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  1. I get asked that question a lot by a variety of people — debaters and civilians alike — and the truth is, no one can answer that question for you but you. But (there’s always a “but” isn’t there) there is probably a lot more involved in answering that question than you probably think. But before we get into the nitty gritty who the hell am I and why am I at all qualified to counsel you on your future career. Well, I am a lawyer by trade, after my own debate career I went to Columbia Law School and proceed to work at a top law firm for a number of years (what we refer to as “Biglaw” in the industry) all the while continuing to coach college policy debate (first at NYU, now and for the last 13 years at USMA). Now I’m a Senior Editor at Above the Law (“ATL”) the most widely read legal industry blog. Working at ATL allows me to turn a critical eye to the legal industry and legal education and come up with some pretty definite opinions on the subject. So, should you go to law school? Well, the first question is really, “do you want to be a lawyer?” Maybe that sounds silly or rudimentary, but a surprising number of law school applicants don’t want to be lawyers or, perhaps more accurately, have no idea what it’s like to be a lawyer. See, a lot of people (myself included) go to law school because it seems like the thing to do. Perhaps you've considered and rejected an academic career, but you’re otherwise pretty smart, and law school seems like an easy way to jumpstart a career. Or you’ve taken and done pretty well on the LSAT and so it seems like the next logical step. Or your family has always presumed that your argumentative penchant means you’re destined for a career in the law. All of those are… not great reasons to go to law school. So ask around (there are a ton of debate alumni that made their way to law school) and see if actually practicing law is something that you’re interested in before you go any further. And ask a lot of different sources because the work a litigation partner at a top firm does is different than working at a small firm in trusts and estates, which is different than working in-house at a hedge fund advising on deal. Also, to be honest, a lot — and I mean a lot — of lawyers are quite miserable. Substance abuse and depression are much higher in lawyers than other professions. For a lot of law firm attorneys, the long hours (we are talking a minimum of 2000 billed hours a year — note billed hours are a subset of total hours worked), high pressure, and terrible personalities are a recipe for disaster. Next, you need to consider if law school makes sense for you financially. That’s obviously a very fact-specific inquiry, and I mean if you or your family are fabulously wealthy, then what the hell, go to law school, but law school is a giant financial investment that can/has ruined lives. You need to carefully think about a number of factors to see if it makes sense for you and I’ll try to give you a few guidelines to think about. Law school is expensive — like, very expensive — and most law schools don’t give out a ton of financial aid. So you need to weigh the debt load you can expect to take on by going to law school compared with your expected salary when you graduate. (Law School Transparency has some great school by school breakdowns on the debt load of graduates and employment rates that you should definitely be looking at before you make a down payment on tuition.) People often, mistakenly, think a JD is a ticket to instant wealth. And there’s a reason for that — starting salaries at an elite law firm (AmLaw 100 level) are an eye popping $190,000, plus yearly lockstep bonuses. That’s a stupid amount of money for a 25 year old with no work experience to be pulling down — but not everyone is making that much money. Let me acquaint you with the bimodal salary curve. As you can see, a very small percentage of law school applicants are going to be making the really big money. The average starting salary for recent graduates is about $70,000. That’s nothing to sneeze at but it doesn’t go all that far when you’re servicing $200k in student debt. Be honest with yourself about the job opportunities you have for the law schools you can realistically get into. The legal profession is very elitist (as if the Kavanaugh hearings weren’t enough evidence of this fact) and you will not have the same opportunities as a graduate from every institution. Elite firms don’t go to on-campus recruiting at mediocre law schools, public interest opportunities are just as, if not more, competitive as Biglaw ones, being a federal law clerk is one of the most sought after markers of prestige and those jobs are determines based solely on your grades your first year (if not first semester) and the name of your law school. Here are the basics of what you need to know: the number one factor that determines what law schools you get into is your LSAT score — winning the NDT might have been cool, but if you can’t get over a 170 on that test, Harvard is probably out of your reach (Yes, a growing number of law schools accept the GRE in lieu of the LSAT but it is a very new program and no one is exactly sure where the cut offs for GRE scores will be); the top 14 law schools as defined by US News & World Report (referred to as the T14 ) are a tier unto themselves; some schools have good employment statistics but only for a particular region of the country (for example I wouldn't go to University of Iowa unless I wanted to work in the midwest); for-profit law schools are absolute trash more concerned with raking in tuition dollars than educating lawyers; and, relatedly, look at the bar passage rates, you cannot get a job as a lawyer if you cannot pass the bar exam. Obviously these factors are a bit of a sliding scale — should you go to a Tier 1 (but not T14 law school) with a full ride over Yale Law School with no financial aid if you want to practice in Biglaw? What about a solid regional school with $10k of aid versus school on the bottom half of the T14 if you dream of public interest work? You should check out The Decision series on ATL or the podcast Thinking Like A Lawyer for examples of how other industry pros answer these tough questions. So should you go to law school? I don’t know. But here’s what I know: a lot fewer people than want to go to law school should go to law school, I am way happier being a non-practicing attorney than a practicing attorney, and I am still paying off my law school loans. Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, policy debate coach at the United States Military Academy, and former Cross Examination Debate Association President. Feel free to email her and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1). View full article
  2. I get asked that question a lot by a variety of people — debaters and civilians alike — and the truth is, no one can answer that question for you but you. But (there’s always a “but” isn’t there) there is probably a lot more involved in answering that question than you probably think. But before we get into the nitty gritty who the hell am I and why am I at all qualified to counsel you on your future career. Well, I am a lawyer by trade, after my own debate career I went to Columbia Law School and proceed to work at a top law firm for a number of years (what we refer to as “Biglaw” in the industry) all the while continuing to coach college policy debate (first at NYU, now and for the last 13 years at USMA). Now I’m a Senior Editor at Above the Law (“ATL”) the most widely read legal industry blog. Working at ATL allows me to turn a critical eye to the legal industry and legal education and come up with some pretty definite opinions on the subject. So, should you go to law school? Well, the first question is really, “do you want to be a lawyer?” Maybe that sounds silly or rudimentary, but a surprising number of law school applicants don’t want to be lawyers or, perhaps more accurately, have no idea what it’s like to be a lawyer. See, a lot of people (myself included) go to law school because it seems like the thing to do. Perhaps you've considered and rejected an academic career, but you’re otherwise pretty smart, and law school seems like an easy way to jumpstart a career. Or you’ve taken and done pretty well on the LSAT and so it seems like the next logical step. Or your family has always presumed that your argumentative penchant means you’re destined for a career in the law. All of those are… not great reasons to go to law school. So ask around (there are a ton of debate alumni that made their way to law school) and see if actually practicing law is something that you’re interested in before you go any further. And ask a lot of different sources because the work a litigation partner at a top firm does is different than working at a small firm in trusts and estates, which is different than working in-house at a hedge fund advising on deal. Also, to be honest, a lot — and I mean a lot — of lawyers are quite miserable. Substance abuse and depression are much higher in lawyers than other professions. For a lot of law firm attorneys, the long hours (we are talking a minimum of 2000 billed hours a year — note billed hours are a subset of total hours worked), high pressure, and terrible personalities are a recipe for disaster. Next, you need to consider if law school makes sense for you financially. That’s obviously a very fact-specific inquiry, and I mean if you or your family are fabulously wealthy, then what the hell, go to law school, but law school is a giant financial investment that can/has ruined lives. You need to carefully think about a number of factors to see if it makes sense for you and I’ll try to give you a few guidelines to think about. Law school is expensive — like, very expensive — and most law schools don’t give out a ton of financial aid. So you need to weigh the debt load you can expect to take on by going to law school compared with your expected salary when you graduate. (Law School Transparency has some great school by school breakdowns on the debt load of graduates and employment rates that you should definitely be looking at before you make a down payment on tuition.) People often, mistakenly, think a JD is a ticket to instant wealth. And there’s a reason for that — starting salaries at an elite law firm (AmLaw 100 level) are an eye popping $190,000, plus yearly lockstep bonuses. That’s a stupid amount of money for a 25 year old with no work experience to be pulling down — but not everyone is making that much money. Let me acquaint you with the bimodal salary curve. As you can see, a very small percentage of law school applicants are going to be making the really big money. The average starting salary for recent graduates is about $70,000. That’s nothing to sneeze at but it doesn’t go all that far when you’re servicing $200k in student debt. Be honest with yourself about the job opportunities you have for the law schools you can realistically get into. The legal profession is very elitist (as if the Kavanaugh hearings weren’t enough evidence of this fact) and you will not have the same opportunities as a graduate from every institution. Elite firms don’t go to on-campus recruiting at mediocre law schools, public interest opportunities are just as, if not more, competitive as Biglaw ones, being a federal law clerk is one of the most sought after markers of prestige and those jobs are determines based solely on your grades your first year (if not first semester) and the name of your law school. Here are the basics of what you