Sunday, April 3, 2011

Another essay defending use of the Socratic method in law school

Are they putting something in the water in New York? Last week we brought you a passionate essay by a student at Albany Law School who defended the Socratic method as the best way for teachers to prepare students for practice. This week, we have this essay called "Quit Whining!" from a recent New York Law School grad who also defends tough Socratic questioning as great preparation for the practice of law. The essay begins as a criticism of the recent effort by some U. Miami law students to pass a bill of rights that would exempt them from being responsible in class or on tests from material not explicitly assigned.  But it then turns into praise for the professors who hold students' feet to the fire:

What I learned that day was to pay more attention to what I was reading, what I was learning, and how I could make learning a more holistic experience.  Throughout the remainder of my law school education, I looked for nuances, procedural issues, and other legal issues that may be present or simultaneously exist but remain unexplained, in the assigned reading. I also challenged myself to think more acutely when a professor engaged in the Socratic method, with either a classmate or with me. It was grueling, but it made me a better student; it also helped me understand everything that I was learning and make connections that I may not have otherwise made.

. . . .

The Socratic method is not only one of the oldest styles of teaching; it is one of the most arduous styles of learning.  Although this method is anxiety-provoking, intense, and rigid, it does prepare future attorneys to be able to meet the demands of the profession. It trains us to discern relevant facts from a sea of facts, to find laws on point that will guide an issue or claim, and most importantly, to help our clients.  Law school is not about endless discussions on how students feel about the law, and writing heartfelt essays on exams. Law school is hard.  It has to be; anything less than that would be a disservice to future clients.

You can read the rest of the essay here courtesy of the NYLS Legal Journalism blog.

Hat tip to Brittany Weiner.


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