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LLP students mediate in Paris

Emilie Stumphius and Lennard Kosterman competed in the 10th Business Mediation Competition in Paris. The two Leiden Leadership Programme students were the first team from Leiden University to participate, after winning a wildcard at the Dutch Mediation Competition.

The Business Mediation Competition (BMC) is an international competition with 120 professional mediators from around the world, and 500 students from more than 40 countries.
The first round consists of four cases, each case against a different opponent. The cases are based on real life events, between companies who have legal issues with each other. Each of the 67 teams of students consists of one attorney and a client and is guided by a coach, in our case mediator Wendy Versteeg.

How it works

Every team gets general information, which conveys the basic information about the events in the case, as well as confidential information explaining the motives and interests of the company they are representing. The goal of the competition is to work towards an agreement with your opponent, which is better for yourself AND your opponent. Because both teams have information they would rather not share, it is important to ask the right questions and find out the interests of the other team. Once all the interest are uncovered it is time to think outside the box and find a solution which is better for everyone.

The tools

It can be difficult to balance all the things that are important in the competition. You want to guard your strategy, interests and confidential information, but it is also important to build trust and find out the interests of the others. Luckily, you have an experienced mediator who helps guide the process when it gets stuck. Furthermore, you can ask for a caucus during which you can consult with the mediator and with your own teammate, but without your opponents.

Our experience

The first team we went up against were a German team. We did very well and even worked out an agreement. Second was against a Brazilian team, which was strong, but their story felt annoyingly rehearsed. However, they taught us that we needed to have a more business-geared mind-set. The Australian team focused on the legal aspects and were also strong. Although their opening statement was way too long, we learned we needed to step up our legal game. In our last match against the Swiss we quickly found ourselves at a disadvantage, but we fought back and the jury was very enthusiastic about our performance.

With each case we learned new things and we applied them directly in the next. We’ve grown enormously and we got to experience how negotiations and mediations work. We learned how to think like a businessman and like a lawyer and we got to know a lot of international people, amongst whom people from South Africa, Ukraine and Belarus.

Sadly, we did not make it to the final sixteen. However, this did give us some time to walk around Paris, admire the city and enjoy the luxurious BMC party, where we had a great time with the Swiss and Italian delegations. All in all, it was an unforgettable experience. We learned so much and gained so much experience. It really opened our minds for an international career. 

Next year?

Unfortunately, you can only participate once. However, we look forward to coaching a new team next year. So, if you want to learn what it means to work in an international environment, learn to negotiate, and improve your conflict resolution skills, keep an eye out for the announcement!

Emilie Stumphius and Lennard Kosterman

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