February 12, 2024 : By Bryson Gordon - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
After securing their spot in the American Bar Association’s national negotiation competition by way of a regional championship in October, two Liberty University School of Law students have returned home with some hardware, outlasting 23 other teams to take home the 2024 ABA national negotiation championship.
Gregory McCarthy, a 3L student, and Hannah Todd, a 2L, traveled to Chicago from Feb. 2-3, where the original field of 250-plus teams that participated during regionals were whittled down to the final 24.
The competition gives law school students practical opportunities to put to work what they’ve learned in their courses, specifically in negotiation situations. McCarthy and Todd said students face different scenarios where they have to work collaboratively with students from other law schools to reach a mutually beneficial agreement favorable for their respective client.
Led by Negotiations Team Head Coach and School of Law Professor Joel Hesch, the duo navigated their way through two days of competition, starting their run to the national championship by sweeping through the preliminary rounds, one of only six to do so.
But their preparation was tested by the format of the championship round, when they were given the full fact pattern for the final three rounds just the night before, a contrast to their traditional preparation methods.
“We had the full fact pattern for the preliminary rounds three weeks ahead of time,” McCarthy said. “We were completely prepared for that. For the finals, we had the general facts, but we didn’t get the confidential facts until the night before at 8:30 p.m. and we had to compete that next morning. So, it was a scramble to try and get together a game plan for the next day.”
Despite that, the two continued their impressive run through the quarterfinals and semifinals, before landing in the championship match, where they would compete in front of a crowded room of judges, lawyers, and other competitors, a situation that Todd said could have been pretty intimidating if not for prayer and their support group.
“Friday night was a little crazy. We received the new fact patterns and immediately began going through everything to create new documents for us to use the next day,” Todd said. “The confidence Greg and I had walking into the final round was definitely a testament of the prayer and practice that went into the competition.”
Todd added that the peace that came over her and McCarthy speaks to the nurturing of their faith relationship that Liberty students receive.
“It’s a testament to the foundation of the university, and how they really Train Champions for Christ,” she said. “The competition was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a Liberty student.”
Competing in the final, McCarthy and Todd were tasked with negotiating a medical bill settlement, and it proved no problem for them as they were unanimously chosen by the three judges as the winners of the 2024 ABA national negotiations championship.
Across the two days of competition, McCarthy and Todd defeated teams from several well-known law schools, including Stetson University College of Law and St. Mary’s University College of Law during the preliminaries, the University of San Diego College of Law in the quarterfinals, the Brooklyn Law School in the semifinals, and Florida International University College of Law in the final.
Hesch, dubbed the informal ‘MVP’ of the team by both McCarthy and Todd for the work he put in to prepare them, pointed out how monumental the national title is for Liberty Law.
“We don’t take lightly the fact that Liberty won a national title,” Hesch said, adding that the duo represented Liberty well through their dedication to the mission of the school. “McCarthy and Todd had both raw talent and a coachable spirit; their hard work and determination positioned them to bring to Liberty a top honor in the country with this title.”
With the team slated to move on to the world championships in July, Hesch, who started the Negotiations Team at Liberty Law, said other law schools are no longer surprised when Liberty teams lands among the finalists for such competitions.
“We’re recognized as a powerhouse in various skills competitions now,” Hesch said. “We attribute that to the skills program but also the hard work and dedication of the professors that invest and mentor our next generation of young Christian lawyers.”
He added that McCarthy and Todd’s upcoming trip to the world competition is akin to representing the United States in the Olympics, only this time in the “Law School Olympics.”
By the time the duo competes in the world championships, McCarthy will have become a graduate of Liberty Law. He said the negotiation competition is proof of how much he’s grown through the program and puts a nice ending to this law school chapter of his life.
“When I first came into law school, I was a horrible negotiator,” he said. “But with the preparation, sparring, and practice, God helped develop me into the negotiator I am today. It builds my confidence and faith knowing that when I become an attorney God will also give me the ability to excel there as He did with negotiations.”
As for Todd, she has another year of law school — and hopefully one more run in negotiations — remaining after their trip to worlds this summer. But in the meantime, she is planning on helping judge tournaments for younger law school students, an opportunity to give back to the program that has opened many doors for her.
“I’m really hoping to impart some of what I’ve learned from this experience on those coming up in the ranks through coaching and sparring with them,” she said. “I am so honored and excited to represent the United States at worlds. I cannot wait to see what the Lord has planned.”