Finalists of the 2021 The Closer National Transactional Law Competition: Winners (Left) Floy Gaidarski, SMU Dedman School of Law (top); Preston Chaffee, University of San Diego School of Law (bottom) and Runners Up (Right) Jacob Landsberg, University of Oregon School of Law (top) and Madalyn Clary, Indiana University Maurer School of Law (bottom)
WACO, Texas -
On Sunday, January 17th, Floy Gaidarski, of SMU Dedman School of Law, and Preston Chaffee, of University of San Diego School of Law, were named the winners of the 2021 The Closer Competition, the most challenging transactional law competition in the country. Runners up for this year's competition were Madalyn Clary of Indiana University Maurer School of Law, and Jacob Landsberg of University of Oregon School of Law.
The Closer is an elite transactional law competition with a limited number of invitations extended only to law schools whose programming demonstrates a commitment to excellence in practical transactional law training. At stake in the competition is the chance 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 provide practical opportunities for legal education, provides a high-pressure environment and hands-on exposure to one of the most important aspects of transactional law: contract drafting and negotiation. As the host, Baylor Law does not field a team.
The Closer is unlike any other transactional law competition. The deal that the participants negotiate is disclosed to competitors only twenty-four hours prior to the first round of negotiations. The tight timeline forces competitors to identify the most important legal issues and devise and negotiate solutions that best serve their client's needs with the efficiency required of lawyers under realistic time constraints.
The Closer is more than an intense competition. It is also a unique learning opportunity for competitors. In 2021, more than 40 experienced transactional lawyers served as judges. During the first day of negotiation rounds, every student competitor received detailed individual feedback and critique from at least 12 of these lawyers. On Sunday, the four finalists received feedback from an additional five distinguished transactional lawyers. The number of negotiation rounds and the amount of feedback received in The Closer far surpasses any other transactional law competition.
“The Closer is a whole new class of competition,” remarked Professor Carla Reyes of SMU Dedman School of Law and Floy Gaidarski’s coach. “What most impressed me about The Closer is the way that the problem required participants to not only understand the deal and the client’s related business needs, but also how to map those to a contract draft and how the provisions of that draft related to one another. The resulting negotiations resemble the real-world practice of deal lawyers more closely than any other competition I have ever seen,” she added.
Conducting the competition virtually involved more than forty separate Zoom gatherings over the course of the three days, most of which occurred on Saturday when all 14 competitors participated in four preliminary negotiations rounds—two rounds in the morning and two more in the afternoon. This required four successive sets of 7 simultaneous Zoom meetings. Baylor Law students managed the logistics of all of the preliminary round Zoom meetings, placing judges, competitors and coaches in and out of waiting rooms at appropriate times and controlling various on-screen features to facilitate the most effective arrangement for the judges of the rounds to observe.
Competitors, coaches, and judges participating in the competition spanned 5 time zones.
The Deal Is Hypothetical - The Participants Are Real
In this year's competition, participants negotiated a fictional assignment of patents and related intellectual property associated with a medical therapy device known as the MiraColt. The MiraColt is a mechanical hippotherapy simulation device that provides an alternative to live-horse hippotherapy, which has been shown to improve outcomes in individuals with cerebral palsy, other spastic or dystonic issues, stroke, Parkinson’s, autism spectrum disorder, and other special-needs conditions.
Chariot Innovations, Inc., is a Waco-based corporation that was formed to market and sell the MiraColt device. As the MiraColt technology was developed by Dr. Garner, a Baylor faculty member, the technology is owned and controlled by Baylor pursuant to its Intellectual Property Policy, and Baylor holds two patents relating to the MiraColt invention. Baylor regularly enters into agreements with third parties to commercialize its technology and typically licenses its intellectual property in circumstances such as these. In the competition, however, Chariot Innovations is seeking a complete assignment from Baylor of the patents and all related intellectual property associated with the MiraColt.
During the competition, students were randomly assigned to represent either Baylor University or Chariot Innovations, Inc.
Closing the Deal – Under Pressure
Floy Gaidarski, of SMU Dedman School of Law, was awarded one of the $5,000 prizes for best representing the interests of Baylor University and Preston Chaffee, of University of San Diego School of Law, was awarded the other $5,000 prize for best representing Chariot Innovations, Inc.
“Winning The Closer was like crossing the finish line of the Ironman Zurich—a moment of joy realized by a lifetime of small sacrifices and stubborn resolve,” remarked Floy Gaidarski, and added “Thank you, Baylor University School of Law, for committing to the betterment of the transactional practice and special thanks to Professor Elizabeth Miller and her dedicated team for executing Baylor’s mission seamlessly. I was most impressed by the intricacy and authenticity of the deal. That detail distinguishes The Closer from any other competition and elevates the negotiation from superficial horse-trading to a conversation about underlying and overlapping business needs articulated in sophisticated deal terms.”
Preston Chaffee, winning The Closer for his representation of Chariot Innovations, Inc. added, “In law school, […] there is no exam that tests your ability to act collegially, to collaboratively solve problems that both parties face, or to think on your feet in the moment. The Closer is an opportunity to exhibit those intangibles, get feedback, and feel like you're ready to serve clients with what you've learned. I have done four transactional law competitions representing USD, and this is by far the most organized and thorough competition. It emphasizes professional realism, but without losing its competitive feel. This is the most prestigious transactional law competition in the country, and I really consider it a national championship.”
At the close of the event, Professor Miller remarked, “The professionalism displayed by the competitors is always so impressive. Floy, Preston, Madalyn, and Jacob all demonstrated knowledge and skills on par with those of a seasoned associate. The final rounds were as close as any we have ever had, and all four finalists accomplished something truly noteworthy—especially given the challenges of the virtual environment.”
Final Round - 2021
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