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.
My law school orientation began August 22, so I’ve officially experienced two weeks of law school orientation and classes as a 1L. My year before law school was filled with current law students and lawyers providing ominous and contradictory clues about the first year law school experience: “It was the worst year, but it’s supposed to be that way” or “I hated 1L — it was the best year of my life.” While it’s still very fresh in my mind, I’m here to provide at least a few more concrete details about my experience of the very beginning of law school.