About the Blogger

Sam Clarke, 3L's picture

Sam is a 3L from New Bedford, Massachusetts. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a degree in Economics, she worked at Panera Bread for a year. Sam came to law school as the result of a crippling addiction to television crime procedurals. She has since...

Sam Clarke, 3L's Post

The Socratic Method Exposed

Posted by Sam Clarke on 02/18/2013 at 12:49 AM

Do you hear stories about the “Socratic Method”? The classic technique of teaching used in law schools across the country? Do you want to know what it’s really like? You could read about the Socratic Method on Wikipedia. Actually, that article is kind of confusing. Or you could read this, which is often what it ends up looking like.




Class is about to start. I settle into my seat and shuffle through papers nervously.


“Who else hasn’t he called on?” I mutter to Allison. She gives a tiny shrug but her eyes stay on the professor. I start running through a mental list…Chloe, Allison, Joce, Leticia, Susana, Jose, Tunde…I lose track of the number at seventeen, give up, and panic.


“He’s called on everyone,” I moan. “I’m next! I know I’m next!”


I do not see, but feel, Chloe roll her eyes next to me.


Then I hear it.


“Ms. Clarke.”


My stomach tap-dances all the way up my throat.


“Ms. Clarke, are you here?”


I make a noise that sounds something like “merg” and turn a brilliant shade of red. I clear my throat. “Yes, Professor.”


Oh god oh god oh god oh god


“Ms. Clarke, could you please take us through Problem 6.1?”


No! No, I cannot! I do not even know what page that is on!


With her usual psychic insight, Allison leans over and whispers “Page three forty-five.” I tear through the pages.


“Uh,” I begin cleverly. “Uh…”

“The facts, Ms. Clarke. What happened?”


“Uh, it seems that the mistress called the husband and made a statement – uh, she said –”


“The mistress, Ms. Clarke? The mistress made a statement?” The professor raises an eyebrow.


“Yes…but…that’s not the statement we care about! Uh, because, then, the husband made a statement! He says, ‘Please don’t tell her – my wife – about us.” I look down at the spiky red writing next to the problem. It is completely illegible. It is my handwriting. “And that evidence can come in because it’s a statement against interest.” I look up at the professor hopefully.


The professor simply looks back, expectantly. Seconds drag by. There must be something else… In desperation I start talking again. “And! And! And because the husband – the guy who said it, I mean, the declarant – isn’t there, he’s dead, because, the wife killed him, um, allegedly…”


Stop rambling! You’re rambling, stop rambling! “Well, the declarant isn’t available, so we can look to Rule 804, is what I’m saying.”


The professor looks relieved that I’ve stopped talking. “Interesting, Ms. Clarke. So you think the evidence is admissible?”


No, no, no, why is it interesting? Interesting is bad. This is bad. Oh god. No! Don’t change your answer! He hates when you change your answer!


I meet the professor’s eyes. “Yes! Yes. It is admissible. It…is…admissible…Yes.” And I am rambling again.


Another ten seconds roll by. “Why?” the professor asks.


I thought I just said, because, he’s unavailable…I should talk about the Advisory Committee Notes to Rule 804! That’s probably what he is looking for!


“Well, the Advisory Committee Notes to Rule 804…”


“Ms. Clarke, do the Advisory Committee Notes tell us anything about Problem 6.1?”


“Well, yes…uh, yes, I think that they do…” The professor still looks skeptical. I stumble on: “Because as long as the statement is against interest, we don’t care about what kind of interest –”


“But Ms. Clarke, is this really the kind of interest the Advisory Committee Notes were discussing?”


Wait – but – what? I thought the Notes…so we are talking about the Notes? Okay, uh


The professor interrupts my thoughts. “How would we characterize a husband’s interest in his marriage? Is it – financial?”


“No! No, absolutely not! Marriage is never about money!”

I hear laughter. Crap, come on, Sam, this isn’t The Notebook – “Except, sometimes, you know, there could be money…involved…the Kardashians…” More laughter. “So…maybe financial,” I finish lamely.


“How so?” he asks.


“Well, if they got a divorce, the fact that he was cheating could get the wife…more money?” I say the last part like a question because I don’t even know if that’s true, but the professor nods. 


“Of course. That could affect the determination of alimony. So if he made mention of his affair, we could call that a statement against his interest.” The professor’s eyes drop to the podium. He must be looking at the attendance sheet. I breathe a sigh of relief. He must be moving on to someone else.


“Ms. Clarke, what about Problem 6.2?”


No such luck.



Getting cold-called isn’t always like this – most students are well-prepared most of the time. Sometimes nerves get the best of you, but that’s okay. The idea is that you’re there to learn. Everybody says dumb things in class and nobody has died of embarrassment.

Not yet, anyway.