Law prof sparks debate over class ‘cold calling’

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By Thomas Connelly on


Selecting students at random to answer questions — good or bad thing?

A law lecturer in the US has sparked a debate online over whether it’s acceptable to select students at random to answer questions during class.

Taking to X (formerly Twitter), Chicago Law School lecturer Adam K. Mortara explains how he recently discovered another law school was operating a traffic light system in order to help lecturers identify which students were willing to answer questions.

“On my two law school tour last week I saw something that genuinely surprised me,” Mortara writes. “A student had a tri-folded cardboard name tag in front of him. No big deal, I thought, in a big class professors might need those and while I don’t use first names many of my colleagues do.”

The student subsequently explained how the system worked. “Green for willing to talk, yellow for being on the cusp of being willing to talk, and red for not being prepared,” Mortara recalls.

Mortara, who is also a qualified lawyer, was less than impressed. “I was stunned — the idea of a law school class where students could opt out of being called on!” he writes. “Judges don’t let you put up the red light when you don’t want to answer.”

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The post, which has attracted over 2,000 likes and hundreds of comments, continues:

“I can’t quite put my finger on the causation. Do law students demand to be treated like fragile children or do law faculty start treating them that way? Either way what a joke — in practice the vast majority of the class stays on yellow. This innovation will never find its way to my classroom at Chicago. But it is ok for the romper room that is Yale Law School.”

Many fellow X-users agreed with Mortara. “College used to be where kids went to learn about being grown up,” one person wrote. “Today it seems it’s where they learn to become toddlers again. Mind blowing.”

“Being shamed because one isn’t prepared will help one grow or else be weeded out for another more serious student,” another added.

But some were in support of the traffic light system. “As someone presently on an LLM who is always eager to answer questions and where it seems others aren’t (fair enough), I would love this system because it would mean there would be sections where the professor would call only on me,” a student wrote. “That would be excellent.”

Let us know your views in the comments 👇



Pose, pause, pounce. That’s how I was taught to teach, and I use it on the LLM/LPC.

The worst that happens is the person clams up. But it’s a good way of trying to get people to listen and participate

A seasoned Law lecturer

There would be outright revolt and complaints to the OFS if this happened in a UK university….

LLB graduate

as there should be. JD students in the USA are gradates, and headed for the bar – undergraduate LLB students in the UK may be, but large proportion aren’t.

There’s a major difference between a professional postgrad degree and an academic undergrad one. Which I would hope a “A seasoned Law lecturer” would damn well know.


The snowflakes would rush off to their safe spaces en masse. Would be really good way to sort the wheat from the chaff.


Wheat = keyboard warriors


This Socratic, on call at all times lecturing method has been a main stay of many top US law schools for decades. My experience was that it ensured that the students kept up with the course as they were worried about being exposed to their peer group. This sort of process would be very beneficial in the UK.


Does picking on shit students ever actually motivate them to do the reading?

All I have seen this do is waste everyone else’s time as said shit student rambles on about something irrelevant when picked on by a lecturer.


Yes, if done consistently. Peer group perception is a tremendous motivator.


“Green for willing to talk, yellow for being on the cusp of being willing to talk, and red for not being prepared”

looool surely this a pisstake

The weight of words depends on who says them

No one from “Chicago Law School” should pretend they have any authority in belittling arguably the best law school in the world (Yale) without really strong logical points. Sad he has a big enough chip on his shoulder to actually make a gratuitous insult toward a school that’s obviously two tiers above his based solely on the name of the school. Crash course on self-awareness needed.

Uncharitable fellow

The University of Chicago (at which Adam Mortara works) is ranked #11 in the world in the latest QS rankings. It has a top-rate law school. Do your research.

Same person as before

To understand the difference between #11 and #1 I would like you to consider that 11 is 1100% of 1.


Revealing your numerical aptitude to be just as poor as your logical reasoning.

(Don’t take my word for it, count the downvotes as they roll in.)

Sad because my comment got downvoted

If you’re at UChicago and back your point against Yale’s decision by trying to discredit the decision specifically because it’s coming from Yale, no matter who you are or what you’ve done, you have a chip on your shoulder. This is valid logic, my maths is correct, and I might be unlikable but you’re the one who lacks ‘aptitude’. So glad the people back you tho. Now leave Yale’s inclusive practices alone.

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