How to Master the Socratic Method in Law School
Your days of long undergrad lectures are over. Now, it is time to get ready for your Socratic Method journey in law school! The Socratic Method is also referred to as a “cold call”. In fact, you may find yourself fearing the cold call process for a few weeks as you begin your law classes. Nevertheless, don’t stress too much. There are many ways in which you can master the Socratic Method in law school. Follow these steps to master the Socratic Method in Law School. In this post, we will attempt to relieve your class anxiety and better prepare you for exams!
How to Master the Socratic Method in Law School
Volunteer in class whenever possible
A big part of what makes cold calls so terrifying is they make you vulnerable in front of your fellow classmates. By volunteering, you can become accustomed to this feeling of vulnerability on your own terms. Some professors don’t take volunteers, but many will fill in the gaps of class discussion from raised hands. Additionally, volunteering in class exposes you to more public speaking. The only way to get better at public speaking is to do it. Volunteer a few times when you are prepared for class, and by the time a cold call comes along, you will be ready!
Moreover, professors often call on students who are not as active in class, so this may spare you a few cold calls in law school.
Lastly, verbalizing material is a great study tool! The more opportunities you get to talk through cases and black letter the law, the better. Just be sure you don’t get too carried away. Allow your other classmates to get some airtime as well.
Yes, do your readings! They are your lifeline to class and where your understanding of exam material begins. However, we don’t recommend you brief each and every case. Writing a case brief might be useful for complicated or significant cases. Here are some tips on how to brief a legal case. However, briefing a case is not a good use a time. Instead, read actively and keep shorthand notes on the facts, reasoning, and holding. Here are some additionals reasons why we don’t recommend you brief every case!
Remember to keep your case notes short. You just need something to trigger your memory. Putting too much of your time and effort into case briefs will take away from outlining your course early and preparing for exams. Even if you do get called on unexpectedly in class, having too many notes will make it difficult to find the answers your professor is looking for.
Remember, cold calls are not graded, but your exam is!
Paying attention in class is vitally important to master the Socratic Method in law school. Often you can get a feel of where the conversation is going if you are actively listening. Eliminate as many distractions as possible. Put your phone away and turn your texts off on your laptop. Professors will be much kinder to students who are actively engaged in their class. That starts with paying the utmost attention. Lastly, don’t forget that what your professor says in class is what will be on your exam. Paying attention will reward you in more than just one way!
Use your Notes
Don’t shy away from referencing your notes before answering a cold call. The best note-taking to master the Socratic Method in law school is shorthand. Keep short, concise notes that quickly grab your attention during class. Your professors will give you a moment to refresh your memory and get your footing before expecting an answer. Just be sure to really listen to the question before jumping to your notes. Professors will often ask questions to get your argument or opinion on a matter, not what the casebook said.
Calm Down and Take your Time
The Socratic Method in law school can sometimes inspire a sudden feeling of dread. You are in a big class, and you feel like everyone is looking at you. We have all felt that moment. Don’t panic! When you are cold-called, remind yourself this isn’t the end of the world. The less anxious you are about being on the spot, the better you will be able to think.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to take your time. Time can feel slower when you are in the sport. However, don’t let that stop you in your tracks. Take a deep breath and give yourself time to form an answer. No one will mind! A well thought out response is much more cohesive with class discussion and will be appreciated in the end.
Lastly, master the Socratic Method in law school by becoming accustomed to it. Review examples of the Socratic method, so you are not going in blind on day one. Every law student, past and present, has experienced the pressure of a cold call and survived. Remember, your cold call does not determine your class placement, your exam does! Put your efforts into your outline and test prep, and you will surely succeed.