Best of Wolters Kluwer
Law School Tips: Week 3

Talking in Class

Week 3: Talking in Class

A few students are eager to speak in class and volunteer to participate every day, in every class. Other students volunteer occasionally. Some students never volunteer, but seem to perform well when called on by the professor. Other students never volunteer and get tongue-tied when called on. They even will skip class if they believe the professor is planning to call on them that period.

If you are reluctant to speak in class, there are a number of points to keep in mind:

  • Relax!
    • There is little correlation between a willingness to speak in class and law school performance. A student’s relative willingness to participate is more a function of personality style than academic ability. Extroverts often prefer to work out their analysis while speaking. Introverts often prefer to work out their analysis in their heads. If anything, introverts tend to perform slightly better on written exams than extroverts!
    • Reluctance to speak in class does not indicate that you will not perform well as a lawyer.
      • Most lawyers become transactional, rather than trial, lawyers.
      • Many trial lawyers spend most of their time performing research and writing, and spend very little time in court. (Most lawsuits do not go to trial, having been settled out of court or dismissed during informal pre-trial hearings. I know a trial lawyer who hasn’t done a trial in eight years!)
      • Many lawyers find that they are more comfortable speaking to judges, juries, clients, and other lawyers than they were speaking in law school. They find that, because they can prepare thoroughly before speaking professionally, they are much more comfortable speaking now than when they were law students. Although law students can prepare the cases before class, they have no control over what the professor will ask them.
    • When I was a student, I worried about making a fool of myself in front of all my classmates. Later, I realized that they remembered when I said something smart, and forgot when I was less successful. Students empathize with each other and want each other to succeed. Even when you don’t do particularly well, most are not thinking, “What a doofus!” but “There but for the grace of God….”
  • On the other hand, speaking in class is a very good idea for most students.
    • Students learn better when they are actively engaged.
    • Students often become more confident overall when they are able to participate in class.
    • Students become more comfortable doing legal analysis orally.
    • Professors become acquainted with the students.
  • Speaking coherently in class is a skill that you can learn!


Excerpted from: The Law Student’s Pocket Mentor: From Surviving to Thriving, by Ann L. Iijima

Coming next week: Reading Cases--Why am I Doing this, Anyway?

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