Debating 21st-century digital media and democracy

Statue of Knights Templar
chrisdorney / 123RF Stock Photo

LJMU law students are encouraged to participate in a range of skills-based activities which are designed to enhance their reasoning, public speaking and legal argument skills, and each year the School of Law runs a debating competition in partnership with London’s historic Inner Temple.

Teams of students argue a motion which is provided to them only 15 minutes before the competition starts, then develop their arguments for or against without any additional resources – and definitely no access to Google!

This year’s motion, “This House believes that digital media is terrible for democracy in the twenty-first century” was debated by finalists Marc Tyler, Thomas Bath, Ayse Akgol, Holly Brennan, Gavinder Chambay, Ryan Wacey and Aude Delacoste.

Temple Church
The Inner Temple is one of two societies first recorded in 1388 – the other being the Middle Temple – formed by lawyers occupying the 12th century Temple Church, built by the Knights Templar. chrisdorney / 123RF Stock Photo

Following a very interesting series of arguments and counter-arguments, competition judge Master Louise Bancroft (Masters of the Bench represent one of the three levels of membership of the Inns of Court), a Circuit Judge at the Liverpool Civil and Family Court, announced that Level 4 LLB Law student Ayse Akgol was the winner. The runner-up was level 5 LLB Law and Criminal Justice student Thomas Bath.

When I spoke to Ayse after the debate, she reflected on winning the competition: “Starting the competition I was very apprehensive on my ability to debate and my confidence too. But as the practice sessions went on my confidence grew, I not only learnt and improve from professional feedback but also from my fellow competitors.

“Speaking with LJMU alumni greatly helped me and inspired me to try my best. I learnt to think on my feet and be able to articulate myself in a way that persuades an audience, which I think will be very valuable throughout my time studying law and indeed in the future. I am grateful for the experience I was able to take part, it has increased my career prospects by giving me much needed experience in advocacy at such a high level.”

Law student finalists

Master Bancroft, who sits on the bench at the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, judged the debate for the first time. “I very much enjoyed the occasion. Everyone I was able to speak to afterwards was very enthusiastic about the competition and keen to further their debating skills. The motion was topical and challenging and provoked a stimulating evening.

“All the speakers clearly deserved to be in the final and each made a significant contribution to the lively and interesting debate. It was a shame to have to pick a winner amongst all that individual talent.”

Working with the Inner Temple

In my work as an Academic Fellow of the Inner Temple I work closely with the organisation to enhance opportunities for LJMU students who wish to pursue a career in the law: the Inner Temple's support for the debating competition has been a great success in boosting students' confidence. 

Since starting the debating competition, we have had a number of LJMU Law students obtaining Inner Temple scholarships, and the competition has opened doors to our students who wish to become barristers.

It was also nice to see past participants of the competition returning to LJMU and supporting this year’s debaters, and I am encouraged by the fact that the debaters wish to form an LJMU School of Law debating society; this will be a great initiative as it will further improve our students’ confidence and public speaking skills. If you are a law student who wishes to join the debating society, get in touch with me for further details.

From a research perspective, the Inner Temple Academic Fellowship has been very beneficial. I was able to obtain a foreword for my new book "Financial stability and prudential regulation: A comparison between the regulators and central banks of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and Germany" from Judge Richard Salter, a bencher of the Inner Temple specialising in commercial law. 

I am also organising a conference on the ethical and legal aspects of artificial intelligence in the financial industry at the end of this year, subject to a successful research grant. I have chosen the Inner Temple as the venue because of my connection with the organisation, and, since I am inviting international speakers, the central location is most convenient.


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