Winners Announced for Baylor Law’s Second Annual National Transactional Law Competition, <i>The Closer</i>

January 15, 2018

Winners Announced for Baylor Law's Second Annual National Transactional Law Competition, The Closer

Counsel mediates in National Transactional Law Competition
Rachel Ross from the University of San Diego School of Law negotiates contract terms during Baylor Law's Second Annual The Closer National Transactional Law Competition.

WACO, Texas -

On January 11-14, students from ten of the most accomplished transactional law programs in the country gathered at Baylor Law to participate in the 2018 Transactional Law competition: The Closer.

The Nation's Most Challenging Transactional Law Competition

The Closer winners pose with their awards
The Closer winners Ericha Penzien from the American University, Washington College of Law and Brian K. Adams from the University of Tennessee College of Law, with Baylor Law Professor Elizabeth Miller, creator of The Closer.

Counselor considers files while making an argument
Ryan Genkin, Northwestern University, Pritzker School of Law
Counselor presents a point at the mediation table
Marcela Dye, University of Colorado Law School
Counsel has laptop open to emphasize a point
Anthony Veveakis, Indiana University Bloomington, Maurer School of Law
Perusing files a competitor makes her argument
Victoria Chang, University of Texas School of Law.
Before the judge evidence is presented
Steve Zavodnick, University of Georgia School of Law.

Brian K. Adams, Jr. from the University of Tennessee College of Law and Ericha Penzien from American University, Washington College of Law are this year's winners of The Closer, the nation's most challenging transactional law competition. This is the second consecutive year that a student from the University of Tennessee College of Law has taken a top spot in The Closer.

The Closer is an invitation-only competition open to schools that have excelled at past National Transactional LawMeets®. Students from participating schools vied to win one of two $5,000 top prizes and bragging rights as a top closer. The annual competition, another example of Baylor Law's commitment to training practice-ready attorneys, provides hands-on exposure to one of the most important aspects of corporate law: contract markup and negotiation.

The Closer competition is unique in that the details of the contract that participants will need to negotiate are only disclosed twenty-four hours prior to the first round of negotiations. The tight timeline forces competitors to identify the legal issues and devise and negotiate solutions that best serve their client's particular needs with the efficiency required of lawyers under realistic time constraints.

In this year's competition, participants negotiated a hypothetical loan agreement between Waco Hippodrome, Inc. (owner of the Waco Hippodrome Theatre, a beautiful historic theater in downtown Waco that operates as a multi-purpose entertainment venue) and Theater Funding, LLC, a fictional niche lender proposing to refinance the Hippodrome Theatre's loan. During the competition, participants made a site visit to the Waco Hippodrome Theatre, held a meeting with their client, and reviewed a large client file, including digital correspondence, drafts of the loan agreement, research, phone notes, and other relevant information in an effort to reach a final contract that was agreeable to both parties.

Through a series of 40-minute rounds of negotiations in front of experienced transactional lawyers, competitors are judged on their presence and professionalism, knowledge of legal and financial issues, and their efficacy in finding creative solutions to reach an agreement that satisfies their client's objectives while under strict time constraints. Keeping pressure on the competitors, breaking developments and new information from their clients are introduced to the finalists on the night before the final round.

Runner-up for Waco Hippodrome was Ryan Cordsen from the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law and the runner-up for Theater Funding was Roy Smith from the University of Mississippi School of Law. Roy Smith was also chosen, by his fellow competitors, as the winner of the Professionalism Award.

Runner-up Ryan Cordsen draw attention to make a point
Runner-up Ryan Cordsen from the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law negotiates during the final round.
Runner-up Roy Smith won the Professionalism Award
Roy Smith from the University of Mississippi School of Law finished as a runner-up and the winner of the Professionalism Award.

Closing the Deal

Ericha Penzien, of American University
Ericha Penzien, American University, Washington College of Law
Brian K. Adams, of University of Tennessee law
Brian K. Adams from the University of Tennessee College of Law
The final round judges gather with finalists and winners
The final round judges with Associate Dean Leah Teague, Professor Miller, and the competition winners and finalists.

