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Team Manitoba left to right: Rebecca Penner (3L); Ryan Hall (3L); Nicolas Nudler (3L); Éric Gagnon (3L), Jamie Robertson (3L); Andrew Torbiak, coach (Tradition Law); Andrea Doyle, coach (Instructor, U of M Law); Heather Wadsworth, coach (Amica Law); and Seth Lozinski (3L).

Team Manitoba left to right: Rebecca Penner (3L); Ryan Hall (3L); Nicolas Nudler (3L); Éric Gagnon (3L), Jamie Robertson (3L); Andrew Torbiak, coach (Tradition Law); Andrea Doyle, coach (Instructor, U of M Law); Heather Wadsworth, coach (Amica Law); and Seth Lozinski (3L).

Moot Report 2024: University of Manitoba Represents at Canadian National Negotiation Competition

Manitoba Teams have strong showings in both French and English streams

March 10, 2024 — 

Three University of Manitoba Faculty of Law teams from Robson Hall recently competed in the eighth annual Canadian National Negotiation Competition (CNNC). The competition was held at McGill University, Faculty of Law in Montreal on March 1st and 2nd, 2024, and for the second year in a row had both a French and an English stream. Against a talented field of the best law student negotiators from across Canada, the three U of M teams of Éric Gagnon and Seth Lozinski; Ryan Hall and Nicolas Nudler; and Rebecca Penner and Jamie Robertson put in extremely strong showings.  I was involved in assisting with the administration of the competition, and I heard praise from many people, including judges, coaches, and fellow competitors, about their performances.

The pair of Éric Gagnon & Seth Lozinski, who competed in the French stream, even received the “Spirit of Negotiation” award for that stream, which is peer-nominated and goes to the team that best illustrates the values of collaboration, humility, teamwork and respect.  Robson Hall teams have a long history of winning this award. Éric stated, “I was especially honoured to have been chosen by my national peers for the Spirit of the Negotiation prize, alongside my partner Seth Lozinski, for our commitment towards collegiality and collaboration throughout the negotiation process.”

The student competitors had an opportunity to reflect about their experiences after the competition concluded. Ryan Hall indicated that preparing for the CNNC was “an intimidating process”, but that the high quality of the competitors made the competition “fun, and exciting”.  He also highlighted the important social and networking aspects of the competition: “While the CNNC is largely about negotiating, it is just as much about making connections. This was one of the things I found the most valuable about the competition. It puts competitors in place to network with future legal professionals across Canada, something that is not offered anywhere else.” He ultimately described the CNNC as “one of my best experiences from law school.”

The development of collaborative skills were most important to Nicolas Nudler:

“My time at the CNNC was one to remember. The high-level negotiation and advocacy skills of my coaches, peers, and the other competitors during this competition really made this experience one that I can learn from and take with me as I navigate real-life negotiations throughout my law career. If I had to choose one thing that I took away from this competition, it’s that collaboration between the parties during a negotiation makes for the best result for the client.”

Seth Lozinski reflected, “One valuable lesson I learned from the competition was the importance of adapting my negotiation approach based on the other party, which I’m sure will serve me well throughout my career.”

Both Jamie Robertson and Rebecca Penner believed that the competition helped develop  the skills they needed to succeed in legal practice. Jamie stated, “Competing in the CNNC was a very rewarding experience. During the weeks of preparation, we developed valuable negotiation skills from our coaches that we will continue to use in our future legal careers. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to compete among the best negotiators in Canada.”

Rebecca explained, “Preparing for and competing in CNNC was truly a fantastic experience that vastly improved my confidence in navigating the strategic and artistic elements of negotiation. The case was nuanced, complex and highly relevant to current events and perspectives which made the whole experience very valuable as we head into our careers, and I feel very lucky to have competed alongside such an incredible calibre of students.”

For Éric Gagnon, highlights of the competition were a combination of collaborative opportunities and the location: “It was wonderful to negotiate and collaborate with colleagues from across the country in the heart of a city as vibrant as Montréal.”

The Manitoba teams were expertly coached by three Robson Hall alumni: Andrea Doyle, an Instructor at the University of Manitoba; Andrew Torbiak, who practises Estates and Trusts with Tradition Law; and Heather Wadsworth, who practises family law at Amica Law. The coaches were filled with praise for the students’ performances.  Andrew Torbiak stated,

“Our students had a great showing at this year’s competition, and represented Robson Hall admirably. This was one of the strongest groups of students Robson Hall has ever fielded in the competition. Having coached for the past 8 years of CNNC competition, I can also say that the overall skill of competitors from across Canada has never been higher. I’d like to thank the students for their diligent preparation for the CNNC weekend, and their dedication during the competition itself. We are very proud of their performances.”

