Afraid of Cold Calls? Read This

Young woman regretting a choice she has made

Afraid of Cold Calls? Read This

The cold call is a staple of the law school learning experience.

Often used to supplement the Socratic method style, “cold calling” involves the professor calling on and questioning a student on a reading, often times at random.

“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,” Alex Bou-Rhodes, a class of 2019 Boston College Law School alumni, writes in a blog post. “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.”

Most students will, at least once, bomb a cold call. But Shelley Awe, Manager of Law School Engagement at Vault, says that’s completely normal. To stem your cold call anxiety, Awe recently offered a few tips to get over cold call failure and get prepared for the next one.


The worst part about failing a cold call isn’t really the moment of failing itself, but rather, the memory of it that follows.

Law students will replay the event in their head over and over again, analyzing their failure from the moment they were called on to the moment they took their seat. But no matter how badly you think you failed, Awe says, it’s all in your own head.

“…just remember there is nobody who thinks it went worse than you think it did. And to be clear, it almost certainly didn’t go as badly as you’re thinking,” Awe writes.


While replaying the memory in your head over and over won’t help, taking the time to understand where you failed and how to improve will.

“You might try changing the way you read and brief cases—if you normally book brief, try writing out a full brief, or vice versa,” Awe writes. “Did you miss context of the question because you were distracted? You can work on paying attention in class by limiting distractions on your laptop and in your immediate surroundings. Did you pay more attention to watching your classmates’ reactions than directing your response to your professor?”

Asking yourself these questions and understanding how you can take steps to be more prepared will leave little room for future failure.


If there’s one thing that might ease your tensions around cold calls, it’s the fact that cold calls often don’t count toward your grade.

Rather, Awe says, focus your efforts less on your failed cold call performance and more on how to actually do well in the course.

“In most law school classes, grades are going to come down to one final, written exam,” Awe writes. “So it’s a much better use of your time to make sure you understand the material covered in class, work on your outlines, and dedicate ample time to studying and practice exams. A cold call is just a blip on the radar. Don’t waste time that could be used to improve your final exam performance on over-preparing for cold calls or worrying about how the last one went.”

Sources: Vault, BC Law: Impact

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