The Evolution of The Socratic Method; Finally Getting Some Answers.

Though the contemporary trend is that law school professors are moving away from using the Socratic seminar (toward what I will call the a Contemporary Socratic Seminar), elements of the original Socratic method still survive and are actively employed by most law school professors.

A law school professor utilizing the CONTEMPORARY SOCRATIC QUESTIONING will generally begin a law school class with a question. The professor will call upon students at random (the professors have access to a seating chart and you generally have to stay in the same seat throughout the semester). The students will answer the Socratic questioning to their best ability, and then the professor will ask follow up or more specific Socratic questioning. So far this is very similar to what you would see in a traditional Socratic seminar.

The Socratic seminar process of class discussion is completed when the professor feels that the topic has been exhausted, AND THEN (unlike the traditional Socratic method of teaching) the professor will provide the actual rule or answer to the question. (Ignore what your classmates say, and write down anything the teacher says that is NOT a question.) Remember that the same rules apply as we examined in the Traditional Socratic Questioning:

-Analysis, thinking on your feet and “verbal acrobatics” are much more important vs. knowing the exact answer to the question.

-Be familiar with IRAC and when you read your case assignments write down the answer to the Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion. This will not only help you understand the case, but will prepare you for the final exam (most law school grades are based on one final exam).

-The professor will change the facts of the case, and it is these exceptions brought up in class (and in Notes section of the book) which is where the professor will obtain exam questions.

-With the Contemporary Socratic seminar the professor will give you an answer, so write down everything the professor says that is not a question and ignore everything your classmates say.

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