A long-winded discussion of summaries and paraphrasing

I have been working with my new international LL.M. students on summarizing and paraphrasing skills, to get them ready for a first research memorandum assignment.  I decided to spend some time on this because I have noticed that even when writing a single case brief exercise, some students do not feel free to depart from the court’s words. As a result, students can spend hours wrestling 6 pages of case law into a 3-page summary that really only needs to be a few ordered dots of thought the size of an index card.  So we have been working to condense information into different styles of case briefs, using the same legal text until they feel comfortable putting the case aside and writing main points from memory.

Stephen spied one of my latest worksheets, and we started an email discussion about how to distinguish the two concepts in a meaningful way, to make students aware of how we expect them to manipulate source material in writing assignments. Finally, I arrived at this, which I think will work. I am interested in learning how other instructors introduce and practice these ideas with the class.  Continue reading

Book review – Part 1: Alissa Hartig’s “Connecting Language and Disciplinary Knowledge in English for Specific Purposes: Case Studies in Law”

I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to review a new book by Alissa Hartig, Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics at Portland State University, entitled Connecting Language and Disciplinary Knowledge in English for Specific Purposes: Case Studies in Law, which I just yesterday received from the publisher, Multilingual MattersPart of the reason is that this is, to the best of my knowledge, the first book ever published that presents a study of the teaching of “legal English” from a linguistics perspective. 

In other words, it is an entire book that thinks deeply and conceptually–far more deeply and conceptually than I would be able to–about how to teach law with language support to non-native English speaking law students (e.g., international LLM students). If I can read and absorb even 10% of what’s in this book, I feel like I will ascend to a higher legal English plain. Which suggests that if I absorb the entire book I will attain some sort of legal English nirvana. (Side note: Wondering whether this is the first instance of “legal English” collocating with “nirvana.”)
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Presenting at Southeastern Association of Law Schools Conference on Tues 8/1

On Tuesday, August 1 at 10:15 a.m. I will have the honor of being part of a panel discussion at the Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) Conference. The panel, organized by Kirsten Schaetzel of Emory Law school, is titled “International Learners and Legal Writers: Pitfalls and Promising Practices” and also includes Marta Baffy of the Georgetown University Law Center and Catherine Schenker of American University, Washington College of Law

I will be speaking specifically about ideas and approaches for teaching IRAC (Issue Rule Application Conclusion) discourse to non-native English speaking LLM students in ways that incorporate ESL concepts and pedagogy. 

This is my first time attending SEALS and needless to say I am very excited amd looking forward to it as well as the chance to interact with and learn from colleagues at other law schools. 

Here is a full description of the panel:

At many law schools today, the number of international students is increasing. These students come from different legal and educational systems and may have trouble understanding and learning the conventions of American legal discourse. This panel, composed of legal writing and English as a Second Language specialists from various law schools, examines areas in legal writing that may be troublesome for non-native English students. Beginning with an overview of cultural differences in writing conventions and expectations, panelists present how they teach different aspects of American legal writing. Panelists cover teaching summaries of legal rules and their various sources of law; IRAC discourse organization and answering essay exam questions; and understanding fact-pattern exercises and responding to them. 

If you happen to be attending, then hopefully we will see each other. Stay tuned for a post conference report. 

Legal writing: Teaching analogy and comparison language to LLM students

I recently finished reading an excellent and exciting article titled Beyond Contrastive Rhetoric: Helping International Lawyers Use Cohesive Devices in U.S. Legal Writing, by Elizabeth Baldwin, a professor of legal writing who has an MA in Applied Linguistics and works with LLM students at the University of Washington School of Law. I say exciting because each page that I read seemed to open my eyes and my mind and spark new ideas about teaching legal writing to LLM students.

In the article, Elizabeth–one of the founders of the ETLEP legal English Google Group together with Alissa Hartig, Lindsey Kurtz and me following the 2015 Global Legal Skills Conference in Chicago–distinguishes between coherence (top down: does it make sense?) and cohesion (bottom up: does it feel connected and logical?) A text can be coherent, i.e., you understand what the writer is saying, yet lack cohesion, i.e., the ideas feel disjointed and unnatural in some way you can’t quite put your finger on.

The article explains how cohesion can be lexical (e.g., use of repetition and synonyms) as well as grammatical (e.g., use of conjunctive words and phrases to connect information between sentences; use of a subordinated clause to front information so that it feels connected to information in the previous sentence).

However, the article really grabbed my attention at one point when it described a particular cohesive device that involves use of the pattern: [determiner + abstract noun]. (Determiners include a, an, the, this, these, my, your, which, other, and a bunch of other words you know but just didn’t realize were determiners.) An example might be a sentence along the lines of: Continue reading

May 1 Webinar: “Teaching Global Skills to International and U.S. Law Students”

Teaching Global Skills to International and U.S. Law Students

I’ll be one of the participants in a Legal Writing Institute live webinar next Monday from 12-1pm together with Diane Kraft of University of Kentucky College of Law and also St. John’s Law colleague Patricia Montana.

