St. John’s Law and FINRA Host Milestone 10th Securities Dispute Resolution Triathlon

St. John's Law FINRA 2018 Securities Dispute Resolution Triathlon
November 19, 2018

It was a landmark occasion as the Hugh L. Carey Center for Dispute Resolution and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) hosted the 10th annual Securities Dispute Resolution Triathlon last month at St. John’s Manhattan campus.

A decade after its launch, the Triathlon remains the only competition that tests law student ability in each of the three main ADR processes—negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. Students compete as advocacy lawyers, settlement counsel, and clients in a securities dispute. At the outset they try to negotiate a resolution, then they represent their clients in mediation, and finally they proceed to arbitration before a three-person panel. Professional neutrals from FINRA’s roster serve as mediators, arbitrators, and judges, giving students a realistic experience of these vital dispute resolution approaches.

An impressive 20 teams from law schools across the country participated in this year’s Triathlon, tackling a timely competition problem concerning the allocation of responsibility between customers and brokerage firms to keep customer data safe from cyber security attacks.

“Examining these facts and issues, Triathlon competitors come to see that presenting legal problems are often not just about the law, but also involve business, economic, psychological, and societal problems,” says Elayne E. Greenberg, assistant dean for dispute resolution programs, professor of legal practice, director of the Carey Center, and creator of the Triathlon. “And, regardless of the career path they ultimately choose, law students benefit tremendously from developing the dispute resolution skills they need to be effective advocates. As collaborators on the Triathlon, the Carey Center and FINRA give the competitors a unique opportunity to grasp the nuances of settlement modalities, and to experiment with different advocacy styles in simulated, real world contexts.”

Besting an able field, the team from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law took the overall championship, with Syracuse University College of Law coming in second and ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­University of Mississippi School of Law taking third. The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law won the arbitration round, the mediation round went to the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, and the University of Houston Law Center came away with top honors in the negotiation round. The University of Maryland also took home the Advocate's Choice award. The competitors found the Triathlon an exceptional, hands-on learning experience and gained a number of valuable insights, including:

  • Listening is key in producing a true conversation and in coming to an agreement.
  • At the end of the day, all the planning can be done, but taking talking points from the other side is the most important part of the negotiation
  • Determining the “why” behind the other party’s position is important and allows us to be better problem-solvers
  • Stay calm, but know when to walk away from a bad deal
  • I learned how to balance assertiveness with kindness.
  • Mediation is a safe space to pilot viable creative solutions
  • I learned the importance of using the mediator to advance our goal
  • Preparation is always key
  • Avoid arbitration! Attorneys and clients have so much more control of their fate in negotiation and mediation that those methods should be valued and taken advantage of
  • Come into negotiation and mediation with an open mind
  • I learned the holistic picture of a dispute settlement cycle

Providing a singular learning opportunity for law students has been the Triathlon’s goal from the start, and its continued success reflects the commitment of dedicated educators and dispute resolution professionals, including Kenneth L. Andrichik, FINRA’s vice president, chief counsel, and director of mediation and strategy. He has been a cornerstone of the Triathlon for all of its 10 years, and reflects proudly on that role as he prepares to move on to other professional pursuits.

“The Triathlon has been one of my most satisfying professional collaborations,” he says. Working with St. John’s Law Professors Elayne Greenberg and Christine Lazaro has been rewarding personally and professionally. They bring extraordinary talents to this team and are reliable as partners and as friends. It’s gratifying that the FINRA neutrals come back year after year to support this competition, giving uniquely valuable feedback to the teams. I feel fortunate that many FINRA employees have volunteered over the years to help make this a special event. And I’m inspired watching the student competitors pour creativity and heart into their preparation and performances. Hopefully, the Triathlon encourages them to broaden their vision and add to their tools for effectively representing clients in the future. I know that many of them will become outstanding advocates.”

As much as Andrichik values his Triathlon leadership role, his Triathlon colleagues value him. “There is only one Ken—the highest integrity, spirituality, and sense of irony when all else fails,” Professor Greenberg shares. “Over 10 years ago, when we began developing the Triathlon, Ken and I were committed to providing students with a realistic dispute resolution experience in which they learned how to become more effective advocates. In many ways, our collaboration modeled the very values and skills Triathlon participants learn year after year.”

The next Securities Dispute Resolution Triathlon will take place on October 19 and 20, 2019. For more information, please visit the competition website.