In 2017 Zain was the winner of the Great Law Debate competition, hosted by the ESU, BLD Foundation and BPP University at Dartmouth House. Currently in his final year studying law at the University of York, he has worked in the financial crime team at Monzo Bank; has spoken at the National Assembly Hall in South Korea and at the UN Headquarters in New York; has co-founded inState, a charity focused on social mobility; and has also played the role of a lawyer on a HBO show set in the late 1800s. Keenly interested in crypto assets, Zain will be one of our speakers at our cryptocurrency debate on 9 May.
Tell us how you became involved with the ESU
I heard about the ESU through a friend of mine from Hong Kong who had participated in the IPSC and spoke highly of his experience, and so, when the opportunity to take part in the Great Law Debate arose, I was keen to be involved.
Tell us about your experience
It was intense but rewarding. The motions demanded a firm grasp on matters relating to law, philosophy and politics, and being placed as the opposition at times compelled me to challenge my personal world views. Through winning the competition I was awarded a full scholarship to study law and the bar training course. I’d always dreamt of being a barrister but, as for many, the financial barrier to a career at the bar can make it feel out of reach. Being awarded the scholarship was life-changing, as it meant I could embark on this journey and fulfil that dream. I’ll be commencing the Bar Training Course in London later this year on a full scholarship – thanks to the ESU!
Why did you want to take part in our forthcoming debate?
I visited Dartmouth House recently to attend the piano recital by fellow ESU alumni Yulia Chaplina, which was a remarkable experience. All the memories of debating came flooding back once I stepped through the doors, so I had a look to see if there were any upcoming debates I could take part in and found the cryptocurrency one! I’m deeply immersed in that area at the moment as I’m doing my dissertation on cryptocurrencies, and saw it as the perfect opportunity to have my ideas challenged.
What do you hope to get out of it?
My debate experience has been against other students my age, and so I’m hoping to push myself by debating against established industry experts. It’s also been a while since I’ve done any in-person debating due to the pandemic, and I’m looking to experience the thrill of thinking on my feet again.
What words of advice do you have for other alumni/young members?
Get to know other ESU members and alumni. It’s such a wide-spanning network of ambitious young people with a shared passion for oracy. It’s a place where you can connect not just with people, but with bold ideas and unique opportunities that make a real impact.
Whom do you admire and why?
I remember being asked this question when I’d just started secondary school, and after giving it some thought, I said ‘myself in ten years time’. It’s been ten years since. I’m not the person I envisioned, but my answer is still the same. The person I look up to is always going to be ten years away. I’m never going to be my ideal self, but that’s fine with me – because it keeps me trying to be a better version of myself at all times.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
I’m addicted to buying random gadgets. My room is filled with useless stuff, from a candy floss machine to an automatic toothpaste dispenser. It’s a bit of a problem.
Tell us something surprising about you
Public speaking used to be my biggest fear. I was once stuck in the sea surrounded by 13 different species of sharks, but still remember my first time presenting to an audience as the scariest experience of my life. I avoided joining my school’s debating team because of this and stayed in my comfort zone for a long time until I realised through debating that what challenges you is what changes you. I’ve applied this to many other parts of my life since then, and have found it easier to dive headfirst into any new experience that would otherwise fill me with fear.
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you?
To not view life through a binary lens of success and failure. Any success can be perceived as a failure, and vice-versa. It’s healthier to view all such life events as lessons to learn from and reflect upon, rather than believe it to be the determiner for how the rest of our lives will pan out.