need to know: the number one factor that determines what law schools you get into is your LSAT score — winning the NDT might have been cool, but if you can’t get over a 170 on that test, Harvard is probably out of your reach (Yes, a growing number of law schools accept the GRE in lieu of the LSAT but it is a very new program and no one is exactly sure where the cut offs for GRE scores will be); the top 14 law schools as defined by US News & World Report (referred to as the T14 ) are a tier unto themselves; some schools have good employment statistics but only for a particular region of the country (for example I wouldn't go to University of Iowa unless I wanted to work in the midwest); for-profit law schools are absolute trash more concerned with raking in tuition dollars than educating lawyers; and, relatedly, look at the bar passage rates, you cannot get a job as a lawyer if you cannot pass the bar exam. Obviously these factors are a bit of a sliding scale — should you go to a Tier 1 (but not T14 law school) with a full ride over Yale Law School with no financial aid if you want to practice in Biglaw? What about a solid regional school with $10k of aid versus school on the bottom half of the T14 if you dream of public interest work? You should check out The Decision series on ATL or the podcast Thinking Like A Lawyer for examples of how other industry pros answer these tough questions. So should you go to law school? I don’t know. But here’s what I know: a lot fewer people than want to go to law school should go to law school, I am way happier being a non-practicing attorney than a practicing attorney, and I am still paying off my law school loans. Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, policy debate coach at the United States Military Academy, and former Cross Examination Debate Association President. Feel free to email her and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).
  3. 2AR extends theory - is there ever an instance where you could see yourself voting aff on theory? Can/should a full-blown theory 2AR result in an aff ballot? The general consensus is that condo is the only reason to reject the neg, are there others? Discuss.
  4. We are excited to present Policydb8.com to the broader Policy Debate community, but particularly to the high school community. We see this as an excellent opportunity for the community to center itself on a platform that is designed to increase engagement between high school and collegiate debate, and aims to continually innovate and adapt to the changing nature of technology and debate. Our most significant feature for high school debaters is group video chat. This chat feature, supplementing forums, enables online practice debates (or real tournaments) among your peers that can be judged remotely by an experienced coach or collegiate debater. This is ideal for schools who are geographically isolated or smaller squads that want to engage in scrimmages. For debaters who appreciate collaboration, Policydb8’s clubs can be used as a free, private sub-forum to organize their school’s squad or they can use them to organize virtual squads or working groups. We offer an online discussion platform solely for debate. While this is not particularly a new concept, the level of interaction we aim to promote between these two levels of the activity is what makes this forum stand out. One thing that is lacking for many high school debaters is networking and context within the college debate community. Typically, high school debaters who have college connections are fortunate enough to have college coaching or get judged by a geographically nearby college team. Camps are also a variable to attempt to equalize this, but they are limited in their own regards, and oftentimes do not build up ongoing relationships. The coaching directory and clubs feature allows for easy online coaching services. You can easily find someone offering coaching either remote or in person, see a description of the level of commitment they are offering, ask them basic questions, and subscribe to their coaching with little hassle. Ongoing manual payments are not necessary; Policydb8 has an automated structured payments for coaching services. Policydb8’s clubs and chat features allow for online camps to be easily established. College debaters, college coaches, or high school coaches who apply for permission to create them can easily start a new camp structured to operate remotely. This has a huge advantage for debaters who a) may be concerned about dedicating a chunk of their summer to traveling to a camp and b) debaters who are concerned about the cost of going to a camp. We aim to allow for an array of different camp options between seasons to increase the general accessibility of debate as an activity. We also foresee these features being used for lectures/seminars. This is ideal for debaters who may be interested in a particular topic but do not want to invest in full coaching services. Lastly is the Policydb8 file store. This will be a place for individuals out of high school debate to sell their files, whether new and topic specific or their old round-winners. We see the sale of files as a positive in many respects. In respect to the high school community, it is an equalizing force for smaller schools. Both Chris and I are active college coaches and former debate forum users, thus we have a personal interest in and relationship to the concept of a debate discussion forum. We see a lot of potential for new ways of doing debate and have embedded the beginnings of those ideas into Policydb8. We recognize that creating an online debate community is a responsibility that necessitates dedication. We have no interest in abrogating that responsibility, and hope to host the new center of Policy Debate community discourse.
