Should you go for debating in your first year of law school?

In Present
July 13, 2021

Let’s start out by clearly setting the parameters in which this article is written. I will first explain what parliamentary debating is, how it works and why you should definitely try it in your first year.

Parliamentary debates are very different from what you’ve already experienced, that is, high school debates. You’re probably used to weeks of preparation for a 5-minute speech.

Parliamentary debates are far more demanding and, in return, much more fun.

In British Parliamentary debates (BPs), you get 15 minutes to make a 7-minute speech in a two-person team. In Asian Parliamentary debates (APs), you get 25 minutes to make a 7-minute speech in a three-person team. Every speaker has a role that they have to fulfil. If you make a convincing case and fulfil your role and override every other argument, you win. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?

You’re right; they are hard. In fact, you’re probably going to be very bad in the beginning. I made a 3-minute speech in an orientation session and started making jokes because my own notes confused me. That’s usually a massive turn-off for people, and they stop trying. I sincerely advise you not to quit debating without even giving it a fair shot.

I found it very hard at first to even fill 4 minutes in a speech, and now I almost always run out of time (that’s not a good thing, by the way). What I’m saying is, keep going. It gets easier, and you get better as you practice.

Understand that Parliamentary debating is a sport, and it takes time to get used to the rules of the game. If I throw a football at your feet, I can’t expect you to win against anyone who’s been practicing for years, right?

Parliamentary debates are demanding because they ask a lot from a person to be consistently good. In return, you will get stock arguments, a complete understanding of the rules, and an ability to think on your feet. You also require the very rare skill of not getting flushed when someone is better than you.

Now, coming to the good part, what’s so fun about Parliamentary debates?

I was a first-year law student myself, and I broke in the semi-finals of a BP debate. It was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had (God, that’s sad).

The rush of excitement when you’re in a good room or when you know you’re going to win or when you’re going to make an impossible argument is unparalleled to anything I’ve experienced in an online first year of law school.

winning a debate pinterest

These debates have an informal setting. So, no frigid judges, and swearing and yelling are basically conventions. But don’t get carried away and make it something like ( this.

Essentially, you can call your opponents’ arguments’ bullshit at any point in your 7 minutes. It’s also okay if you stutter or take a pause. You’re not marked down for those things. You win or lose on the merits of your arguments alone.

The people who are really good at debating are usually very interesting and intelligent. When you argue with them, you don’t just learn more about, well, basically everything; you also learn how they think.

You learn to judge an argument on its merit alone, without bias, and also how to play the devil’s advocate.

As a first-year student, you’ll have a lot of free time. Other than mostly easy classes, and projects, there’s not really much to do. Unless, of course, you’re one of those people who are, somehow, always doing something.

Debating is a fun way to spend some of that time and to meet new intelligent people. I promise you that you’ll see a definitive change after your first competition.

Now, I’ve told you why college debating is challenging, demanding, and fun. I’ve also expressed my clear opinion that you should go for it in your first year. Even if you don’t make it to the panel, keep trying for competitions. It’s worth the effort.

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