I think every seasoned lawstudent learns strategies like this at some point. But lately, it's been such a struggle for me to get HALF my homework done on time that I am running on fumes and relying strictly on my classroom strategic tactics now.
This is what I like to call Operation: Outsmart Your Professor. Employ this strategy when you do not have enough time to finish your homework.
Step 1: Know Your Enemy
Professors generally fall into two categories: the Sporadic Peppercorner and the One-hit Wonder. You will know that your professor is a Sporadic Peppercorner (named after my favorite contracts term) when he will pick on multiple people each class period but will usually not call on a person more than once during that class period. Your professor is the One-Hit Wonder type when he will select one person to pick on for the entire class period. He may eventually call on one or two more students but will always come back to his original pickee.
Halfway through the semester, I know my Professors pretty well. I know that Prof. Sales is a Sporadic Peppercorner. He likes to call on people at random, but once he calls on you, you are safe for the rest of the class period. I ALSO know that when selecting students, he is likely to call on a person he is making eyecontact with.
Step 2: Prepare For Battle
If your professor is a Sporadic Peppercorner. Use this to your advantage. It's ok if you only have 15 minutes to complete 55 pages of reading. No Sweat! Just take the first or second assigned case and read it as thoroughly as possible. Know the procedural history and the court's ruling. Learn the relevant facts. This is all you have to do to be a success.
If your professor is a One-hit Wonder and you don't have time to complete your reading assignment, do this one thing: come to class late. That's it.
Now that you are prepared for battle, it's time to kick some @$$.
Step 3: Engage
For the Sporadic Peppercorner, the trick is to engage the enemy on YOUR terms rather than wait for him to catch you unprepared. Here is the trick: you have to VOLUNTEER. I know this is scary and you risk being unfairly labelled the class "gunner" (which is totally unfair because you are only volunteering because you slacked off). But the only alternative is to sit in your seat, sweaty and fearful, for the entire class period hoping against hope that you are not called on next- this can only get you through so many slacker days. So if you volunteer for the one case you DID read, that's it. You sound smart and prepared and you are SCOTT FREE for the rest of the class period!
Getting the professor to call on you is another story... I know Prof. Sales will call on me if I make eye contact. So I have to stare him down pretending my gaze will bore holes in his ancient, old man face.
If you have a One-hit Wonder Professor, this strategy will not work. In fact, NEVER EVER volunteer! If you volunteer for one thing, he will continue to call on you throughout class and this will end in your humiliating distruction and reveal you as the slacker you are. One point for the Socratic Method. Zero for you.
Instead, it is better so simply show up to class late, after your professor has already singled out his target for the class period. You are safe...for today.
If all else fails and your professor ends up calling on you when you are unprepared, you must rely purely on your raw lying talent. I recommend signalling to your throat and letting out a hoarse cough. You are in deep shit unless you can convince him that you have a serious bought of lost-voice syndrome. Or you can also try to make the professor feel sorry for you by saying that you read tomorrow's assignment by accident.
This is how I managed to survive law school today. I hope this advice helps the novices. Happy Battling.