I didn’t necessarily think law school would be boring. I swear I didn’t. But then, I didn’t necessarily think it would be funny either.
One of the natural barriers surely standing in the way of a law professor’s mission is what I have experienced as ‘the 1L jitters.’ Personally, I was very nervous about the start of law school, a new and defining chapter in my life. I was so nervous that I didn’t get much sleep for the first couple of days. Speaking with my fellow students, it’s pretty clear that I wasn’t the only one.
Now, you don’t have to be a neuroscientist to know that getting at least a couple hours of sleep per night might be important for the learning process, so there was going to be a problem if we didn’t all release some of that 1L jitter-tension quickly. And that’s what laughter is, right? Releasing tension. I’ve found the class content lends itself to humor surprisingly well, and it’s where the professors can excel.
The pounding of your heart jolts you from your notepad. Your palms feel sweatier than normal and your throat is suddenly parched. Everyone is looking at you expectantly. But maybe you misheard? You hear your name again. “Ms. Craven? How does the ideology of the court affect this case?” Tough luck, you’re on! Continue reading
In law school, the primary method of teaching, at least in larger classes and especially during the first year, is referred to as the Socratic method. A professor will call on and question a student (usually at random) about the day’s assigned reading, typically a judge’s written decision or case. You’re asked what happened to cause the dispute, what position the opposing sides took and argued, and how the court reasoned through the issue. This happens in front of the eighty or so other students in class. Public speaking consistently ranks among our greatest fears. The cold call in law school has you speaking in public without much preparation because you cannot know exactly what question will be put to you.
I didn’t know cold calling was a thing in law school until family and friends started asking me if I was nervous about it. I did some research and became terrified – and while it’s normal to feel that way, let me tell you why it might not be justified.
One night in the 1960’s, a Coast Guard sailor, whose ship was in port for repairs, came stumbling back to the vessel in, to use the words of the judge, “the condition for which seamen are famed.” His ship was in a dry-dock, a floating tub of water which is drained once the ship is inside so that repairs to the hull can be made. The sailor, buoyed by drink, tried his hand at the dry-dock control wheels, letting in water which eventually caused the boat and dry-dock to partially sink. The dry-dock owners sued the government for the money damages the sailor’s actions caused, and the government eventually had to foot the bill. Continue reading