Brian K. Adams, Jr., was awarded the $5,000 top prize for representing the interests of Waco Hippodrome and Ericha Penzien was awarded $5,000 for representing Theater Funding.

"Professor Miller and all of the organizers cared about the competitors and [made] this a very real transactional experience; something that we would experience in the real world," commented Ericha Penzien who added "I'm just so appreciative to Professor Miller and everyone here at Baylor University for this opportunity. I think I've learned a lot throughout the competition and it was a rewarding experience for me."

"It's a tremendous blessing- I've been nothing but impressed with the Baylor Law staff and everybody that has contributed […] I'm really grateful for the opportunity," stated Brian K. Adams, Jr. and added, when asked what most stood out for him: "The level of competition from my peers… we had people from all over the country, I felt that all were well-deserving of the award and just the opportunity to compete with them and learn from them was a tremendous opportunity and it's something I look forward to carrying with me in my career."

"I was fortunate to be able to judge for The Closer competition. The quality of the format, problem and competitors was very impressive. The problem was very "real life" in that it provided at least 5 hours of negotiating material, however the students were charged with prioritizing their discussion points within a shorter time frame. Often in the real world you are pressed on time," stated Scott Wallace, Executive Partner of the Dallas Office of Holland & Knight LLP, and one of the judges of the negotiation rounds for the 2018 competition. "The students were extremely well prepared and had learned a lot in negotiating skills. I was so impressed with the competitors and we plan to interview one of them for a summer clerkship position with our firm. The skills these students are learning and developing are what will make them more valuable in the marketplace - initially in the search for their first job and further into their career."

Final Round

  • Steve Bolden, Shareholder, Mahomes Bolden PC
  • Glenn Callison, Shareholder, Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, P.C.
  • Janice Davis, Partner, Bracewell LLP
  • Jennifer Lindsey, Partner, Beard Kultgen Brophy Bostwick & Dickson, PLLC
  • Greg Looser, Co-Founder, Partner and Director of Clarion Offshore Partners, LLC, a partnership formed with The Blackstone Group


  • Kim and Bill Shaddock
  • Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, P.C.


  • Law Office of Mark D. Foster
  • J. Michael Tibbals/Freeman Mills PC

Special thanks

  • Waco Hippodrome Theatre
  • Scanes & Routh, LLP
  • Baylor Law faculty, staff, and students who contributed their time and talents to make The Closer a success

  • American University, Washington College of Law - Ericha Penzien
  • Indiana University Bloomington, Maurer School of Law - Anthony Veveakis
  • Northwestern University, Pritzker School of Law - Ryan Genkin
  • University of Colorado Law School - Marcela Dye
  • University of Denver, Sturm College of Law - Ryan Cordsen
  • University of Georgia School of Law - Steve Zavodnick
  • University of Mississippi School of Law - Roy Smith
  • University of San Diego School of Law - Rachel Ross
  • University of Tennessee College of Law - Brian K. Adams, Jr.
  • University of Texas School of Law - Victoria Chang

Click here to view more photos from this year's The Closer

For more information about the competition, visit The Closer on Baylor Law School's website, or contact competition coordinator Professor Elizabeth Miller.


Kim & Bill Shaddock logo
Munsch/Hart firm logo


Mark D. Foster logo
J. Michael Tibbals / Freeman Mills PC logo


Waco Hippodrome, Sponsor Scanes and Routh logo

MEDIA CONTACT: Ed Nelson, Director of Marketing & Communications
PHONE: 254-710-6681
PHOTOS: Nick Teixeira, Baylor Law School

Established in 1857, Baylor Law School was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,400 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law School has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. The Law School boasts two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature, among its notable alumni. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law's trial advocacy program as #3 in the nation. Baylor Law School is also ranked #51 in the magazine's 2018 edition of "America's Best Graduate Schools." The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the "Best School for Practical Training," and #4 in the nation in its most recent "Best Law School Facilities" listing. The Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. Baylor Law School received the 2015 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since the award's inception in 1984.

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 D1 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big XII Conference. Learn more at

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