Thursday, January 29, 2009

Socratic Coping Methods

Three of my four classes this semester use the Socratic Method. That's a form of torture particular to law school, where instead of TELLING the class what he or she would like you to know, the professor instead chooses an unlucky student and asks a series of questions intended to elicit the information. This is very inefficient, and--for the day's victim--more than a little intimidating. Yesterday I got called on in one of my classes and this morning I got called on in another (will I make the perfect trifecta and get questioned in tax today? I'll know in about 2 hours.

So here are my survival tips:

1. Do the reading. And do something (highlighting, margin notes, briefs in a separate document, those little post-it flags, whatever) that enables you to quickly go back through it and answer questions about it.

2. If you haven't done the reading for some reason and you think you might be called on, it's ok to (VERY occasionally) email the professor ahead of time and ask not to be called on that day.

3. Treat the questions like exam questions--spend more time explaining how you reached an answer than what the answer is, combine the law + the facts in a given situation, acknowledge both sides of an issue but choose one you think is better, and BE BRIEF.

4. Don't be afraid to guess. Alternately, after you've guessed for a while, don't be afraid to say "I'm not sure."

5. Most law school exams follow blind grading. Your performance in class isn't going to affect your final grade in class, which is usually based 100% on your exam performance. And even if you think everyone in the class is going to laugh at your mistakes, they probably won't even remember them.

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