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April 7, 2010

Detuning the Debaters

Yesterday, I participated in a debate with several students at another law school, co-sponsored by the Federalist Society and the NAACP.  The students were stunningly talented, and I learned something from each one.  It was a wonderfully wise, fair, civil, and compelling discussion.  Still, I noticed something there that I have also seen among some of my top students at Baylor:  The training some students have received in college debate competitions inculcated a style which favors bursts of facts over more deliberative forms of rhetoric and creation of a narrative.

Debate is seen as a good precursor to law school, but many of us who teach advocacy often find ourselves having to spend significant time un-training our most talented students in order to cure problems they were affirmatively taught through high school and college debate.  I can see how there might be merit to the style of debate competition that has evolved (the rapid-fire recitation of facts is easy to score), but I hope this isn’t being promoted to college students as a legal skill. 

Certainly, this style would be troubling in trial before a jury, as it cuts against the development of a meaningful and whole story, which is at the core of the trial project.  It also is useless (or counter-productive, even) in client meetings and any sort of witness preparation.  Even in appellate argument, modern debate style bears little resemblance to what the best advocates do—instead of machine-gunning facts, top appellate lawyers listen closely to the judges and respond in a focused way to their concerns.  The best oral advocates actually appear laconic compared to frenetic high-school debaters, and their slower pace is both intentional and effective.

Should debate change, or should we simply stop seeing success at college debate as bearing a relationship to legal skills?

-- Mark Osler

April 7, 2010 | Permalink


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The trial is a competition of fictional Broadway productions. Fairy tales are spun devoid from any reality. The twelve strangers from the street use their gut feelings to detect the truth, after any with knowledge has been excluded. They are detecting likability and nothing else, and the sycophantic lawyer with the best production wins.

The trial itself is a lawless method taken from the disputation methodology of Scholasticism, their method of arriving at some answer. Today's trial has no more scientific validity than the midnight drunken student debates at some Parisian inn of 1275 AD.

Here is a list of other aspects of the trial that come from a church, and all violate the Establishment Clause.


The Latin, the robe, the bench, the superior position of the dumbass on the bench, his robes, the gavel, the church architecture, the pews, the structure of the trial, all church based and lawless in this secular nation.

One difference between debate and advocacy is the authoritative nature of the cult criminal's utterances. In advocacy, there is a gun involved. One is trying to force a result by using laws and decisions, all ultimately backed up by Army Airborne. The little caesar dumbass on the bench, ruining people's lives like a two year throwing things about a room, is backed by Army Airborne. Their weapons are the sole validation of anything the lawyer is doing today. The profession is in utter failure in every goal of every law subject, and the trial is Medieval garbage. It would be a joke to be laughed at, but for its mass criminality against humanity, and its devastating effect on our lawyer besieged nation.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 10, 2010 10:03:18 PM

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