  5. We are excited to present Policydb8.com to the broader Policy Debate community, but particularly to the high school community. We see this as an excellent opportunity for the community to center itself on a platform that is designed to increase engagement between high school and collegiate debate, and aims to continually innovate and adapt to the changing nature of technology and debate. Our most significant feature for high school debaters is group video chat. This chat feature, supplementing forums, enables online practice debates (or real tournaments) among your peers that can be judged remotely by an experienced coach or collegiate debater. This is ideal for schools who are geographically isolated or smaller squads that want to engage in scrimmages. For debaters who appreciate collaboration, Policydb8’s clubs can be used as a free, private sub-forum to organize their school’s squad or they can use them to organize virtual squads or working groups. We offer an online discussion platform solely for debate. While this is not particularly a new concept, the level of interaction we aim to promote between these two levels of the activity is what makes this forum stand out. One thing that is lacking for many high school debaters is networking and context within the college debate community. Typically, high school debaters who have college connections are fortunate enough to have college coaching or get judged by a geographically nearby college team. Camps are also a variable to attempt to equalize this, but they are limited in their own regards, and oftentimes do not build up ongoing relationships. The coaching directory and clubs feature allows for easy online coaching services. You can easily find someone offering coaching either remote or in person, see a description of the level of commitment they are offering, ask them basic questions, and subscribe to their coaching with little hassle. Ongoing manual payments are not necessary; Policydb8 has an automated structured payments for coaching services. Policydb8’s clubs and chat features allow for online camps to be easily established. College debaters, college coaches, or high school coaches who apply for permission to create them can easily start a new camp structured to operate remotely. This has a huge advantage for debaters who a) may be concerned about dedicating a chunk of their summer to traveling to a camp and b) debaters who are concerned about the cost of going to a camp. We aim to allow for an array of different camp options between seasons to increase the general accessibility of debate as an activity. We also foresee these features being used for lectures/seminars. This is ideal for debaters who may be interested in a particular topic but do not want to invest in full coaching services. Lastly is the Policydb8 file store. This will be a place for individuals out of high school debate to sell their files, whether new and topic specific or their old round-winners. We see the sale of files as a positive in many respects. In respect to the high school community, it is an equalizing force for smaller schools. Both Chris and I are active college coaches and former debate forum users, thus we have a personal interest in and relationship to the concept of a debate discussion forum. We see a lot of potential for new ways of doing debate and have embedded the beginnings of those ideas into Policydb8. We recognize that creating an online debate community is a responsibility that necessitates dedication. We have no interest in abrogating that responsibility, and hope to host the new center of Policy Debate community discourse. View full article
  6. Unlike past policy debate platforms, we believe it is fundamental to make Policydb8 a resource for both the college and high school communities. We understand that this can be a tough sell to the college debate community given the lack of seriousness that can be attached to past platforms. However, we think that Policydb8 can benefit college debate at the team, individual, and community levels. Policydb8 is beneficial for college teams Policydb8’s features create a new way to organize your team. Our free chat client enables the creation of group chats for live discussions, lectures, and practice speeches/debates through video conferencing, single-user broadcasting, and built-in screen sharing capabilities. The use of free clubs enables your team to have a private area on the website for organized discussions. Free clubs enable the creation different sub-forums, create a variety of topics for discussion, have a file upload area, and manage a team calendar. Users who create and run the club have moderator powers to organize and manage it. The ability to organize discussions this way has a massive benefit over email, which can be difficult to follow with its uneven pace of responses, and clients such as Slack or Discord, which are not conducive to deeper discussions with its live-chat format. High school perceptions of college teams are limited to a) nationally successful schools (who end up in livestreams), b) schools that run nationally renowned camps, and c) regional schools they get judging from. Policydb8 can benefit your college team by building relationships with high school debaters and creating awareness of your team: Activity in the forums and judging online practice debates makes high school debaters aware of individuals affiliated with different schools and their level of debate expertise. Activity in the forums also creates an opportunity for a much wider discussion on recruitment and