An Introduction to Cold Calls in Law School: Understanding Socratic Method and Classroom Participation

As a law student, one of the most daunting experiences can be the infamous “cold call.” This method of calling on students to answer questions in front of the entire class can be anxiety-inducing, but it is also an essential part of legal education. Understanding the Socratic method and classroom participation is key to navigating the cold call experience in law school.


Professor Rakoff, Contracts

Professor Rakoff is known for his rigorous approach to the Socratic method. He often asks students to apply contract law principles to real-world scenarios, challenging them to think critically and analytically.

Professor Spencer, Civil Procedure

Professor Spencer’s class is a mix of lectures and intense cold calls. Students are expected to be well-prepared and ready to engage in discussions about civil procedure rules and case law.

Professor Smith, Property

Professor Smith encourages active participation and often calls on students to explain different property law concepts. The cold calls in her class are designed to deepen students’ understanding of property rights and legal principles.

Professor Davies, Legislation & Regulation

Professor Davies utilizes the Socratic method to explore the intricacies of legislation and regulation. Cold calls in his class often involve analyzing statutory language and its implications.


Legal Research and Writing classes are not exempt from cold calls. In LRW I & II, students are expected to defend their research and writing choices, preparing them for the demands of legal practice.

Climenko Greg Elinson

Greg Elinson, the Climenko Fellow, provides valuable insights into legal analysis and writing. His guidance helps students become more confident in their ability to articulate legal arguments during cold calls.


Professor Yang, Criminal Law

Professor Yang’s cold calls focus on applying criminal law concepts to hypothetical scenarios. Students learn to think on their feet and analyze the elements of criminal offenses.

Professor Fallon, Constitutional Law

Constitutional law cold calls often delve into the nuances of constitutional interpretation and landmark Supreme Court cases. Professor Fallon encourages students to engage in thought-provoking discussions about constitutional principles.

Professor Ginsburg, Comparative Legal

Comparative legal studies involve understanding different legal systems around the world. Cold calls in Professor Ginsburg’s class prompt students to compare and contrast legal frameworks, fostering a global perspective.

Professor Gersen, Torts

Professor Gersen’s cold calls in torts class focus on analyzing negligence, strict liability, and other tort principles. Students are challenged to apply legal theories to real-world situations.

1L Cold Call Reflections

At the end of the first year, students reflect on their cold call experiences and the growth they have achieved in their ability to think critically and articulate legal arguments under pressure.

2L Class Registration

During the 2L class registration process, students often seek advice on which professors are known for their cold call practices, as they factor into students’ course selections.

The New Norm: Zoom School of Law

The shift to online learning has brought new challenges for cold calls. Students are adapting to the virtual classroom environment, learning to navigate cold calls through video conferencing platforms.

In conclusion, understanding the Socratic method and participating actively in class discussions are essential skills for law students to develop. Cold calls may be intimidating, but they serve as valuable opportunities for students to refine their legal reasoning and communication abilities.

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