McDermott Will and Emery Hosts First Urban Debate Junior Varsity Invitational

Students also learn about legal careers from firm partners

The top first-year debaters from ten schools in the Chicago Debate League came together to compete at the first Urban Debate JV Invitational in the history of the CDL. The event was held at the downtown law offices of McDermott Will and Emery on Saturday, May 1st.

The ten teams in the field qualified based on their performance at the Allstate CPS Chicago Debate Championship in March. These were the top young debaters from the Local Circuit Conference, Conference “A,” and Conference “AA” — the three Conferences other than the Regional Circuit Conference. Each of the four preliminary debates was judged by two judges, one an attorney from McDermott Will and Emery and the other a CDL coach or experienced CDL judge.

The competition was intense, as there were no undefeated teams after the four preliminary debates. In the final round, pairing off the top two seeds, Morgan Park’s Janae Meaders and Tyona Golden edged out Jones College Prep’s Bruce Weber and Hollie Davis on a 2-1 decision. In the third-place debate, Brooks College Prep’s Khya Elkins and Nashae Roundtree defeated Mather’s Amna Chandna and Sofia Sheikh.

The event also featured a Legal Diversity Workshop, where students had the chance to discuss and ask questions about careers in the law with senior partner Michael Boykins and partners Nathan Coco, Kevin Feeley, and Linda Doyle, all of whom were also judges at the tournament. Students learned about the different areas of law each partner practiced, what a typical day’s work looked like, the academic and personal choices that helped bring them to become attorneys, and some of the skills that participating in activities like policy debate help teach in preparing for legal careers.

The value was very clear to the participants. Clinton McClure, assistant coach at Morgan Park noted, “The MWE Invitational gave my team a great opportunity to compete against some of the best JV debaters in the city. And the chance to network with legal professionals was a bonus.”

Participant survey results were corroborative. Using a five point scale, where 1 is “strong disagreement” and 5 is “strong agreement” respondents reported:

“This event made me feel more motivated to debate next year” — 4.82

“I learned from the panel debate and the legal profession” — 4.82

“I would like to participate in a similar event in the future” — 5.00

McDermott Will and Emery partner and CDC board member Nathan Coco had this to say about the event: “We were thrilled to host the first-year debaters at the McDermott, Will and Emery Urban Debate JV Invitational, including the opportunity talk with the students about careers in law during the Legal Diversity Workshop. My colleagues and I were impressed at the tremendous potential of these young men and women. In fact, many of the debates were on par with the quality of Varsity-level competition in the league. The future looks bright for debate in Chicago if our students continue to have these opportunities to excel.”