Despite the warnings I heard before law school, the great majority of law students I’ve met are thoughtful, interesting and supportive people. The “gunner” stereotype of a law student is essentially the opposite: a self-important student who sits at the front of every class, takes up class time with their own philosophizing on the law, and ensures that everybody knows just how much they’re studying. My experience has been that the “gunner” rarely exists in its full form, but you do see different pieces of the gunner personality in people you meet in law school.
When you think of law school, the scene that comes to mind might well be the beginning of the movie The Paper Chase, where a law professor calls on a student the first day of class and ruthlessly interrogates him about a case he didn’t know he was supposed to read. Law school professors are notorious for “cold calling” students — essentially, calling on individuals at random to answer questions without waiting for students to raise their hands. It’s a source of stress, especially when a lot of new law students are used to seminar-style classes in undergrad where they could pick up participation points by giving their opinion about a novel they looked up on Sparknotes that day. Cold calling takes away so much of your control over how and when you participate, so you have to be on your guard all the time. Now a few weeks into law school, I have been cold-called, and I’ve also observed it in my classes almost every day. With that experience in mind, I can answer some of the most common questions people have about professors cold calling in law school.