Top Prizes in <em>The Closer</em>, Baylor Law's Elite National Transactional Law Competition, Won by Bess Fisher, University of Mississippi School of Law, and Zachery Hunter, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

January 17, 2022

Top Prizes in The Closer, Baylor Law's Elite National Transactional Law Competition, Won by Bess Fisher, University of Mississippi School of Law, and Zachery Hunter, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

From January 13-16, students from fourteen of the best transactional law programs across the nation competed virtually in the most challenging transactional law competition in the country.


Baylor Law Professor Elizabeth Miller (Top Left) 'presents' a trophy to the winners of The Closer 2022, Bess Fisher (Bottom), University of Mississippi School of Law, and Zachery Hunter (Top Right), The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law


WACO, Texas -

Bess Fisher of University of Mississippi School of Law and Zachery Hunter of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law are this year's winners of The Closer, the nation's most challenging transactional law competition. Runners up in this year's challenging competition were James Keegan of University of San Diego School of Law and Megan Sugrue of University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

Baylor Law’s The Closer is an invitation-only transactional law competition open only to law schools whose programming demonstrates a commitment to excellence in practical transactional law training.

The Closer is distinct in numerous respects. Unlike other competitions, the teams do not have weeks to prepare, and each team has one member – no teammates to share the workload. The competitors have only 24 hours to digest their clients’ files, which contain realistic emails, phone notes, drafts, and research. 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 annual competition is another example of Baylor Law's commitment to provide practical opportunities for legal education. Baylor does not field a team, but its students participate in organizing and hosting. All involved students experience a high-pressure environment and hands-on exposure to important aspects of transactional law: contract drafting and negotiation.

In this year's competition, participants negotiated a fictional NIL agreement between an actual business and an actual student athlete— Nightlight Donuts, Inc. and Baylor baseball player Will Rigney— each of whom has a fascinating true backstory. Nightlight was founded a few years ago by Jackson Wren as a local Waco food truck and quickly gained a large following in the Baylor and Waco community. With visions of expanding statewide, Nightlight opened its first brick-and-mortar location about a year ago in Waco. Nightlight’s inviting coffee-shop ambiance and signature products—croissant donuts and various croissant-style kolaches— are an irresistible treat to be enjoyed any time of day or night. Nightlight’s loyal fans include Will Rigney, a pitcher who was drafted by the San Francisco Giants out of high school but chose to postpone his MLB prospects to play for Baylor Baseball.

Will Rigney (left) and Jackson Wren (right) discuss the creation of Nighlight Donuts' signature pastries.

In the fictionalized scenario, Wren sees an opportunity to expand Nightlight’s marketing efforts based on Rigney’s growing social media presence. Given recent sea changes to NCAA regulations and state laws allowing student athletes to receive compensation for use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL), the competitors were called upon to analyze novel legal issues and devise cutting-edge strategies as they negotiated an endorsement agreement in the context of the new NIL frontier.

Signature features of The Closer include an entertaining video to introduce the competitors and judges to the scenario, as well as a site visit to a location that is central to each year’s deal. With the necessity to hold the competition virtually the last two years, Baylor devised the next best thing to the site visit. This year’s behind-the-scenes look at the donut-making process at Nightlight Donuts, Inc. was incorporated into the introductory video. As a substitute for in-person sampling of Nightlight’s delectable croissant donuts, an assortment was shipped to competitors by overnight delivery for arrival as they began poring through the file on Friday morning.

Just 24 hours after the deal was revealed to the competitors, the first of four preliminary rounds of negotiation began. Through a series of 40-minute rounds of negotiations in front of experienced transactional lawyers, competitors were judged on their presence and professionalism, knowledge of legal and financial issues, and their efficacy in finding creative solutions to reach an agreement that satisfied their client's objectives while under strict time constraints. The top two competitors on each side advanced to the final round. The best lawyer on each side wins a $5,000 cash prize and bragging rights as “The Closer.”

The Closer is more than an intense competition. It is also a unique learning opportunity for competitors. In 2022, more than three dozen 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 panel of distinguished transactional lawyers. The number of negotiation rounds and the amount of feedback received in The Closer far surpasses any other transactional law competition.

Bill Young, Bess Fisher’s coach noted at the end of the competition, “I always felt like law schools didn’t do enough to prepare their students to be lawyers [… ] I think The Closer is a great contribution to advancing the careers of these young folks.”

The Closer is so much more than a competition. It’s one of the few opportunities available to law students interested in pursuing a transactional law practice to get a taste of what that type of practice is like and to hone their skills in that context,” stated Professor of Law Beth Miller, who started The Closer competition six years ago. “We are so proud of this year’s competitors, and it is an honor for us to highlight other schools who share our philosophy and commitment to real-world, practical transactional law training” Miller added.


