Law in Contemporary Society

Why are 73% of people afraid of public speaking?

-- By GhaliaAamer - 22 Apr 2024

So what if you mess up.

It seemed odd to me that the first week of law school orientation was largely spent on preparing students for cold calls. Years of schooling had accustomed these adult law students to be afraid of messing up during a few minutes of talking - and to think that the mess up actually matters when their grade only involves one final paper at the end. While the cold calling system and the grading system are two additional conversations about the broken education system, what strikes me most is the number of people who enter the field of law, let alone all other fields, still being afraid of using their most powerful tool - their voice.

In fact, more people are afraid of public speaking than death, spiders, or height (,or%20negative%20evaluation%20by%20others.).

Teaching Speech and Debate to Counter the Problem

When students are not taught the skills to effectively communicate at a young age, they go on to struggle to articulate themselves clearly in university applications, job interviews, and other opportunities ( This means that those who do get access to public speaking or debate programs end up ahead of those who do not.

The inequalities resulting from the access to speech and debate programs are seen far and wide. For example, students who have experience with public speaking and debate are more likely to get into Ivy League programs and other elite universities. Likewise, according to the Urban Debate League, debaters have as much as a 40% higher graduation rate than non-debaters (

The issues do not stop with post-secondary education. As we go into the workforce, there are numerous statistics to portray the benefits of public speaking and in parallel, the inequities that exist for those inexperienced with communication. For instance, those who have public speaking experience are 15% more likely to get promotions and have 10% higher wages than non-public speakers. The skills that students participating in speech and debate learn include negotiation, communication, teamwork, and critical thinking. These skills translate into the workforce as oral communication is the top skill that employers are looking for (GMAC Research Team, 2020). Furthermore, 81% of corporate recruiters identify interpersonal skills as important, and 73.4% of employers want a candidate with strong written skills (GMAC Research Team, 2020). This means that the students who get access to speech and debate programs by attending private schools at a young age are advantaged not only in universities and scholarships but also as they go on in the workforce. The current options that exist for students to learn public speaking and debate are either integrated somehow within the curriculum inadequately or are available to only select groups of people.

Can the government help?

While it may seem like a simple solution for the government to simply implement public speaking and debate skills within the curriculum, many school boards have tried and failed. For example, the Alberta, Canada curriculum claims to address skills like communication, critical thinking, and rebuttals within its social studies courses; however, the majority of students are still graduating high school without the ability to communicate well. A key reason for the lack of effectiveness is that speech and debate skills, like any other skill such as music, cannot be developed with snippets of exposure throughout an academic journey. Instead, students need to be consistently provided with the opportunity to practice these skills and get feedback from experienced mentors. The public sector could perhaps do better by supporting extracurricular speech and debate programs or mandating them as a course within schools; however, this costs money, takes a lot of time, and the public sector has many bureaucratic processes in place that make such change difficult. Curriculum or policy changes through the government can take upwards of a decade if they are ever implemented (

What about private companies?

In the private sector, there are elite debate academies that charge thousands of dollars per year to give students access to experienced debate coaching ( Many of these institutions are regional focused and cater to select groups of competitive students. As a result, they advance inequity by providing opportunities to only the upper class. There are also some nonprofit organizations like Toastmasters that attempt to help students build public speaking and debate skills in an affordable manner but struggle to do it successfully because they lack the resources to grow their organization. Without a scalable business model, these nonprofits are unable to reach many students. Even worse, while students in countries like Canada and the United States will sometimes get a certain level of speech or debate opportunities, those who are in developing countries have very little opportunity to build these skills.

Why Law Firms Matter

Law firms are key actors that can make a major difference in this arena. As organizations that generate massive amounts of revenue and maintain involvement with public and private entities, they can play a major role in leading the way to expanding debate programs across the country. In Houston, some of them are on the right track. The Houston Urban Debate League transformed the city’s debate community by supporting thirty public schools in running their programs ( Law firm attorneys serve on their board and law firms take part through fundraising and volunteering. By dedicating time and resources, law firms can shape the future of the legal profession. Investing in a twelve-year-old's access to debate may not yield immediate returns, but you never know - that young debater could grow into a law school graduate with exceptional communication skills, ready to bring fresh talent and insight back to the firm.

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r3 - 30 May 2024 - 03:37:58 - GhaliaAamer
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