NYLS’s Dispute Resolution Team took first place in the Judith S. Kaye American Arbitration Association (AAA) Competition, held November 10 and 11. The statewide competition is named in honor of the longtime chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals.
The format of the competition was an actual arbitration, with students assuming the roles of counselors and witnesses, and attorneys and judges serving as arbitrators. The dispute centered on an oil and gas lease, under which a Pennsylvania family of cattle farmers gave a Texan oil and gas company the exclusive rights to drill on the family’s land in exchange for payment and royalties. The cattle farmers brought several claims against the company and sought more than $20 million in injunctive relief and damages.
NYLS’s team of six—Ryan Callinan 2L, Kayla Canasi 2L, Amber Dailey 3L, Sean Doddy 3L, Evan Rosenberg 3L, and Victoria Walker 2L—prepared intensively for the competition by studying the scientific and health aspects of hydrofracturing, or “fracking,” which were key to the fact pattern. They prepared and presented both sides of the dispute. When representing the cattle farmers, the team referred to the oil and gas company—named Drill, Baby, Drill Energy Corporation in the fact pattern—as “Destruction by Deceit.” When representing the oil and gas company, they framed the cattle farmers’ position as “buyer’s remorse disguised as breach of contract.”
The final round, against Fordham University School of Law, was judged by Hon. Michael J. Garcia of the New York State Court of Appeals; Hon. William G. Bassler, retired from the U.S. District Court for New Jersey; and Michael Miller, President-Elect of the New York State Bar Association.
Leading up to the event, Callinan, Dailey, and Rosenberg—experienced members of the Dispute Resolution Team—coached Canasi, Doddy, and Walker. Adjunct Professor Paul B. Marrow, a commercial arbitration attorney who teaches domestic arbitration at NYLS, was instrumental in helping the team refine its arguments.
“I am elated at our team’s incredible accomplishment,” said Canasi. “Our coaches formed the backbone of our team; their investments in preparing us indisputably led to our success.”
“I am so proud of Kayla, Victoria, and Sean,” said Rosenberg. “They rose to the challenge and performed exquisitely. My other coaches, Ryan and Amber, were integral to the team’s success, and Professor Marrow contributed valuable insights from his experience as a seasoned arbitrator. There should be no doubt at this point that the Dispute Resolution Team is a force to be reckoned with at all levels of competition.”
“The secret to this entire thing is being prepared,” Professor Marrow said. “The students really understood the case, the fact pattern, and the psychology of the people they were portraying—and it showed. By the time I came into the picture, they knew the fact pattern backwards and forwards.”
Arbitration, Professor Marrow noted, is often misunderstood by litigators. Arbitrators are not judges, though the decisions they issue are binding. Arbitration decisions cannot be appealed; in rare circumstances, they can be vacated. In addition, arbitration is a far less formal, and often quicker, process than the judicial system. Both parties agree to ground rules at the beginning of an arbitration, and in most cases, courtroom rules of evidence do not apply.
“It’s more of a conversation,” Professor Marrow said.
He added that companies are increasingly relying on arbitration to settle disputes, and law students benefit from understanding how it differs from traditional litigation.
Canasi agreed that the competition was “invaluable” to her legal training. “Today, I have a profound understanding of why arbitration is better suited to resolve a wide range of disputes: the expediency; the selection of arbitrators with expertise in, or knowledge of, a specific industry; the lower cost of the process; and the primary focus being on the parties themselves all make arbitration an attractive and versatile option,” she said.