Hammering in the Posts and Supplementing My Memoir

First of all, I’d like to thank my peers and Dr. Zamora for being so welcoming and helpful during my presentation last week. It was truly a blessing! I will take all of your feedback to heart. Right now, I am focusing on hammering in the fence posts to my project to make sure that the structure is sound. I went through my literature review and revised it for maximum clarity.

I also engaged in a variety of activities. I think that I finished my Anxiety literature review section. However, I want to leave the part that relates to law school under its own category since it is very specific and unique. I have articles that are cogent to this part of my memoir and I am in the process of culling the best ones. Supplementation may be needed.

I also added the anecdote of my mother asking the yeshiva officials if they could accept me as a student. It did not fit well within my first chapter, so I added it to the Preface. I really considered the best placement for it and I think I found it.

Now, for the big part of the week (so far). I forgot to include precisely why the law school process was so anxiety-provoking in my memoir. Yes, I said reading cases was like reading a foreign language. But I did not elaborate on the case method approach and the Socratic method. Let me begin with the case law method. The way things work in the first semester of law school is that there are very few statutes to learn. So what do you do? As I explained in my presentation, you read many cases (with no prefaces). Why is this done? This is because the American common law system develops by a process of accretion. Precedents evolve and are applied. So a law professor can’t just give you the appropriate rule of law for you to apply because it is necessary for you to figure it out for yourself. This means that you see lots of trees before you ever even know what forest you are in. I cannot stress this enough: law is not just a set of rules. It has a plasticity to it that first years must learn.

Then there is the Socratic method. This is intellectual tennis. Your professor interrogates you for a class period to ask you about the case’s components (facts, procedural history, issue at bar, analysis and ruling; you prepare these beforehand in a “brief” but it is often very difficult to pull out the salient details; therefore, novices like me had very unwieldy case briefs). But it doesn’t end there. He or she asks you if you think that the case could have come out another way under a different set of facts.

Here is a good quote I found that sums up the process:

Typically, the student responds by announcing what she believes to be the fairest or most just outcome between the opposing positions of the particular parties. At this point, the student is asked by her professor to give the principle that would support this outcome, and here the characteristic plan of Socratic inquiry begins. By a series of patterned and well-planned hypothetical examples, the professor challenges the student’s initially offered rule, with the aim of demonstrating that the rule that would generate less just fair, or otherwise less satisfactory results in other cases. And in taking the chosen victim through this series of uncomfortable applications of her initially selected rule, the professor attempts to get the students in the class to understand that the best legal rule may be one which produces better results in a larger number of cases, the result in the present case notwithstanding.

Schauer, Thinking Like a Lawyer: A New Introduction of Legal Reasoning. Harvard University Press, 2012 (page 9) (emphasis added).

Even Hollywood has gotten in on the Socratic Method, as depicted in the 1973 film, The Paper Chase:


While my professors were always congenial and nothing like the cold-blooded, patently rude Kingsfield, the concept of the Socratic method still holds true. I know that this does not pertain to my memoir but here is the million dollar question for me: Should we do away with the Socratic method? No. I think that it should be supplemented with explanatory lectures and that students should be taught how to prepare for class. A large part of being a lawyer is thinking on your feet and there’s nothing like the Socratic method that primes the pump, so to speak.

Once I included a shorter, much more relatable explanation of what scared me as a first-year law student in my memoir, I started to think that it was appropriate to include the law school section in my literature review. That is what I will be doing in the next few days. I will include the most salient articles I have.

After I do this, I intend to fill in a few more gaps by researching issues related to depression, body dysmorphia and some other dysfunctions that are present in my memoir. Before I do this, I will go through the process of re-sifting, i.e. going through my chart to narrow down the topics further. And I am pleased to report that I started free-writing before researching. Thank you Elbow!

As always, I look forward to learning with all of you!