A Guide for OneLs—The Socratic Method
There is an ongoing debate in the legal community about whether or not to use the Socratic Method. The Socratic Method derives its name from the philosopher Socrates’ tendency to ask questions that lead people to conclusions, rather than offer conclusions himself. In fact, Socrates claimed always to know nothing. Often Socrates was challenging people’s assumptions by leading them into contradictions, forcing them to rethink their preconceived notions.
Its application in law school is an interesting one. Unlike Socrates, your professors don’t claim to know nothing, so in some ways the Socratic Method is more like hiding the ball than a process of mutual discovery. But like Socrates, they are trying to get you to think for yourself. We don’t presume to actually try to address a debate that has raged for years, but we will point you in the direction of the Volokh Conspiracy, one of the most widely read legal blogs, where great legal minds argue the point themselves, and also offer some advice for how to respond to professors who use the technique.