attorneys Chris Koras, Alfredo Arguello and Tom Van Voorst observed the groups and were available for advice.

I have constantly emphasized the need to have internal clarity on priorities and values. Research is a key — a thorough understanding of the economics of an industry, the track record and negotiating history of the other side and the ability to separate out the true agenda of the other negotiator rather than be deterred by surface arguments. This requires asking, probing questions to get into the heart and mind of the other party, understanding their deepest fears and anxieties and greatest hope and aspiration. This leads to a cooperative paradigm in which both sides can be winners.

The key is to avoid locked down confrontation where two parties believe that they have been disrespected and will engage in mutual self-destruction rather than give in.

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