benefits of debating for your school. Currently, these discussions are largely constrained to 1 on 1 email discussions in recruitment outreach. Having a place for ALL debaters who use the site to read and participate in these discussion builds awareness. Selling files creates a level of trust on the quality of file production and argumentation that high school debaters can expect from a coaching staff or upper-level debaters on your team. Running online camps (either solely or to supplement your brick and mortar camp) via paid clubs enables high school debaters to receive direct instruction and an introduction to the topic from your staff and debaters. This enables national awareness of and participation in your camp unconstrained by geography and travel costs. Running remote coaching services (from individuals, your broader coaching staff, your upper-level debaters) enable high schoolers to become more aware of how your team works, the kind of organization to expect from your coaching staff, the expertise of your coaching staff, and the personalities of your team. It also allows for a coaching staff to work with high school debaters they would like to recruit at a much earlier level. This expands recruitment for schools who are typically more regionally constrained to a national level. Policydb8 is beneficial for individuals at the college-level Our online platform has the potential for national awareness and the ability to sell your ability as a coach. There are a variety of ways that a college debater or coach can earn a side income or seek out new positions. The Debate Work Directory is a place for a) you to post your “debate resume” and b) schools or individuals to post listings seeking coaching. This can be beneficial whether you are seeking remote work or looking to relocate to coach in-person. Remote coaching via paid clubs enable college debaters or coaches to directly work with high school debaters on a remote platform that directly manages invoicing and recurring payments for you. You can define your level of involvement and you choose pricing to directly reflect that. Use of our clubs allows for you to work with a single school of debaters or with a variety of debaters from different schools who are all interested in working with you and collaborating with one another. Online camps via paid clubs gives a simple summer work opportunity for college debaters or coaches who didn’t get a camp job or want to supplement their summer work. Selling files allows you to make some extra cash off your old round-winning files, or you can dive in to work on developing high school topic-specific files and other original work. You can go beyond just posting a few files and brand yourself as a trustworthy file author who is worth repeat purchases. Policydb8 is beneficial to maintain a flourishing collegiate debate community Our online platform enables expanded recruitment for all colleges. The high school debaters with the most connections/are most pursued by colleges are typically nationally competitive. This overlooks many debaters with great potential who have not had the opportunity to compete at the national level. Policydb8’s scope enables finding and working with those debaters to improve their skills. This can make them more prepared for college debate and potentially improve the broader quality of their regional circuits. Most high school debaters lack context on college debate and do not have many meaningful interconnections with college debaters and coaches. Often, regional circuits can be under-served and/or be behind on contemporary debate theory and practices. This can create frustration and a desire to exit the activity simply because their skill level does not match up with their eligibility criteria. By creating a more accessible platform, Policydb8 stands to increase recruitment, participation, and retention in college debate by providing resources so more can reach the bar set for quality debaters. Creating connections with high school debaters can promote new debate teams. High school debaters are not always interested in attending a school with debate, even if they would be interested in debating. By building relationships with high school debaters, college coaches can follow where high school debaters want to go to school, can start discussions with school administrations earlier and help establish the framework for new programs. We believe in the potential that Policydb8 holds to revitalize this community and we will work to make it a resource that helps the Policy Debate community at all levels. View full article
  7. Unlike past policy debate platforms, we believe it is fundamental to make Policydb8 a resource for both the college and high school communities. We understand that this can be a tough sell to the college debate community given the lack of seriousness that can be attached to past platforms. However, we think that Policydb8 can benefit college debate at the team, individual, and community levels. Policydb8 is beneficial for college teams Policydb8’s features create a new way to organize your team. Our free chat client enables the creation of group chats for live discussions, lectures, and practice speeches/debates through video conferencing, single-user broadcasting, and built-in screen sharing capabilities. The use of free clubs enables your team to have a private area on the website for organized discussions. Free clubs enable the creation different sub-forums, create a variety of topics for discussion, have a file upload area, and manage a team calendar. Users who