June 01, 2015

Competitive Debate and the Development of Legal Reasoning

Hal Shimkoski
Editor's Note: The following article was written at my request by a college student who makes a cogent argument of how becoming proficient in debate can help by shaping your thinking analytically and organizing your thoughts for presentation to a court or otherwise. I am impressed by his skills and look forward to his continuing to use those skills in his future career, may it be as an attorney or otherwise.

In both high school and college, competitive debate is an activity for highly motivated and intelligent students. I will argue that many of the skills that students who are drawn to debate bring to the activity and later develop through competition and practice will help them succeed in law. Dedicated debaters grow to become persuasive speakers, analytical thinkers, and proficient researchers. Not only do debaters learn to write well-reasoned and persuasive arguments, but they also learn to love researching and writing. Debate work becomes a satisfying competitive outlet for a student’s creativity and intellect. Moreover, both debate and legal work involve applying relevant theory and precedent to the specific text of a codified law or resolution. Given the nature of competitive debate, law schools and firms should recognize that debaters are capable of and passionate about producing the type of work needed to be successful.

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