Image: Harsh Jain (second from right) and the winning team of the Pircher, Nichols & Meeks Joint Venture Challenge.
College of Environmental Design graduate student Harsh Jain (MRED+D ‘19) was part of a team of four UC Berkeley students who won the Pircher, Nichols & Meeks Joint Venture Challenge, an interdisciplinary real estate competition between Berkeley Law, Berkeley Haas, and CED student teams.
In early April, students were placed in teams up to negotiate a simulated real estate deal prepared by real estate law firm Pircher, Nichols & Meeks. Given only one full day, teams first attended a one-hour overview presentation on real estate joint ventures and then participated in a two-hour coaching session with a lawyer coach. After that, they were required to work together to negotiate issues against opposing teams in front of a panel of expert judges.
“It was nice because I realized that everything we learned [in our MRED+D classes] actually happens in real-life scenarios,” Jain said. “For instance, there were negotiation books that were assigned to us in the professional practice classes, and those books actually helped me quite a bit with this competition.”
The eight total teams were divided in half -- four tackling the role of general partners and the other four as limited partners -- and tasked to come up with the best solution for a joint venture between the two parties. Jain was in charge of making capital calls, or the act of collecting funds from limited partners. “What happens in case there are cost overruns? What happens in case we default on the money we promised? My job was making those calls and answering those questions,” he explained.
“When we initially met in small groups with the lawyers, we had to put forward all our ideas. The coaches were helping us understand whether or not what we were arguing was correct,” Jain said. “Instead of offering advice, the coaches waited for us to put forward points and then would affirm them or not. The coaching session was fun because we got to understand everyone’s topics better.”
Jain’s team -- which was composed entirely of Law and Haas students -- ultimately prevailed as the winner of the competition by the day’s end. For Jain, the most rewarding part of the day was receiving feedback from the judges after the contest was won.
“One of the judges actually came up to me and asked if I was from the law or business school because I was speaking to both areas,” Jain explained. “I think that was absolutely because of the MRED+D program. They teach us topics from both law and business in order for us to make those broad links.”
Jain, who graduates this spring, was a practicing architect in his home country of India before attending UC Berkeley, “so I didn't know anything about American laws,” he said. However, he feels equally prepared to return home after graduation to dive headfirst into real estate development because of MRED+D emphasis on teaching the reason and intent behind laws, which he feels are universally understood.
“MRED+D has a very nice blend between the business, design and law aspects of real estate,” Jain explained. “In addition, this program specifically emphasizes design: It’s not just about reading the balance sheets, but also understanding what space and buildings should feel like. No other program I know of has this kind of a blend.”