Two University of Wyoming College of Law students earned recognition at the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) Nelson Mandela International Negotiations Competition in Brooklyn, N.Y., earlier this month.
Third-year law student Debra Bulluck, of Madison, Ala., and second-year law student Sarah Davis, of San Antonio, Texas, are the first UW students ever to compete in the competition, which is held during the annual NBLSA convention.
Though they were knocked out in the semifinal round, they brought home several accolades. Davis was named the â€œnational best negotiatorâ€ for the overall competition, and both Davis and Bulluck were awarded the â€œnational best negotiatorsâ€ of the second preliminary round. They also were the highest-scoring team overall in the preliminary rounds.
Success at the competition is only part of a story of perseverance and resourcefulness on the part of the students.
In order to even compete and attend the conference, Bulluck and Davis had to start the inaugural chapter of the NBLSA in Wyoming. Without the numbers required for a solo chapter, the women were able to house the chapter under the existing Minority Law Students Association (MLSA) in the College of Law.
â€œThis had been a goal of mine since I began law school,â€ Bulluck says. â€œI knew I wanted to be a member of this organization, so I became a member at large, but it was something that was really important to me to see through until the end — not only for my own law school experience, but for others as well.â€
Bulluck spent her first two years of law school trying to reinvigorate the MLSA club in the hope that it would be the best avenue for the success of the NBLSA chapter. She did all of the research about starting a chapter, made connections with other NBLSA members and went to the College of Law administration about the actual implementation.
â€œMy law school journey would have been incomplete without this,â€ she says. â€œYou canâ€™t talk about diversity at a school if you donâ€™t have the inclusion infrastructure to maintain and support your minority students. I feel like we were able to make a significant contribution to the college that will be an asset for incoming minority students and will, hopefully, inspire other minority groups to follow suit with their respective organizations.â€
Davis says the NBLSA chapter enriches the College of Law. It provides an opportunity for minority students to tap into an amazing network and national community, she says, as well as giving other students the chance to step out of their comfort zone and gain some valuable perspective and insight.
â€œThe demographics of our student population are always a challenge here,â€ she says. â€œWhile there is a commitment to doing better on that front, I hope that we can start getting students involved and excited about this organization early on in their law school career. It is such an important opportunity to step out of our own comfort zones, even if it is just to listen.â€
UWâ€™s College of Law has several student competitions, some of which are negotiations competitions. Traditionally, the college has solicited outside support from law firms to sponsor a competition, which pays for the travel to bigger competitions. With no such infrastructure in place to support this particular endeavor, Bulluck and Davis decided to commit anyway and work to make the pieces fall together.
They signed up for the competition and began preparing, while, at the same time, trying to find support from other organizations on campus. They made appeals to the Associated Students of UW, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and the College of Law, and were finally able to cover their expenses.
To prepare for the competition, Bulluck and Davis signed up for the College of Law local American Bar Association Negotiations Competition. They wanted to gain a better understanding of competition rounds and to gel their technique, but the duo functioned as a cohesive unit from the start.
â€œIt was less about our ability to compete and more about our ability to communicate,â€ Davis says. â€œWe didnâ€™t know what the competition was going to be like, but we did know that we felt confident in our skills and ability to work together.â€
Both students brought their skills to the table as well. As the student clinic director for the Immigrant and Family Justice Clinic at the College of Law, Bulluck has worked on multiple cases for clients statewide to develop her abilities. Meanwhile, Davis has gained valuable experience in a local law firm, where her supervisor has allowed her to be hands-on in legal proceedings.
Since returning from the trip, Bulluck and Davis have been proactive in sharing their experience with their fellow law students in the hope that others can pick up where they left off.
â€œThis has been a tremendous opportunity for us, and I really encourage others to be bold, take risks and pursue the unknown. You never know what knowledge youâ€™ll gain,â€ Bulluck says.