Oregon Law Student Wins National Law Competition

Oregon Law student Clark Barlowe participates in The Closer, hosted by Baylor Law in Waco, Texas.
Clark Barlowe negotiating on behalf of Neighborly, Inc. at The Closer competition.

2L Clark Barlowe won The Closer 2024, a pre-eminent transactional law competition hosted by Baylor Law in Waco, Texas. The eighth-annual, multi-day event took place during the period of January 11-14, 2024. 

The Closer is renowned for its innovative and rigorous approach to testing the transactional lawyering skills of participants. Fourteen premier transactional law programs from around the nation were invited to select one talented law student to represent their school in the competition. Two top finalists, each representing their hypothetical client on one side of the transaction, would receive a $5,000 prize.

Barlowe was selected to represent Oregon Law. After four challenging preliminary negotiation rounds, and an intense final round, Barlowe emerged as the winner for Neighborly, Inc., the client Barlowe represented during the competition.

The Closer is unique among transactional law competitions. Individual student-participants, working with their coach, are thrust into a high-pressure scenario where they have just 24 hours to analyze a complex business transaction, review client files, conduct research, and negotiate a deal for their client. The format simulates real-world demands facing transactional lawyers and the dynamic, rapidly evolving nature of negotiation and deal-making.

Professor Kristie Gibson, who served as Barlowe’s coach, said of the event, “The Closer is a dynamic competition that provides a real world, practice-focused transactional law experience for student participants. Students work to research, draft, and negotiate provisions of an agreement, favorable to their client, under considerable time pressure. I was impressed by Clark’s ability to issue spot, synthesize research and client information, analyze the deal documents, develop creative solutions, and negotiate efficiently and effectively for his client.” 

Oregon Law student Clark Barlowe poses with his coach for The Closer competition, Oregon Law Professor Kristie Gibson.
Clark Barlowe with his coach, Professor Kristie Gibson.

During this year’s The Closer competition, participants navigated a scenario centered around a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse in Waco, Texas in April 2024. The challenge was to negotiate a fictional conference services and event agreement on behalf of either Hotel 1928, a popular venue in Waco, or Neighborly, Inc., the world’s largest home services franchisor, that plans to host a conference at Hotel 1928 during the eclipse. 

The fourteen participants’ negotiation skills were put to the test in four, forty-minute preliminary rounds judged by experienced transactional lawyers. Competitors had to address various aspects of the services and event agreement, including the use of the hotel and its restaurants, employment of entertainers, insurance for outdoor liquor sales, use of trademarks, and advertising. Competitors were evaluated on their presence and professionalism, knowledge of legal and financial issues, and their ability to find creative solutions to reach an agreement that aligned with their client's goals.

Barlowe excelled throughout the preliminary rounds, earning a spot in the final round, where the organizers presented a new challenge that increased the negotiation’s complexity and tested the competitors' adaptability and problem-solving skills. The finalists were tasked with addressing several new considerations, such as obtaining city permits for road closures, securing police details, and arranging for EMT services. 

As several judges commented that the competitors were as good as associates they had in their firms, the competition serves as a powerful testament to the value of practical transactional law training in shaping skilled lawyers capable of navigating real-world challenges with precision and efficiency.

Barlowe praised The Closer for its innovative and demanding format, emphasizing its value in honing practical skills for legal practice. “It was a privilege to represent Oregon Law at Baylor Law's The Closer competition," Barlowe said. "My coach, Professor Kristie Gibson, was supportive throughout the process and was instrumental in my ultimate success. I especially enjoyed the four preliminary rounds of negotiations against different competitors. I feel that this in-person experience and the subsequent feedback from the judges will be extremely helpful in my career moving forward."

Barlowe’s victory in The Closer underscores the Oregon Law's commitment to preparing law students for the complexities of legal practice. 

To learn more about Oregon Law’s Business Law Program, visit law.uoregon.edu/explore/bizlaw.