Reframing the Socratic Method

25 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2015 Last revised: 30 Jun 2015

See all articles by Jamie R. Abrams

Jamie R. Abrams

American University Washington College of Law

Date Written: February 18, 2015


While innovations in law teaching are everywhere, these innovations are being constructed upon and limited by the ancient architecture of the case-based Socratic method, which still endures and persists throughout first-year and upper-level courses. This article highlights how the Socratic method limits the depth and breadth of innovations in law teaching and can be reframed to better catalyze other teaching innovations, create more practice-ready lawyers, and cultivate more inclusive and inviting law classrooms. Within the existing framework of law teaching – the same casebooks, class sizes, and teaching style – the case-based Socratic method can be reframed in three straight-forward ways to better align with curricular innovations in legal education and to create a more holistic student experience. These adaptations are (1) consistently positioning client(s) at the center of the Socratic dialogue; (2) consistently positioning law students as attorneys considering legal research and weight of authority as a springboard to client counseling and outcomes; and (3) consistently sensitizing students to varied lawyering skills such as client counseling, settlement, drafting, and discovery within the Socratic case-based approach.

Keywords: Socratic method, continuing legal education, legal instruction, lawyering skills, attorney-client lawyering

JEL Classification: I2, I20, I29, K00, K10, K19, K40, K49

Suggested Citation

Abrams, Jamie R., Reframing the Socratic Method (February 18, 2015). Journal of Legal Education, Forthcoming, University of Louisville School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2015-14, Available at SSRN:

Jamie R. Abrams (Contact Author)

American University Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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