SMU Law Student Floy Gaidarski named the National Champion of 2021 The Closer Competition
Winners Announced for The Closer, Baylor Law's Elite National Transactional Law Competition
On January 15-17, students from fourteen of the best transactional law programs across the nation competed virtually in the most challenging transactional law competition in the country.
WACO, Texas - On Sunday, January 17th, Floy Gaidarski, of SMU Dedman School of Law and sponsored by the Robert B. Rowling Center for Business Law & Leadership, and Preston Chaffee, of University of San Diego School of Law, were named the winners of the 2021 The Closer Competition, the most challenging transactional law competition in the country. Runners up for this year's competition were Madalyn Clary of Indiana University Maurer School of Law, and Jacob Landsberg of University of Oregon School of Law.
The Closer is an elite transactional law competition with a limited number of invitations extended only to law schools whose programming demonstrates a commitment to excellence in practical transactional law training. At stake in the competition is the chance to win one of two $5,000 top prizes and bragging rights as a top closer. The annual competition, another example of Baylor Law's commitment to provide practical opportunities for legal education, provides a high-pressure environment and hands-on exposure to one of the most important aspects of transactional law: contract drafting and negotiation. As the host, Baylor Law does not field a team.
The Closer is unlike any other transactional law competition. The deal that the participants negotiate is disclosed to competitors only twenty-four hours prior to the first round of negotiations. The tight timeline forces competitors to identify the most important legal issues and devise and negotiate solutions that best serve their client's needs with the efficiency required of lawyers under realistic time constraints.
The Closer is more than an intense competition. It is also a unique learning opportunity for competitors. In 2021, more than 40 experienced transactional lawyers served as judges. During the first day of negotiation rounds, every student competitor received detailed individual feedback and critique from at least 12 of these lawyers. On Sunday, the four finalists received feedback from an additional five distinguished transactional lawyers. The number of negotiation rounds and the amount of feedback received in The Closer far surpasses any other transactional law competition.
“The Closer is a whole new class of competition,” remarked Professor Carla Reyes of SMU Dedman School of Law and Floy Gaidarski’s coach. “What most impressed me about The Closer is the way that the problem required participants to not only understand the deal and the client’s related business needs, but also how to map those to a contract draft and how the provisions of that draft related to one another. The resulting negotiations resemble the real-world practice of deal lawyers more closely than any other competition I have ever seen,” she added.
“The Closer is really a labor of love for me since I am passionate about providing students interested in transactional law practice an opportunity to get a taste of that kind of practice and hone the skills used in that context,” stated Professor of Law Beth Miller, who started The Closer competition five years ago. “Although mock trial and moot court opportunities are plentiful, law schools have traditionally neglected to provide similar transactional simulation opportunities. We are proud to be able to help fill that gap, raise the profile of transactional law training, and highlight other schools whose programs also reflect a commitment to practical transactional law training,” Miller added.
The Deal Is Hypothetical – The Participants Are Real
In this year's competition, participants negotiated a fictional assignment of patents and related intellectual property associated with a medical therapy device known as the MiraColt. The MiraColt is a mechanical hippotherapy simulation device that provides an alternative to live-horse hippotherapy, which has been shown to improve outcomes in individuals with cerebral palsy, other spastic or dystonic issues, stroke, Parkinson’s, autism spectrum disorder, and other special-needs conditions.
Chariot Innovations, Inc., is a Waco-based corporation that was formed to market and sell the MiraColt device. As the MiraColt technology was developed by Dr. Garner, a Baylor faculty member, the technology is owned and controlled by Baylor pursuant to its Intellectual Property Policy, and Baylor holds two patents relating to the MiraColt invention. Baylor regularly enters into agreements with third parties to commercialize its technology and typically licenses its intellectual property in circumstances such as these. In the competition, however, Chariot Innovations, is seeking a complete assignment from Baylor of the patents and all related intellectual property associated with the MiraColt.
During the competition, students were randomly assigned to represent either Baylor University or Chariot Innovations, Inc.
Closing the Deal – Under Pressure
Floy Gaidarski, of SMU Dedman School of Law, was awarded one of the $5,000 prizes for best representing the interests of Baylor University and Preston Chaffee, of University of San Diego School of Law, was awarded the other $5,000 prize for best representing Chariot Innovations, Inc.
“Winning The Closer was like crossing the finish line of the Ironman Zurich—a moment of joy realized by a lifetime of small sacrifices and stubborn resolve,” remarked Floy Gaidarski, and added “Thank you, Baylor University School of Law, for committing to the betterment of the transactional practice and special thanks to Professor Elizabeth Miller and her dedicated team for executing Baylor’s mission seamlessly. I was most impressed by the intricacy and authenticity of the deal. That detail distinguishes The Closer from any other competition and elevates the negotiation from superficial horse-trading to a conversation about underlying and overlapping business needs articulated in sophisticated deal terms.”
Preston Chaffee, winning The Closer for his representation of Chariot Innovations, Inc. added, “In law school, […] there is no exam that tests your ability to act collegially, to collaboratively solve problems that both parties face, or to think on your feet in the moment. The Closer is an opportunity to exhibit those intangibles, get feedback, and feel like you're ready to serve clients with what you've learned. I have done four transactional law competitions representing USD, and this is by far the most organized and thorough competition. It emphasizes professional realism, but without losing its competitive feel. This is the most prestigious transactional law competition in the country, and I really consider it a national championship.”
At the close of the event, Professor Miller remarked, “The professionalism displayed by the competitors is always so impressive. Floy, Preston, Madalyn, and Jacob all demonstrated knowledge and skills on par with those of a seasoned associate. The final rounds were as close as any we have ever had, and all four finalists accomplished something truly noteworthy—especially given the challenges of the virtual environment.”
The Final Round of 2021
JUDGES SCORING THE FINAL ROUNDS WERE:
- E. Steve Bolden II, Partner, Bracewell
- Glenn Callison, Shareholder, Munsch Hardt
- Jennifer Lindsey, Partner, Beard Kultgen Brophy Bostwick & Dickson, PLLC
- W. Gregory Looser, Co-Founder & Partner, Clarion Ventures, LLC
- Christina Marshall, Partner, Haynes and Boone
BAYLOR LAW SCHOOL SINCERELY APPRECIATES THOSE WHO INVESTED IN THE CLOSER:
- Kim and Bill Shaddock
- Munsch Hardt
- J. Michael Tibbals/Freeman Mills PC
- Chariot Innovations, Inc.
- Baylor University, Office of the Vice Provost for Research
- Baylor Law faculty, staff, and students who contributed their time and talents to make The Closer 2021 a success
2021 PARTICIPATING SCHOOLS AND COMPETITORS
- BYU J. Reuben Clark Law School – Avery Benesch
- Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law – Yeshesvini Chandar
- Emory University School of Law – Grace Kim
- Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Madalyn Clary
- Northwestern Pritzker School of Law – Kevin Finkelstein
- SMU Dedman School of Law – Floy Gaidarski
- The Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law - Ellen Steinmetz
- University of Denver Sturm College of Law – Bradley Scoble
- University of Kansas School of Law - Samuel Klaassen
- University of Mississippi School of Law – Conner Whitten
- University of Oregon School of Law – Jacob Landsberg
- University of Pennsylvania Carey School of Law – Jennifer Kim
- University of San Diego School of Law - Preston Chaffee
- University of Tennessee College of Law – Trevor Torres
For more information about the competition, visit The Closer on Baylor Law's website, or contact Professor Elizabeth Miller.