Law School Discussion

Why Law Students Should Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Socratic Method

If I were to survey law students about their biggest fears, the Socratic Method would certainly rank among the top three.

Often referred to as “cold calling," the Socratic Method ordinarily involves a law professor randomly, and without prior notice, calling on a student to answer a series of seemingly endless questions. 

The questions run the gamut from the facts of the assigned case to far-fetched hypotheticals that the student had no occasion to read or consider before class.

The Socratic Method even achieved Hollywood fame in classics such as the Paper Chase, where Professor Kingsfield reigns terror on first-year Harvard law students, and more recently, Legally Blonde, where Elle Woods is subjected to a scathing Socratic questioning on civil procedure on her first day of class.

These Hollywood portrayals of the Socratic Method only cement what law students already fear:  public humiliation as they fail to answer questions in front of their professors and classmates, who sit in judgment of their poor legal analysis skills and surely-impending drop-out from law school.

This belief has become lore. 

In this post, I debunk the myths about the Socratic Method and explain why you should stop worrying and learn to love it.

Re: Why Law Students Should Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Socratic Method
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2015, 12:07:10 PM »
Agree 100%.

I always got annoyed when my classmates said they hated getting called in. In the real world a judge, client, etc will ask you questions and put you on the spot. Being a lawyer requires you to be prepared and think on your feet.

Being annoyed by the socratic method in law school is like a pilot in aviation school that hates flying. It makes no sense.

However, as your article says whether you say everything perfectly when called on doesn't mean anything in regards to your grades etc. Five years down the road when your interviewing for a job you will not say  during my 2L my professor cold called me and I knew the answer. "They won't care" However, the pressure of being called on is minimal compared to a law school exam, microscopic compared to the pressure of the bar, and non-existent compared to the pressure of actually working on a client's issue.

Anyways, good article and post.