Teaching legal thinking to LLM students: Oral vs. written

SocratesAs I continue to work through the “multiple model answer approach” in my experiment with teaching legal writing to LLM students this semester (aka the banana peel/jogger question), I’ve also begun exposing the students to multiple recorded oral model answers for the same question. That is, I’ve recorded a number of native English speaking law students (or law school graduates) answering the the banana peel/jogger question.

I’ve incorporated the recordings by assigning the students one recording at a time for homework. The students are also provided with a transcript of the recording (typed by me) that they initially review for comprehension and also to try and identify the IRAC components. Then they are required to Continue reading

Creative use of the law school as a resource

Friendly faces for sure. But also a great resource for building legal background knowledge and English language communication skills.

One of the great things about running and teaching the American Law: Discourse & Analysis (ALDA) Program is that it operates completely within St. John’s Law School. And working within the law school means access to resources that can be used creatively to enhance legal learning and also build important background knowledge in engaging ways while developing a strong sense of connection with the school.

Here are a few examples I’ve used. It would be great to hear of examples from other law schools.

Four-Star Assignments & Legal English Skills

Four Star Assignments

Engaging in a Four-Star Assignment with a student in my TLP Legal Writing I course, focused on the art of crafting counterarguments. Fall 2015, St. John’s Law School.

One of challenges for legal English educators is handling students’ frustration with the difficulties inherent in improving skills that may come naturally to American-born JDs. So at the beginning of my course, I tell my students that there are four skills relating to legal English that they need to develop over the course of our studies. I then ask them to rank the four skills below (listed alphabetically), based on how comfortable they already feel using each one.

LISTENING to legal English
READING legal English
SPEAKING legal English
WRITING legal English

Continue reading

An approach to teaching note taking to LLM students

note-taking-smallOne of the harder things to do in law school is take good notes. And even harder if English isn’t your first language. Why?

It’s not just about listening comprehension. It’s also about being sufficiently facile with English to write quickly while using note taking strategies such as shorthand, abbreviations, and symbols–all things that we native speakers take for granted.

It’s often assumed that LL.M. students know how to take notes already. Just not in English. Or when note taking is taught explicitly, strategies such as the Cornell note taking system become the focus. While organization strategies are certainly important and valuable, it is also important to not overlook the significant language-related challenges involved in taking notes in another language.

And what international LL.M. students may often need are Continue reading

Using JD students as a resource

salsa-dancing-DanceWorks-ballroom-1152x400It can be very challenging for international LLM students to find ways to integrate into the law school community. It reminds me of a lesson I learned when I took salsa lessons about ten years ago. I was great in class. But being a man–the one generally responsible for leading–and being a beginner made it difficult to attract dancing partners on a live dance floor. It was a classic Catch-22. And sad to say, my name has never been associated with the great salsa dancers. (Or even the mediocre or poor ones.)

Turning back to law school, many of us in the “legal English” community like to contemplate how we can better help our students–particularly ones who require more language support–create more opportunities to interact with native-English speaking members of the law school community outside of the classroom.

Here are a few ideas that my colleagues and I have used or experimented with so far: Continue reading