The Socratic Method: Three tips for when the “cold call” comes

Law School Cold-calling

Guest Blog by Courtney Boykin
3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

From talking about difficult Supreme Court cases to trying to stay alert for law school cold-calling, being prepared for class can be a daunting task. Everyone has their own preparation process. After having a conversation with a fellow classmate, I figured I’d share my preparation style.

How I read the case

I was a journalism major in undergraduate school. So, I’m prone to focusing on the high-level facts. When I read cases for the first time, I just need to know the facts, the rule, the holding. Generic online case briefs are helpful in this sense, but I wouldn’t rely too much on them.

While it can be easier said than done, I try to stay out of “the weeds” of the case. The fact of the matter is that the case represents a specific topic. So, I try to ascertain what the case signifies as it relates to THAT specific topic. Example, if we’re covering the Administrative Procedure Act and the case mentions a tort doctrine, I don’t spend 30 minutes trying to understand the tort doctrine.

Law School Cold-calling

When I read the case

I also find that when I read the case matters, as well. For some classes, I can read the day before and be fine with a quick review right before class. For other classes, I have to read right before class or I won’t retain the information. Nonetheless, to be on the safe side I’ve always tried to schedule classes where I had about 30/40 minutes between classes for this specific purpose.

Case briefing

The final thing about preparing for class is briefing. I’ve probably written a full-fledged case brief 3 times in my law school journey. It just doesn’t work for me. Instead, I might highlight the rule in the casebook or make notes in the margins. Very rarely do I formally CREAC or IRAC a case. I just think that’s too much work, but I also know people who do it for every case. So, if it works for you, by all means, have at it! All in all, you’ll be ready for law school cold-calling.

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