I was never really worried about getting cold called.
For one thing, my name, appearance, and general vibe are so monumentally uninteresting that I knew I’d be functionally anonymous to my professors. For another, I came to law school straight through from undergrad. My academic career has been uninterrupted since kindergarten. So when people started to hype up the pressure of cold calling, this long-standing historic educational tradition built on the learning philosophy of Socrates, a daunting gauntlet every 1L has to traverse, I may have been a little nervous. That is, until I found out cold calling just means getting called on in class. I’ve been getting called on in class for 17 years. No big deal.
But then I actually had my first cold call. The following is an account of my internal monologue at that moment:
Doo doo doo. Twombley. Iqbal. Due process. Truth, justice, the American way. Pleadings. Complaints. Rule 8. Notes notes notes.
“What do you think, Dan?”
Did the Professor just say “Dan?”
Is anyone else in my section named Dan? Is anyone else willing to be Dan for the next couple of minutes?
Alright, no, I’m good. I did the reading. I engaged with the material. I should be fine. What do you think, Dan? Let me tell you what I think, Professor.
See, I knew I wouldn’t be nervous about this. Cool as a cucumber. Stone-cold Dan, that’s what they call me. Nothing but zen emanating from East Wing room 200 right now.
Why is my face turning so red?
Everyone’s looking at me. Every. One. Is. Looking. At. Me. I bet they’re all paying close attention. They’ll probably remember this moment forever. Specifically my performance on this cold call. Students pay a ton of attention scrutinizing each other’s cold calls, and then we commit each other’s lesser performances to memory. That’s what happens, definitely. Everyone knows that. The stakes have never been higher.
Pull it together, Danny boy. Hopefully the professor just asks me about the facts of the case. Just having to rattle off the facts is always the easiest cold call you can get…
What did he just ask me? Was that a hypothetical?
Here’s a hypothetical, Professor: what if I just dropped out of law school, right now? Right at this very moment, pack my bags and ship on over to clown school. I could learn to juggle. I’d be great at juggling.
No one every told me I’d have to both learn the law AND APPLY IT in law school. This is cruel and unusual. A prank. A scam. A conspiracy. High-jinks. Malarkey. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. I won’t stand for it.
Hold on, I actually do know the answer here.
All I have to do now is simply take this answer in my head, turn it into a coherent series of words, and then verbalize those words without having my voice tremor. Just sound confident and don’t spew a bunch of word vomit. You’re a grown man, you’ve already gone through puberty, you’re voice isn’t going to crack. Not in public. Not today. Let’s do this. Easy peasy.
The thing you learn about bad cold calls is that no one remembers your bad cold call – Genuinely not a soul. They happen to everyone, so you’ll be in good company, and as long as you did the reading and give answering a good faith attempt, your professor probably isn’t going publicly skewer you. You’ll remember it, and you’ll catalog that memory along with all the other embarrassing memories you’re brain likes to serve up to you when you’re alone with your thoughts and your subconscious thinks you need a good knock-down.
Otherwise, cold calls are just part of the learning process for law students. They are part of the proud tradition binding every person who has engaged with legal education. And BC Law professors aren’t about humiliation. Naturally, when those common folk outside of law school ask us about our cold call experiences, we can play it up like cold calls are like that one scene from Legally Blonde. But incoming BC Law students can rest assured that there is a light at the end of the cold call tunnel.
Dan Riley is a first-year student and a new Impact blogger. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.