"Don't call on me...Don't call on me...Don't call on me..."
That was the endless loop in my head as my Torts professor consulted the class roster to choose his victim.
Every day we danced this dance.
He posed a question about a case. Fifty of us silently sat, our hands glued to our laps. No one moved a muscle. No one volunteered an answer. He picked up the roster and scanned the list as fifty stomachs churned. As fifty brains hoped and prayed that they read the assignment accurately enough. But we knew. We knew that there was not enough accuracy in the world to satisfy Professor David Chang.
The most ardent adopter of the dreaded Socratic Method, every person he called on was eviscerated. Humiliated. Some ran for the bathroom after class, tears streaming.
Some ran for the bathroom because he banned us from going for the entirety of his ninety minute class. "Be an adult and wait until the end of class," he told us on the first day of school. One day a girl dared to break the rule. Upon her return, Professor Chang actually stopped speaking until she was settled back in her seat. The longest and quietest 30 seconds of our lives. That was the first and last time anyone visited the bathroom during Torts class.
Was this really what we signed up for? Was it supposed to be like this? I read One L, and I watched The Paper Chase, but I thought somehow that those stories were exaggerations. The exception perhaps, rather than the rule. I never imagined, even in my sweatiest anxiety dreams during the summer before my first year, that I would live a law school horror of my very own.
My other four professors were different. Nicer, somehow. I was never nervous in their classes. I did the reading, and I answered their questions when I was called on. Sometimes I was right, and sometimes I was wrong. If I was wrong, someone else jumped in to help. In those classes, we all wore the same color uniform. We were a team. We could get through this together.
But Torts different. Torts was a solo sport. If you got called on, you were on your own. You were treading water in the open sea, with no land in sight and no hope of rescue. No one came to your aid, for fear that the current would sweep them under as well, and then two would go down instead of just one.
Even in a class of fifty, Torts was a lonely, terrifying place to be.
And so I worked. Hard. I read cases over and over until I had them practically committed to memory. I anticipated every potential question, and took notes on the answers. I spent hours upon hours reading outlines on obscure parts of the law I promptly forgot the minute class was over.
And still, I felt unprepared.
So I prayed. Hard. To any and every deity I thought might be listening. There was no place for monotheism when I was sitting in Torts class. I prayed that he wouldn't call on me.
And it worked.
Until the day it didn't.
"Ms. Brinn, summarize the negligence cause of action that the Plaintiff used to prevail in the lower courts in the case of Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad, and explain why Justice Cardozo rejected that cause of action on appeal."
I remember the question as if he asked me yesterday.
But staring out my office window on the 26th floor of my New York City law firm, I can't remember the answer I gave.
Or whether it was right or wrong.
Or whether it was right or wrong.