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Ending the Chill of Cold Calling: A Multimodal Solution to the Pitfalls of the Socratic Method


The Socratic method—known to many first-year law students as “cold calling”—plays a significant role in the modern law school experience. The method is intertwined with the academic foundations of American legal education, and proponents champion its ability to teach students how to “think like a lawyer.” However, this comes at a cost. As it is typically employed, the Socratic method has a documented history of negative impacts on the well-being of law students. Further, by focusing primarily on the analysis of judicial opinions in casebooks, the method mischaracterizes the purpose of legal reasoning in the first place: advocating for the best interests of the client.

Law schools should reduce their dependence on the Socratic method during the first year, and instead utilize a multimodal approach that incorporates a variety of teaching methods. This Note proposes that the American Bar Association, as a key player in shaping legal education, should amend its accreditation standards to instruct schools to introduce experiential learning as early as possible and require schools to regularly evaluate the diversity of their faculty’s teaching methods. Without referencing the Socratic method by name or banning it outright, these changes would help introduce more students to the multifaceted nature of legal work—and would encourage legal education to better prepare law students for the work of an attorney.