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Course Spotlight: Negotiation Skills with David Lourie and Marc E. Empey

Tess Powell • June 2, 2024
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Negotiation is an integral part of everyday life, influencing disciplines from education and professional growth, to international relations, law and government, and major life decisions like buying a house or leasing a car. In this Q&A, USC Gould lecturers in law Marc E. Empey and David Lourie share insights on how mastering negotiation techniques is essential not only for legal professionals but also for navigating everyday interactions with confidence.

Tell us about the course you teach, Law 845-Negotiation Skills

Lourie: As a professional, you will probably negotiate more than you do anything else. You will negotiate not just cases, but nearly any time you need something that you cannot get alone. You will negotiate with lawyers and principals on the other side, clients and their representatives on your side, and third parties. You will negotiate with your boss, your co-workers, providers of goods or services, the government, and the court. And, of course, you will negotiate with your family and friends, and even yourself. This course is designed to: (1) develop your understanding of negotiation, and your awareness of yourself as a negotiator; (2) give you some tools and concepts for preparing for and analyzing negotiations; (3) enhance your negotiating skills through frequent role plays, reflection, and feedback; and (4) teach you how to keep learning from your own negotiating experience.

Empey: In addition to developing negotiation skills and studying theory, you will be introduced to issues of negotiation dynamics, behavioral skills, and cross-cultural perspective. The goal of the course is to have students develop a considered strategic approach in their negotiations and be able to apply it to a wide range of negotiations, differing in contexts and complexities.

Negotiation Skills is open to students in the online Master of Studies in Law (MSL) and online Master of Laws (LLM) degree programs.

Can you tell us about your professional background? 

Empey: I am a partner at Slovak Baron Empey Murphy & Pinkney LLP which has offices in Palm Springs, Indian Wells, Orange County, San Diego, Princeton and New York. I specialize in mergers and acquisitions, typically representing a public company acquiring a private company (which requires some negotiation skills). I have completed more than 600 transactions.  I received my BA from University of California, Los Angeles and my JD from University of California, Hastings College of the Law (now UC College of the Law, San Francisco).  I am admitted to practice in California, Washington, Texas, the District of Columbia and New York.

Lourie: I have advised investment advisers, private equity firms, and hedge firms throughout the country on complex securities law matters.  For several years, I was the Chief Compliance Officer of a successful private equity firm where I oversaw all the firm’s legal, compliance, and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) matters.  Prior to that for five years, I worked at a boutique securities compliance firm where I had national responsibility counseling investment advisers, private equity firms, and hedge funds regarding SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) examinations and compliance policies and procedures. I have utilized this expertise to teach at several universities and law schools including the USC Gould School of Law, Northwestern University, Cornell University, and Western Colorado University.

Why is it important to have an understanding of negotiation skills as a professional?

Lourie: Negotiation affects every area of our life, whether we like it or not.  There will always be conflicts in life and negotiation helps to solve them. The importance of negotiation cannot be overstated. In fact, when you think about it, we use negotiation all the time in our everyday lives including when we: buy a house or car, resolve conflict with family, friends and coworkers or consider a job offer. Our larger world is affected by issues of negotiation as well, affecting us on a global scale with treaties between nations, mergers and acquisitions of multinational companies and military de-escalation of violent conflicts by discussing terms with the “enemy.”

Epmey: Negotiation skills are important for both career and life. Like it or not, you are already a negotiator. You discuss a raise with your boss. You try to agree with a stranger on a price for his house. Two lawyers try to settle a lawsuit. We negotiate all the time.

Is there anything you would want potential students to know about the coursework and classroom experience?

Empey: This course is experiential in nature, with an emphasis on skill development and practice, including frequent participation in simulated negotiations. It is designed to develop your understanding of the negotiation process and your awareness of yourself as a negotiator. You will gain tools and concepts for preparing for and analyzing negotiations, managing the phases of negotiation, and enhancing your negotiating skills through frequent role plays, reflection and feedback.

Lourie: It’s both challenging and fun!  The live sessions (real-time meetings) are where we really get to explore these issues and learn from each other – I learn so much from the great USC students.

How does your career inform the coursework?

Lourie: As a transactional attorney, I use negotiation skills daily in my legal practice. I bring “real world” negotiation issues into the classroom based on my personal experiences and those of my colleagues. These provide real-world scenarios for students to analyze and understand how they would handle such circumstances.

Empey: The core skill for a merger and acquisition attorney is negotiation. It is a central part to all of my work.

What do you want potential students to know about learning negotiation skills?

Lourie: Negotiation is ethical and a force for good.  There are too many benefits of negotiation to name here but some important ones include:

  • Resolving conflicts peacefully
  • Producing “win-wins” that benefit both sides
  • Helping to build better relationships
  • Empowering people to be their best selves (yes, really)

Empey: The course is called negotiation skills for a reason.  These are not talents that you are just born with, and negotiating is not something you just “wing.”  These are skills that can be learned. It is a process. It requires preparation and practice.  Accordingly, the negotiation simulations are the most important part of the class and count for the biggest part of your grade.

Can you share potential career outcomes for students interested in your course’s area of law? 

Lourie: The skills we learn in my course will help students regardless of which career they enter – good negotiation skills and strategic thinking are invaluable in any career.  We also study how to be better and more persuasive communicators, a hugely valuable skill.

Empey: Being a better negotiator will help you in virtually any career.

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