Introducing Writing Critique

One challenge of introducing international LL.M. students to legal writing is coaxing them to evaluate and comment on examples of English writing. This is a necessarycritique practice in my writing course; students look at model answers for format and organization, notice cohesive devices and subject headings, and read examples of strong and weak analysis to compare to their own work. Students also conduct peer reviews, and revise and resubmit drafts of their work, incorporating comments from the professor and their
teaching assistants. So, students should start learning to critique, and to respond to critique, early in the course.

Critique is often daunting to international students, I think for two reasons. First, they do not have enough confidence in their English writing and reading skills to believe they can improve upon any example. Second, they  might feel uncomfortable finding fault with a classmate’s work, particularly if that classmate is a lawyer, judge, or other professional in their home country.

So a few weeks ago, I decided I’d have my new class start with me.   Continue reading

On “Legal English”

TaleTwoCities“It was the best of terms, it was the worst of terms.”
(With sincerest apologies to Charles Dickens)

“Legal English” is a rather loaded term. Much like “family values” or “activist judges,” its meaning is vague, subjective, and dependent on the context as well as brain of the person ingesting the phrase.

For some, it means teaching a very stripped-down version of legal writing and legal concepts. For others, it means an ESL course that focuses on law-related vocabulary and situations. It can also refer equally to a brush-up course for practicing lawyers taught at a private language school as well as a summer course designed to prepare incoming LL.M. students for the law school experience.

In each instance, Continue reading