According to Heather Wadsworth, “I am immensely proud of Rebecca, Jamie, Nicholas, Ryan, Seth, and Eric for both their hard work and dedication in preparing for the competition and how they conducted themselves at the competition itself. It was a delight to be one of their coaches and being a part of the CNNC is a highlight of my year.”

The admiration went both ways, as all of the students were also filled with praise and appreciation for the efforts of the coaches.   For example, Seth Lozinski stated, “Our coach, Andrea Doyle, was incredibly supportive and provided us with helpful feedback and encouragement throughout the entire experience.”

A Bit More About the CNCC

Eight years ago, the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law hosted the inaugural national negotiation competition at Robson Hall, which has been run annually since then.  The size of the competition has been growing each year, both in terms of number of teams participating and number of law schools represented. 

The 2024 competition was hosted by McGill Business Law Platform, McGill Faculty of Law, in collaboration with McGill’s Sustainable Growth Initiative (SGI).

 This year’s competition theme was “Negotiating Sustainability”, and the competition problem involved negotiations over the location of battery plant to a fictious community. The writing of the problem was a truly collaborative effort, with input from Professors from McGill, University of Saskatchewan, University of New Brunswick, and University of Manitoba and a practising lawyer in Montreal.

This year, the competition involved three rounds of negotiation taking place over two days, with each round building on the last. Issues to be negotiated included the precise location of the plant, the proportion of foreign workers employed, affordable housing for the community, and transportation infrastructure.  During each round, each team possessed confidential details about client circumstances and settlement preferences.  The first two rounds were bi-party, with the last round involving a more complex three-party negotiation. All of the negotiating took place under the scrutiny of judges, who scored each team’s negotiation skills.  At the end of each session, the judges provided detailed feedback to each team about what they did well, and potential areas for improvement. Yvan Larocque, Clinical Instructor here at the University of Manitoba, was one of the judges for the French stream, and did an excellent job.  He was also a member of the organizing committee, along with me, and we helped to administer the competition in Montreal.

French Stream

This was the second year that the CNNC implemented a parallel French stream. Teams competed in French, using the same problems (which were translated) as the English stream.

According to coach Andrea Doyle, “Our team of Éric Gagnon and Seth Lozinski negotiated in French and won the Spirit of Negotiation Award for the French stream (le prix d’excellence dans l’esprit de la négociation pour la section française). Seth and Éric were recognized for their collaboration and collegiality as well as their engaging and personable attitudes. They were great ambassadors for Robson Hall.”

Professor Lorna Turnbull, Director of the Access to Justice in French Concentration stated, “The University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law has for the past decade offered students the opportunity to pursue part of their legal education in French. Beginning in the Fall of 2022, the Faculty of Law introduced the Access to Justice in French Concentration thanks to generous support from Justice Canada’s Access to Justice in Both Official Languages Fund.”

Students in the Access to Justice in French Concentration pursue a portion of their studies in French by completing at least 26 credits of bilingual courses, including the French Negotiation course (Négociation juridique).

Andrea Doyle, who is the Coordinator of the Concentration in Access to Justice in French at U of M Faculty of Law in addition to being the coach of the French team, had the following to say:

“Preparation for the CNNC was a team effort. I wish to acknowledge and thank the support that was provided to our French team by our students participating in English (Jamie, Rebecca, Nico and Ryan) and their coaches, Andrew Torbiak and Heather Wadsworth, as well as articling students Chris Dick, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada and Kennedy Pinette, MLT Aikins LLP. Chris Dick and Kennedy Pinette, recent graduates of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Law, successfully competed in last year’s inaugural French stream of the CNNC and provided valuable feedback and insights in Éric and Seth’s preparations.”

We appreciated all of the work of the organizers in ensuring that a French stream was offered again this year and their commitment to continuing and expanding the French stream of the CNNC in the future.

Both Seth Lozinski and Éric Gagnon are taking the Concentration in Access to Justice in French, and expressed the importance of the French stream to them. Seth Lozinski stated,  “I was … able to enhance my advocacy skills in French, which is a step toward my goal of representing the Franco-Manitoban community in the future.” Éric stated, “As a Franco-Manitoban, I was extremely appreciative of the opportunity to do this in French.”

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