The narrated PowerPoints (which have more detail than what will be discussed in the live webinar) are already available at http://www.law.msu.edu/glws​. (Note: At this link, you can also find great prior presentations by other legal writing specialists.)

See below for more details and info on how to register:

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The Legal Writing Institute’s Global Legal Writing Skills Committee is pleased to invite you to attend a free live webinar on Monday, May 1, 2017, from 12-1 pm EST on“Teaching Global Skills to International and U.S. Law Students.”   The webinar will feature the following excellent presentations, followed by Q & A:

1. Teaching A Variety of Lawyering Skills Using A Single Transnational Civil Litigation Problem
Patricia Montana, Professor of Legal Writing and Director of Street Law Program, St. John’s University School of Law

I will present on my advanced writing course, Drafting: Transnational Civil Litigation, which I designed to develop upper-level students’ lawyering skills in the context of transnational civil litigation.  My presentation will discuss how designing a course around a single litigation involving a central international trade law convention and a well-developed set of facts can easily simulate the realities of law practice in the global market and thus benefit students tremendously.  My presentation will walk through the course development, illustrate some of the design ideas, and explain the advantages of using a single litigation to tie together all of the assignments.

2. Current Research in Contrastive Rhetoric: What Does it Mean for the Legal Writing Classroom?
Diane B. Kraft, Assistant Professor of Legal Research & Writing, University of Kentucky College of Law

Contrastive Rhetoric has been an important area of scholarship for the disciplines of Second Language Writing and English for Specific Purposes since 1966. This presentation will discuss what the most recent research tells us about the uses and limitations of contrastive rhetoric, and suggests ways to use it effectively when teaching international students in the legal writing classroom.

3. The Power of Noticing in Teaching Legal Writing to LLM Students
Stephen B. Horowitz, Director of Legal English Programs and Adjunct Professor of Law, St. John’s University School of Law

One of the challenges of learning legal writing for non-native speakers of English (NNES) is that they often feel they are writing into a vacuum. That is, they don’t have a clear sense of what their writing should look and feel like, both in terms of discourse as well as language. This is because what might be intuitive for native English speakers (NES) is not intuitive for NNES.  A simple yet powerful tool for building a sense of intuition and an understanding of what’s expected is the act of noticing. Noticing can be used very effectively in combination with model answers written by NES to help draw LLM students’ attention to certain features of legal writing in order to figure out how to better organize their writing, how to make better arguments, how to improve their grammar, what transition and connection phrases to use, when to use commas, and any other writing related challenges the students may face.

The presenters have created narrated PowerPoint slides for viewing in advance of the live webinar.  They can be found at the top of the presentations list at www.law.msu.edu/glws. This website also contains the archived Global Legal Writing Skills presentations from previous webinars.

To participate in the live webinar, please follow these instructions:

  1. Click on the URL provided for the Meeting Room or type the URL into your web browser.
  2. Click Guest Login.
  3. Type an identifiable name (e.g., First and Last name).
  4. Click Enter Room.
  5. Mute your microphone and only type questions in Chat window

Katrina June Lee will moderate the live webinar. Please contact her at katrinalee@osu.edu with questions or issues regarding the webinar.

To register for this free event, please send an email to dmlavita@suffolk.edu with “GLWS Webinar” in the subject line.

On behalf of the GLWS Committee,

Rosa Kim, Suffolk University Law School
rkim@suffolk.edu

Global Legal Skills: Mountains, Mariachi and Mentorship in Monterrey

I had the pleasure of attending the annual Global Legal Skills Conference this week, hosted by the Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey. Sarah Kelly and I were glad to present the in-class role-play methods we use in our core LLM courses at St. John’s, and I was grateful to our audience, who engaged in all the steps of an introductory negotiation exercise and gave feedback on the experience.  This year Continue reading

What part of the case brief?

The other day in class, working with another one of the Lefkowitz v. Great Minneapolis Surplus Store, Inc. case briefs, I again asked the students what tense they noticed in the Issue section. The students pointed to past tense in the two questions conveniently labeled (1) and (2). But then there was an additional sentence that followed on the next line:

Defendant contends that it was a “unilateral offer” which could be withdrawn at any time without notice.

 A student correctly pointed out that present tense was being used. But then I asked, “Where’s the question in this statement?” The students talked for a minute and quickly concluded that that statement really didn’t belong in the Issue section.

Next question: So where does it belong? And more importantly, how do you know?

One student suggested the Facts section since it seemed to be providing information about one of the parties to the case. So I then asked, what tense do we generally find in the Facts? Past tense, yet this is present.

Also: When do the facts happen? In the past, before the trial starts. What does “contend” mean? Argue. When do you argue? During the trial. Hence, this sentence should not be in the Facts section. Continue reading