Hi everyone, my name is Mike Muehe and I'm a 1L from Groton, Connecticut. I just finished my undergraduate career at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point, where I majored in American Studies, English, and Political Science. I'm a joint-degree student in the Historic Preservation program...
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Raising a Fouled Anchor – Overcoming Cold-Calling
A few weeks back, I experienced my first law school cold-calling. For the longest time, I heard of this teaching concept and tried to find ways to prepare. Upperclassmen, law school prep books, and lawyers all offered advice to endure the experience, but it’s hard to figure out just what to do until you’re actually put on the spot. Prior to law school, I was a terrible speaker in class. My heart would beat out of my chest, my leg might shake, and my voice might tremble, and after I answered, my heart would sink down to my stomach, even if I answered correctly. Some suggested that I treat cold-calling like a conversation between just the professor and I, to ignore the fact that 50 other faces might be on you, and to really pay attention to what exactly the professor is asking. All of this stayed in the back of my head as I awaited to be called on.
That morning, I had a gut feeling that I was going to be called on. I had read the assignments, but had I prepared enough? The professor dropped my name, at which point we discuss how to pronounce it (it's "me"), which usually gives the class a laugh. I looked straight at the professor, and spoke to him as if I were having a conversation in his office hours. But, I got half of the answer wrong. It was like I just tried to raise a fouled anchor (where it becomes tangled up). I realized that if I had taken the time to properly coil my lines, in other words, spent just a little more time preparing that case, I could have probably sailed smoothly through that cold-call.
The next week, I was called on in two classes on the same day. In the first one, the gravel voice came back, but I was called on for a case that I actually enjoyed reading about (a shipwreck). So I’m not entirely sure what happened; perhaps the pressure was on. In the second class, I tried the same conversation tactics, but I had just spent the last hour in the Hawk’s Nest typing briefs to the cases for the day (maybe the material was fresher in my head). The professor and I walked through the cases, and because of the dialogue, I really grasped the concepts. Dare I say I actually enjoyed it?
For some reason or another, I recently flipped through my copy of Rudyard Kipling's Captain’s Courageous, and it dawned on me that my classmates and I were much like the character Harvey Cheyne, a young boy on a fishing boat who learns through the captain and crew’s tough love how to work alongside them, and the professor is like the captain. Because Harvey was not only willing to master the skills needed to survive the high seas, but also to learn from making mistakes, he grew into a respectable young sailor. In the classroom cold-calling isn’t something to be afraid of. If anything, I’m seeing cold-calling as less intimidating because the way a professor makes us answer questions and work problems out is just building skills we’ll need as attorneys. We’re learning to read cases, but at the same time learning to analyze and articulate our reasoning. Because of this, I’m appreciating the Socratic Method much more than before.