To the most organized of people and to the most certain ones too, choosing your field of studies often poses a formidable challenge. At the very least it is unfair because who is to say that young adults with their ambitions in mind will ever be able to assess where they stand in life and how they want to proceed with it. It is even worse when left to the whims and fancies of society, which unabashedly pushes you to pursue the most lucrative of avenues, mainly dealing with the Sciences.
Driven by defiance and a rebellious spirit owing to my school life, I decided to opt for the only thing that promised avenues of free thought and expression more than any other stream, Law.
Admittedly, I have since reassessed my position on the truth of this belief especially in the context of the latest socio-political developments of our nation, but I think a lot of this still holds up and has helped in shaping the individual that I am today, for good or for worse.
I started off law school on an uncomfortable note with my English teacher just insulting North Indians as a whole. To say the least, it was concerning, but in the long list of atrocious stuff that most colleges and administrations tend to do, and students who don’t enjoy any social, gender or economic privilege have to go through, that’s probably a minor blip. Sadly, it doesn’t get easier for most people.
Fortunately, I found my respite in the numerous fantastic people I met, the various co-curricular activities I did and the various committees I was a part of.
One of the major influences in college was Parliamentary Debating. For someone who was basically a stranger to public speaking, the scariest activity that one could take up was probably Parliamentary Debating. I was shocked when I found out that you only had fifteen minutes to prepare on a motion and then deliver in seven minutes, I ran and kept running for a good two years before my more active peers insisted that I give this a try. When I didn’t try even after that, my very good friend Altamash dragged me to a debate practice one morning and I was hooked.
To be absolutely honest, when I started debating, our college was nothing but a minor debating society that had one huge tournament every year. Those that debate these days know GLC debating society to be a lot more different from that. There is a lot that went into reaching this place and I think that has pushed for the most interpersonal growth I have had as an individual.
Firstly, I think every law student needs a certain degree of control over their speaking skills. It’s crucial not just to say something, but ensure others understand the same. This applies to activities such as Moots, MUNs, etc, but is probably the most relevant in debates, because you are not tested based on how well you say something or how good your research is.
At the end of the day, all that matters is whether you were convincing or not.
The direct confrontational form of argumentation within debates allows people to engage and help them hone this one specific skill more than anything else. In order to win a debate, you need to convince a judge who you assume is at best an average rational human being and nothing more.
Communication is key for all lawyers, and we often tend to forget to communicate what we are saying when we argue something. We are specifically taught an A.R.E. (assertion reasoning example) format to not just deliver speeches but also think and formulate thoughts.
Debates force you in a position where you win not based on how much you know but simply based on how you are able to communicate this to this one judge, and that’s a skill that will come in handy even in a courtroom or when meeting clients.
Secondly, I think debates helped me expand my perspective on things. This has many manifestations. The most crucial bits have been about opening my mind up to engage with a lot of ideas that I previously was just unaware of. You get to understand how gendered a lot of experiences are. You get to understand the varied lived experiences that people have. You become more aware of global events and their long-standing consequences.
You also go on to question the morality behind actions and this, in turn, allows you to assess things that affect you socio-economically in a lot more prudent and rational way, be it a policy enacted by the State, or just basic political theories pertaining to your syllabus.
Thirdly, debates helped me with other activities, especially Moots.
More often than not you will find yourself in a position where you are thrown off by questions asked by Judges of such moots. I think the confrontational nature of debating helped me cover up and recover when I ended up in these places.
The impact of this is often as small as a quick response to the Judge, but it is also long term, where you get a lot more comfortable with moot rooms and with cross-questioning.
Lastly, I think debating is a lot of fun and necessary fun at that.
I think law school can often get monotonous and drab. In a rush to build your CV and having a good time, we often tend to make tradeoffs. Debates offer a sweet spot where you not only get to hone your skills to levels that are only fathomable by you while adding to your CV, but you also get to enjoy and compete and engage with people who come from diverse places and fields. I think my biggest win is the place that I now leave my debating society at. It is not the best in the world, but it is one of the strongest in recent times, and that is all due to the immense hard work on my end and my college mates.
Debating being a major part of college was by no accord the most important or the only part. I think a lot of people truly find their place in college and also in their careers because of the various committees that they work with.
I have worked with the MUN society, The Placement Cell and the Students’ Council and that has had major contributions in terms of the relations and the contacts I made through college. This is also a really good test of your ability to work within a larger organization and as part of a team, which I believe is an invaluable experience.
In addition, there were two things specifically that helped me a lot with my CV.
Firstly, the numerous internship opportunities I got, something my college takes a lot of pride in (ZERO attendance, wink wink), and the papers I submitted. I have found these to be the most crucial part of one’s CV and to those that attend law school with the simple aim of getting a job later on, which of course is very noble, these are the two most important things.
I think law as a space might not be entirely egalitarian, and a lot of people might find it to be gate-kept and inaccessible, but it is also a space that rewards intellect and thought. Papers, moots and internships are all completely legit ways to present yourself as such, but I don’t think any other avenue provides you with the means to do that, just quite like debating does.
For me, college is almost over, and as we all navigate the real world with jobs or LLMs as the case may be, I think it is these activities I engaged in that helped me navigate law school the most. Having won a couple of tournaments, having lost many debate finals and a few moot finals, almost flunking after being ranked top in India in the entrance, I can say that this was a slightly disheartening, slightly difficult journey, but mostly it was the best time one could ask for.