This semester I’m enrolled in 3 classes that use traditional cold calling: Contracts, Torts, and Criminal Law. My Torts and Criminal Law Professors are very forgiving while my Contract Professor is very tough. That might sound like a bad thing but he’s also very fair and does an excellent job using cold calls to teach us what’s important. Many of us (myself included) came into law thinking that obscure jargon sprinkled with latin phrases is what made us sound like lawyers but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. That’s why I appreciate the Professor during our cold calls in contracts when he insists that we cut through the bullsh** and get down to the actual issue.
Speaking is a difficult skill that I worked on diligently on during my career. Introducing new products to hundreds of customers at a time was terrifying but the trial by fire taught me well. We’re 8 weeks into our first semester and I was surprised last week by a few cringeworthy cold calls which prompted my to write my tips to a successful cold call:
1. Be Prepared.
If you don’t do the reading, you’re going to have a bad cold call. At the very least, skim through the facts and pull the brief off Quimbee but tread lightly with Quimbee.
2. Understand the Professor’s Style.
Use your first few weeks to consciously think about the questions the professor is asking. My Criminal Law Professor tends to focus on the facts and then plug them into the elements of the relevant statute in the case. Likewise, my Contracts Professor has a predictable style. He’ll ask for a brief summary of the facts and then go to the issue. Throughout the semester as students have made a few mistakes, a few ‘rules’ have shown up here and there, which you don’t want forget and repeat. Use that information while you’re briefing to understand what he wants you to pull from the case and the questions he’s going to ask in a cold call.
3. Have a Conversation.
This is what nervous students struggle with the most. If you’ve started to get a feel for your professor’s style, you can probably guess what they’re going to ask for in the beginning. In all of my classes it’s a brief synopsis of the facts than usually the issue. If you struggle with nerves, be sure to get that information clearly at the top of your briefs. Then you have at least the first minute or so to calm down and breathe. Then turn your focus to having a conversation with your professor by listening to the question and concisely answer.
4. Avoid Rambling.
The trap that has appeared in my section has been rambling. Avoid the trap! While rambling fits together with having a conversation, I wanted to bring it up separately because it’s very important. Rambling and being indecisive often go together but they don’t have to be mutually inclusive. “It depends.” “Probably.” “Most likely.” are all good ways to indicate that the issue is not black and white. This hasn’t been just a feature of cold calls, it also pops up in students’ questions, again and again. Do your best when asking questions to think of your question before hand so that the professor doesn’t have to ask for clarification and so you’re sure that the question is a good one that doesn’t waste the classes time. The same thing applies to cold calls. Long winded, unclear explanations that sprinkle in “Ummm….” and “Maybe.” throughout only serve to put your classmates to sleep and don’t help you impress your Professor or fellow students. This week there have been a few cringey cold calls that ramble so much the arguments are indecipherable. Steer clear of word vomit and you should be in the clear.
Forward and Onward,