Pam Dzunu, Stephen Horowitz, Shelley Saltzman, and Kirsten Schaetzel
I had the honor of joining an esteemed panel of legal English professionals last Thursday at the TESOL 2017 Convention in Seattle for a presentation titled “Legal Language: Strategies for Effective Communication in Law School.” The panel was organized by legal English expert Pamela Dzunu of Washington University of St. Louis School of Law and also included experienced legal English practitioners Kirsten Schaetzel of Emory Law School and Shelley Saltzman of Columbia University.
Pam Dzunu presenting on Using Storytelling to teach legal English.
An amusing slide from Michelle Ueland’s presentation on Empowering Teachers to Address the Challenges of ESP Curriculum Design
In addition to our panel presentation, I also had the opportunity to attend several other excellent, informative and thought provoking presentations, including:
Collectivizing for Reading Developing in the L2 Legal Classroom – English for Specific Purposes, by Lindsey Kurtz of Penn State University. (Lindsey is one of a handful of people conducting linguistic research on law school language and learning.)
A slide from Kirsten Schaetzel’s panel presentation on Engaging, Enriching and Empowering ESP Teachers and Students
Engaging, Enriching, and Empowering ESP Teachers and Students, Cynthia Flamm and Maria Tameho-Palermino, Boston University; Marta Baffy and Michelle Ueland, Georgetown University Law Center; Kirsten Schaetzel, Emory Law School; and Shelley Saltzman, Columbia University (all legal ESL professionals with extensive experience)
Unfortunately, I also had to miss two presentations I was very excited about seeing:
Teaching Advanced ESP Writing Using Dialogue, Feedback, and Iterative Feedback by Kia Dennis, Julie Lake, Michelle Ueland (powerpoint), and Marta Baffy of Georgetown Law Center and Kirsten Schaetzel of Emory Law School (additional powerpoint by K. Schaetzel)
I joined the English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Special Interest Group meeting and had the opportunity to connect with and get to know not only legal English professionals, but also teachers, consultants, and administrators (e.g., outgoing president Robert Connor of Tulane and ESP group newsletter editor Kevin Knight of Kanda University in Japan among others) who develop and teach curricula related to engineering, business, tourism, and medicine among other relevant ESP fields that are increasingly in demand.
Meeting Ted Chen, a lawyer who now teaches legal English at Edmunds Community College in Lynwood, WA near Seattle. He’s the first person I’ve met who teaches legal English at the community college level. (If you know of others, I’d love to hear about them.) He’s incorporated some interesting ideas into his course including inviting a police officer to visit his class and answer questions–an idea I would love to incorporate when we teach criminal law in the ALDA Program next semester!
Final comment: Seattle is a beautiful city with a wonderful vibe, even in the rain. Especially in the rain, come to think of it.
One of the great things about being Director of Legal English Programs (and a linguist) at St. John’s Law School is that Queens is not only the most culturally diverse place in America but also the most linguistically diverse.
The reason this post caught our attention is 1) we are currently developing a contract drafting curriculum for a new course (Drafting: Litigation Documents & Contracts) intended for non-native English speaking LLM students, and 2) descriptivist vs. prescritivist is a big theme in the world of applied linguistics and grammar, a theme that ran throughout my MA TESOL studies.
In case you’re not up on things in the linguistics/grammar world, professionals in the field have increasingly Continue reading →
“Professor, for question number one, I actually see two questions here!” My student leans over my desk and frowns over his writing prompt, seemingly worried he is hallucinating.
Later, during an in-class critical thinking exercise, there is a kerfuffle about framing the issue presented: “Professor, the question on the paper asks whether the cyclist broke the park’s rule, but she [another student] says that the issue is whether her [hybrid] bicycle was a motor vehicle. Which one of us is right?”
The object of this week’s lessons was supposed to be about using the facts: weeding out irrelevant information, and using relevant information in support of a legal conclusion. But the conversation has evolved into the issue of questions. They are grappling with the idea that one question can yield one or more sub-questions, and they wonder whether to choose one or harmonize both. In return they get more questions from me: “How did you see that second question? Do you need to answer it to get an answer to the original question? How does your answer to that second question help you to answer the original question? OK, so now that you have an answer to the first question, and an answer to the second question, can you write a two-sentence conclusion that answers both? How about a one-sentence conclusion?” Some chuckle, as though this is a game we’re playing. Others wrinkle their brows, looking very unsatisfied. I think this is a struggle worth having. Continue reading →
Class Picture After Orientation, Beijing Jiaotong Legal English Course, December 4, 2015
For visiting professors overseas, the realities of a short course include the lack of time between classes for students to complete assessments, difficulty getting to know students in the class and a lack of opportunities to incorporate feedback and knowledge into future assignments. With most visiting professors coming to China for one-week or two-week courses, there is simply not enough time to treat the classes as a long-term course. Through my position at St. John’s Law School, I have the opportunity to teach at partner schools for between one month and two months. This affords me some excellent opportunities that help me achieve my course objectives, including:
Weekly assessments, formal and informal, to gauge how the class is handling the material;
Dedicated office hours each week where students can come to ask questions about difficult material in class (and interact with me outside the classroom); and
At least 72 hours after class to complete assignments, and receive heavily critiqued feedback with at least 48 hours to incorporate those changes.