by Daniel Holman ’14
My interest in the Negotiation Workshop and Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP) began before I even enrolled in law school, when Professor Bordone led a negotiation exercise during Admitted Students Weekend.
Speaking with students from the Harvard Negotiation Law Review afterward, I was struck by how the negotiation curriculum had helped them develop a skill set that could be carried beyond school in a very direct way. Having worked with non-profits in Latin America before law school, I envisioned becoming a lawyer whose work was mostly outside the courtroom—helping communities to resolve conflicts and helping clients to structure deals and turn ideas into enduring institutions. The mix of hard skills and strategic thinking that is part of the negotiation curriculum has offered a window into unforeseen ways that a legal education can be applied in these areas.
My HNMCP project with the Peruvian Ministry of the Economy in the spring of 2013 presented a perfect match between my legal and extracurricular interests. Like many of its neighbors, Peru participates in investment protection treaties as a way to attract investors and boost economic growth, but with the consequence that the government must defend periodically its regulatory decisions before treaty tribunals. Because different government agencies, private entities, and foreign governments may all have a stake in these proceedings, investment treaty litigation presents complex challenges for government lawyers. Interviewing stakeholders in Peru with my clinic partner Mark Johnson ’14 helped us to understand how the different players viewed the system and how dispute resolution techniques might at times be employed to ease the process.
My hope is to remain involved in these issues through graduation and beyond. Here at HLS, I have repeatedly seen negotiation themes connected with my work with the Harvard Law and International Development Society, whether in the realm of regional agricultural trade harmonization or the ways in which prosecutors pursue cases of official and corporate corruption. In the professional sphere, one of the key points drawing me to work last summer at Allen & Overy in Washington, DC, was the firm’s work with government and multilateral lenders that play an increasingly crucial role in major development projects around the world. Undertaken at the crossroads of the commercial and public spheres, these infrastructure investment projects must satisfy both public and private interests. Even if the contract documents are in perfect order, the project can run into trouble unless counsel and clients are attuned to these risks.
Equipped with a dispute resolution mindset, one can begin to see how success of these endeavors depends on a series of layered, interdependent negotiations—between the governments and private parties, between the government and the citizens that will be affected, and even between different agencies or provinces, all of whom have distinct interests at stake and may have radically different power at the negotiating table. Finding novel and constructive ways to enlarge the role that civil society, the press, and social movements can play in public decision making is particularly critical to ensuring that citizen voices are represented in these conversations.
Collectively, the negotiation courses I have taken at HLS—the Negotiation Workshop, Dispute Systems Design, HNMCP, and most recently the new Lawyer as Facilitator Workshop—have encouraged me to think critically about the role that I as an attorney can play in identifying and solving problems that arise when many parties have to agree. I look forward to applying what I’ve learned from HNMCP as an advocate, intermediary, and counsel throughout my career.