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At a time when political and social debate, whether in Washington, Raleigh, or on Facebook, can often devolve into shouting matches, it is as important as ever for our future leaders, teachers, students, businesspeople, entrepreneurs, and even (gasp!) lawyers to develop solid skills in the areas of speaking, debating, advocating, persuasion, and general social interaction. Too often we find ourselves, in this age of constant social connection, disagreeing with someone over something.

For some it’s a job. For some it’s just a way to pass the time. Many choose to ignore these conflicts, while many choose to engage.

Image / JudgesTools

For those who choose to engage, the ability to effectively formulate and verbalize a solid argument or position is vastly more advantageous than screaming, shouting, or insulting your opponent. You simply cannot make your point effectively when you take the low road. Admittedly, it helps to have someone on the other side of the argument with the same skill set. In fact, it can make the debate downright fun!

It was with this in mind that I found it so rewarding to participate as a volunteer judge last weekend at the North Carolina Advocates for Justice (NCAJ) High School Mock Trial Competition in High Point. On Saturday, Feb. 7, regional competitions took place at eight sites across the state for high school students who have taken an interest in the program.

In sponsoring these events, the NCAJ’s stated goal was “to educate North Carolina High School students about our system of justice and trial by jury by turning courtrooms into classrooms and connecting students with attorneys and judges in the hands-on learning laboratory of the courthouse.”

The events were not just for aspiring lawyers though. The ability to speak effectively in public to groups of people is important as we move through life. Whether it’s addressing a judge, a jury, employees, a sports team, a congregation, or the PTA, speaking with confidence is a tool of immeasurable value.

Likewise, mock trial is not the only way to sharpen these skills. Debate teams, public speaking classes, and theatre groups are other ways that we can get over our fears and hang-ups with regard to speaking in front of groups of people, whether large or small. And the sooner in life we can get over these fears, the sooner we can put them at bay for life.

For more information regarding the NCAJ High School Mock Trial Competition, including how to get involved, visit

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