create and run the club have moderator powers to organize and manage it. The ability to organize discussions this way has a massive benefit over email, which can be difficult to follow with its uneven pace of responses, and clients such as Slack or Discord, which are not conducive to deeper discussions with its live-chat format. High school perceptions of college teams are limited to a) nationally successful schools (who end up in livestreams), b) schools that run nationally renowned camps, and c) regional schools they get judging from. Policydb8 can benefit your college team by building relationships with high school debaters and creating awareness of your team: Activity in the forums and judging online practice debates makes high school debaters aware of individuals affiliated with different schools and their level of debate expertise. Activity in the forums also creates an opportunity for a much wider discussion on recruitment and benefits of debating for your school. Currently, these discussions are largely constrained to 1 on 1 email discussions in recruitment outreach. Having a place for ALL debaters who use the site to read and participate in these discussion builds awareness. Selling files creates a level of trust on the quality of file production and argumentation that high school debaters can expect from a coaching staff or upper-level debaters on your team. Running online camps (either solely or to supplement your brick and mortar camp) via paid clubs enables high school debaters to receive direct instruction and an introduction to the topic from your staff and debaters. This enables national awareness of and participation in your camp unconstrained by geography and travel costs. Running remote coaching services (from individuals, your broader coaching staff, your upper-level debaters) enable high schoolers to become more aware of how your team works, the kind of organization to expect from your coaching staff, the expertise of your coaching staff, and the personalities of your team. It also allows for a coaching staff to work with high school debaters they would like to recruit at a much earlier level. This expands recruitment for schools who are typically more regionally constrained to a national level. Policydb8 is beneficial for individuals at the college-level Our online platform has the potential for national awareness and the ability to sell your ability as a coach. There are a variety of ways that a college debater or coach can earn a side income or seek out new positions. The Debate Work Directory is a place for a) you to post your “debate resume” and b) schools or individuals to post listings seeking coaching. This can be beneficial whether you are seeking remote work or looking to relocate to coach in-person. Remote coaching via paid clubs enable college debaters or coaches to directly work with high school debaters on a remote platform that directly manages invoicing and recurring payments for you. You can define your level of involvement and you choose pricing to directly reflect that. Use of our clubs allows for you to work with a single school of debaters or with a variety of debaters from different schools who are all interested in working with you and collaborating with one another. Online camps via paid clubs gives a simple summer work opportunity for college debaters or coaches who didn’t get a camp job or want to supplement their summer work. Selling files allows you to make some extra cash off your old round-winning files, or you can dive in to work on developing high school topic-specific files and other original work. You can go beyond just posting a few files and brand yourself as a trustworthy file author who is worth repeat purchases. Policydb8 is beneficial to maintain a flourishing collegiate debate community Our online platform enables expanded recruitment for all colleges. The high school debaters with the most connections/are most pursued by colleges are typically nationally competitive. This overlooks many debaters with great potential who have not had the opportunity to compete at the national level. Policydb8’s scope enables finding and working with those debaters to improve their skills. This can make them more prepared for college debate and potentially improve the broader quality of their regional circuits. Most high school debaters lack context on college debate and do not have many meaningful interconnections with college debaters and coaches. Often, regional circuits can be under-served and/or be behind on contemporary debate theory and practices. This can create frustration and a desire to exit the activity simply because their skill level does not match up with their eligibility criteria. By creating a more accessible platform, Policydb8 stands to increase recruitment, participation, and retention in college debate by providing resources so more can reach the bar set for quality debaters. Creating connections with high school debaters can promote new debate teams. High school debaters are not always interested in attending a school with debate, even if they would be interested in debating. By building relationships with high school debaters, college coaches can follow where high school debaters want to go to school, can start discussions with school administrations earlier and help establish the framework for new programs. We believe in the potential that Policydb8 holds to revitalize this community and we will work to make it a resource that helps the Policy Debate community at all levels.
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