The Deal Is Hypothetical - The Participants Are Real


In this year's competition, participants negotiated a fictional NIL agreement between an actual business and an actual student athlete—Nightlight Donuts, Inc. and Baylor baseball player Will Rigney—each of whom has a fascinating true backstory. Nightlight was founded a few years ago by Jackson Wren as a local Waco food truck and quickly gained a large following in the Baylor and Waco community. With visions of expanding statewide, Nightlight opened its first brick-and-mortar location about a year ago in Waco. Nightlight’s inviting coffee-shop ambiance and signature products—croissant donuts and various croissant-style kolaches—are an irresistible treat to be enjoyed any time of day or night. Nightlight’s loyal fans include Will Rigney, a pitcher who was drafted by the San Francisco Giants out of high school but chose to postpone his MLB prospects to play for Baylor Baseball.

In the fictionalized scenario, Wren sees an opportunity to expand Nightlight’s marketing efforts based on Rigney’s growing social media presence. Given recent sea changes to NCAA regulations and state laws allowing student athletes to receive compensation for use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL), the competitors were called upon to analyze novel legal issues and devise cutting-edge strategies as they negotiated an endorsement agreement in the context of the new NIL frontier.

During the competition, students were randomly assigned to represent either Nighlight Donuts, Inc. or Will Rigney.



Closing the Deal – Under Pressure



Zach Hunter was awarded one of the $5,000 prizes for best representing the interests of Nightlight Donuts, Inc. and Bess Fisher was awarded the other $5,000 prize for best representing Will Rigney.

The Closer exceeded all my expectations. Not only was it an extremely fun competition, but it was also a fantastic learning experience—one that is unmatched compared to anything in law school or even summer experiences,” noted Zach Hunter. “Whether it was the chance to compete with top law students, getting feedback from the judges in between rounds, or having the opportunity to work so closely with my Coach, I truly felt challenged to become the best advocate for my client. “

"I am so honored and excited to have been named a winner of The Closer this year! Special thank you to Baylor for hosting such a well-organized and thought-out competition, and to Ole Miss Law for letting me represent them,” stated Bess Fisher after hearing that she was selected as one of the winners of this year’s competition. “Another thank you to my coach and to Ole Miss Law alum, Billy Young, for dedicating so much time to helping me prepare, and for teaching me so much along the way. To me, winning this competition is a fantastic reminder that we all can accomplish so much more than we think we're capable of, and that preparation and confidence go a long way, both in competition and in the real world,” she added.

At the close of the event, one of the competition judges, Jennifer Lindsey, a partner at Beard Kultgen Brophy Bostwick & Dickson, PLLC noted, “I’ve been involved in The Closer since its inception and I never cease to be amazed at how these students can take very complex topics and concepts, digest them, and efficiently negotiate with each other in what is a really short time frame and intense period.” She added, “Kudos to all of you on your accomplishments here.”

Stephen Ferruolo, former Dean of University of San Diego School of Law and current partner at Perkins Coie LLP, has coached law students in this competition for the last five years. He had this to say about The Closer, “This is a really valuable contribution to our profession. It is an incredible competition and the [Baylor Law] team outperforms itself every year.”

Greg Looser, who has judged the final round each year, joined others to thank Professor Miller and her Baylor Law team for the countless hours spent to organize and host the competition. He added, “It is very important for the transactional practice across the country to have competitions like this, and we are very proud of what we have and what the Baylor Law School has done.”


BAYLOR LAW SCHOOL SINCERELY APPRECIATES THOSE WHO INVESTED IN THE CLOSER 2022:

SPONSORS

Special thanks


2022 PARTICIPATING SCHOOLS AND COMPETITORS

  • Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School - Rebekah Bingham
  • Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law - Justin Tennenbaum
  • Emory University School of Law - Nathan Vanderhorst
  • Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Lucas Lin
  • The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law - Zach Hunter
  • SMU Dedman School of Law - Floy Gaidarski
  • University of Denver Sturm College of Law - Megan Sugrue
  • University of Kansas School of Law - Olivia Black
  • University of Mississippi School of Law - Bess Fisher
  • UMKC School of Law - Alexandria Darden
  • University of Oregon School of Law - Kaitlyn Lindaman
  • University of San Diego School of Law - James Keegan
  • University of Tennessee College of Law - Ben Kelly
  • University of Wisconsin Law School - Connor Muth


JUDGES SCORING THE FINAL ROUNDS WERE:

JUDGES SCORING THE PRELIMINARY ROUNDS WERE:

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



MEDIA CONTACT: Ed Nelson, Director of Marketing & Communications
EMAIL: Ed_Nelson@Baylor.edu
PHONE: 254-710-6681



ABOUT BAYLOR LAW
Established in 1857, Baylor Law 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 7,500 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. Baylor Law 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 one of the top 5 in the nation. Baylor Law School is also ranked #50 in the magazine’s 2019 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. Learn more at baylor.edu/law

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 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. Learn more at baylor.edu

Are you looking for more News?