The basic form is a series of questions formulated as tests of logic and fact intended to help a person or group discover their beliefs about some topic, exploring the definitions or logoi (singular logos), seeking to characterize the general characteristics shared by various particular instances. To the extent to which this method is designed to bring out definitions implicit in the interlocutors' beliefs, or to help them further their understanding, it was called the method of maieutics. Aristotle attributed to Socrates the discovery of the method of definition and induction, which he regarded as the essence of the scientific method. Perhaps oddly, however, Aristotle also claimed that this method is not suitable for ethics.
The method can be used by one side to steer the opponent into accepting the authority of the questioner. One person asks the questions, the other must answer. One person decides the direction of the argument and decides which points are relevant or not. One person is in control of the argument at all time, the assumption of knowledge rests in him, and he can easily ignore any point or fact that might damage the questioner's argument. By answering the questions, the opposing side must accept the framing of the questioner.
Campos quotes a Duncan Kennedy critique of the Socratic Method.
The classroom is hierarchical with a vengeance, the teacher receiving a degree of deference and arousing fears that remind one of high school rather than college. The sense of autonomy one has in a lecture, with the rule that you must let teacher drone on without interruption balanced by the rule that teacher can’t do anything to you, is gone. In its place is a demand for pseudoparticipation in which one struggles desperately, in front of a large audience, to read a mind determined to elude you. It is almost never anything as bad as The Paper Chase or One-L, but it is still humiliating to be unsure of oneself, especially when what renders one unsure is a classroom arrangement that suggests at once the patriarchal family and a Kafkalike riddle state. The law school classroom at the beginning of the first year is culturally reactionary.
Indeed that’s what the classic Socratic “method” is all about — it’s a performance designed to demonstrate that the performer is In Charge Here and a Very Serious Person who you had best defer to if you know what’s good for you. In short, it’s authoritarianism at its most straightforward and distasteful — and anyone who currently practices it in 180-proof form in an American law school at this late date should be viewed with suspicion: not merely as an educator, but in terms of that person’s fundamental orientation towards hierarchy, authority, and social power. Which is another way of saying, in terms of her politics.