Atty. Rami Hourani
The difference between extra-curriculurs while in taking an undergraduate degree and in law school is stark. In college, there are many different student organizations catering to a diverse set of interests. In law school, due to the heavy load, there are going to be less options and all of them have to do with the law.
There are two things that exist in varying degrees of prestige in essentially all law schools. These are the law journal and the moot/debate societies. My experience is contained entirely to the latter two.
For the uninitiated, moot, which is short for moot court competitions, is a simulation of a proceeding before an actual court. They can be on domestic law or international law. They can be intra-school or inter-school but thay all have one thing in common. It often involves a respectable number of all nighters over a long period of time. They are a lot of work if done right. The kind of communication that is taught here is generally of the formal variety.
Debate is not by nature very different from mooting. Debate is more ad hoc and typically takes place over a day or two. If the law school keeps a debating team it will probably meet regularly to practice on up-to-date and relevant issues. It’s comparatively less demanding than a moot court competition but can be more intimidating because communication is more tense and direct with an emphasis on flair.
The Verdict of Most
Bringing yourself to do moot/debate, or any extracurricular for that matter, can be a tough sell. Frankly, law school is stressful enough and many people can’t be bothered to argue in their free time. You’re already budgeting at least 1/3rd of more of your waking hours to class and keeping up with readings. Students can’t be blamed for concluding that the extra-effort is not worth it. There are a few areas though where this experience does pay dividends in your professional life and here I’ll elaborate a few of them.
There are a few things you get out of moot/debate in law school. These are a few of them.
Comfort in Conflict
As a young lawyer, it can be stressful to insert yourself into tense situations at the beginning of your practice. You don’t yet have the thick skin that you need to be able to walk into a room full of people that hate each other and be unbothered. Manufacturing that situation in law school through Moot or Debate will never live up to the real thing but simulating it can give you an idea at least.
There is an old adage in the law practice. If your case is strong in the law, pound on the law. If your case is strong in the facts, pound on the facts. If your case is not strong in the law or the facts, pound on the table. Debating is practicing just that, the pounding. There are thousands of ways to articulate the same argument. There are only a handful of ways to do it in a way that really tears at the heart of your opponent’s case. Moot and Debate can teach you that.
Speed of Analysis
In Moot and Debate, you have to respond on the spot. This may seem a bit trite. However, as a skill, it is one of the most useful for a lawyer. You don’t just handle one case to its conclusion. You handle multiple cases all running at the same time. This means you must re-apply yourself to each controversy as the reglementary periods of each dictate. This means deciding and calling back into mind the most important aspects of each of your cases. Veteran lawyers always remark of young lawyers that we are too much like judges in mindset. We are inflexible and unthinking in the way we apply the law. Moot and Debate are the ways through which we can practice wielding the law as opposed to merely knowing it.
If you are a law student for whom anything said here might want engender a question in. Don’t hesitate to drop me an email. I promised myself that I would be as helpful as possible to anyone who is persevering through law school.
Atty. Hourani practices law in Cebu City, Philippines. If you would like to set an appointment with him, you may reach him here.