Baylor Law Announces the Winners of The Closer 2024 Transactional Law Competition

January 23, 2024

Between January 11 and 14, Baylor Law welcomed students representing fourteen premier transactional law programs nationwide to Waco as they vied for top honors in the eighth annual edition of the country’s most rigorous transactional law competition.

Now in its eighth consecutive year, The Closer Transactional Law Competition, organized by Baylor Law, is an innovative, invitation-only transactional law competition showcasing the best and brightest law students from institutions committed to excellence in practical transactional law training. Clark Barlowe of the University of Oregon School of Law and Kevin Escalona of the University of Tennessee College of Law emerged victorious in this year’s intense competition. The runners-up were Matthew Decker of Charleston College of Law and Hayden Park of the University of Mississippi School of Law. At the conclusion of the four preliminary rounds, the Professionalism Award was conferred on eventual runner-up Mathew Decker based on a secret ballot of the competitors.

The Closer presents a unique challenge, with competitors having only 24 hours to digest realistic client files. Unlike other competitions, each team consists of a lone member and coach. The competition forces participants to identify critical legal issues and negotiate solutions efficiently, mirroring the real-world pressures lawyers face. Winner Kevin Escalona noted that “what makes The Closer so phenomenal is also what makes it so challenging. There is this very real element of stress that you’re dealing with getting the fact pattern 24 hours before. So, it gives a very real-world perspective on practice.” He also praised the “care that the judges and the organizers have in truly developing competitors’ skills as transactional attorneys.”

At the heart of this year’s competition was a compelling scenario involving the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the total solar eclipse in April 2024. Each competitor was tasked with representing either Hotel 1928, one of Waco’s most popular new venues, or Neighborly, the world’s largest home services franchisor, in the negotiation of a fictional conference services and event agreement.

Hotel 1928 has become a favored destination in Waco, Texas, due to its significance as a historical landmark and the involvement of local celebrities Chip and Joanna Gaines. The Hotel’s renovation was featured in a series of “Fixer Upper” episodes on Magnolia Network, further elevating its profile. With thirty-three guest rooms, two restaurants, a coffee shop, and a ballroom, the Hotel is set to capitalize on the influx of visitors during the solar eclipse, especially at its prime rooftop bar space.

In the competition scenario, Neighborly plans to host a conference for its top-performing franchisees during the Eclipse weekend. Headquartered in Waco, Neighborly seeks to book Hotel 1928 as the conference venue to offer its franchisees a unique opportunity to view the eclipse in Waco, which is ideally situated in the path of totality.

The proposed transaction between Hotel 1928 and Neighborly involves hosting the conference as well as a joint public event on April 7, the day before the eclipse. Both parties, deeply rooted in Waco, are eager to support each other’s businesses and capitalize on the eclipse’s significance.

With the eclipse date fast approaching, the collaborative efforts of Hotel 1928 and Neighborly, as highlighted in The Closer, underscore the dynamic and far-ranging nature of transactional law. The competition is a testament to Baylor Law’s commitment to shaping future lawyers who excel in real-world legal challenges.

Professor of Law Beth Miller, the M. Stephen and Alyce A. Beard Chair in Business and Transactional Law, and the visionary behind The Closer shared her thoughts: “It has been an honor for us to host The Closer for the past eight years for students who are passionate about transactional law, offering a unique opportunity to develop and demonstrate their transactional lawyering skills in the context of  real-world, practical scenarios.”

Winner Clark Barlowe summed up the success of The Closer by sharing that “the Baylor team put on an absolutely stellar event from start to finish. The judges [practicing lawyers] were all as knowledgeable as you would expect from transactional lawyers in this area. I’ve done oral argument events, and I can say that this is absolutely my favorite event that I’ve been a part of and one that I will be telling everyone about.”

For more information about The Closer and Baylor Law, please visit



The Closer 2024 Final Round

The Closer 2024 - Final Round

Closer 2024 Sponsors


  • The Kim and Bill Shaddock Fund for Business and Entrepreneurial Initiatives at Baylor Law



  • Hotel 1928
  • Neighborly
  • The more than 40 transactional attorneys who volunteered their time as competition judges
  • Baylor Law faculty, staff, and students who contributed their time and talents to make The Closer a success.


The fourteen schools and students participating in The Closer 2024 were:

  • Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School – Jenner Berryhill
  • Charleston School of Law – Matthew Decker
  • Emory University School of Law – Morgan Lawson
  • Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Zenas Shi
  • Ohio State University Moritz College of Law – Alexandra Goss
  • Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law – Ryan Shellooe
  • University of Denver Sturm College of Law – John Siragusa
  • University of Houston Law Center – Christopher Cabrera
  • University of Kansas School of Law – Abbey Brower
  • University of Mississippi School of Law - Hayden Park
  • University of Missouri - Kansas City Law School – Matthew Rhoads
  • University of Oregon School of Law – Clark Barlowe
  • University of San Diego School of Law – Samantha Casey
  • University of Tennessee College of Law - Kevin Escalona


  • E. Steve Bolden – Locke Lord
  • Janice Davis – Morgan Lewis
  • Ashley Jackson – Waco Ventures
  • Colton Nixon – Neighborly
  • Pat Souter – Gray Reed


  • Patrick Bell – Potter Minton
  • Lotte Bostick – Baylor University Hankamer School of Business
  • Tanner Brennan – Winstead PC
  • Miranda Chavez – Boulware & Valoir
  • Blake Crowley – Goldman Sachs
  • Miles Emery – Kane Russell Coleman Logan PC
  • David Eskew – Office of the Texas Secretary of State
  • Zoë Fedde – Merritt Law
  • Darby Strickland Fries – Winstead PC
  • Katie Gourley – BakerHostetler
  • Tom Harris – Haynes Boone
  • JP Haskins – Greenberg Traurig, LLP
  • Melinda Hedrick – Beard, Kultgen, Brophy, Bostwick & Dickson, PLLC
  • James Howard – Naman, Howell, Smith & Lee PLLC
  • Tristan Kaisharis – Winstead PC
  • Lee Keeling – Walker Keeling LLP
  • John Laughlin – Winstead PC
  • Reid McKinney – Sidley Austin LLP
  • Katherine Medler – Latham & Watkins LLP
  • Allen Page – Baylor Law
  • Kush Patel – Kush.Law
  • Sam Reid – The Reid Firm, PC
  • Steve Reid – The Reid Firm, PC
  • Michael Sanchez – Law Office of Michael A. Sanchez, PLLC
  • Jessica Schwartz – Jackson Walker
  • Juli Stibbe Simoneaux – Ferrovial Construction Texas, LLC
  • Mike Smith – Baylor Law
  • Tara Smith – Winstead PC
  • Danielle Snow – DLA Piper
  • Leah Teague – Baylor Law
  • Ian Todd – Sneed Vine
  • Scott Wallace – Holland & Knight
  • Wayne Whitaker – Whitaker Chalk
  • Bobbi Worbington – Kirkland & Ellis LLP
  • Hull Youngblood – Sankofa Development Group, LLC

The Closer 2024 - Case File Introduction

The Closer 2024 - Case Introduction Video