Language and a Lesson at Orientation


Orientation BJTU

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.

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Welcome to the St. John’s Legal English Blog!

We love discussing, debating, brainstorming, experimenting and pushing the envelope with regard to what “legal English” could and should be, and what it could and should accomplish. But mostly, we love learning from each other and from others in our community in our efforts to provide high quality education in this still developing field.

In addition, as we have collaborated to grow our program at St. John’s, we became aware that we offer three unique yet integrated perspectives on teaching at the intersection of law and language support.

  1. Stephen Horowitz, Director of Legal English Programs. Stephen is a graduate of Duke Law School and former associate at the Wall St. law firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan with a recent M.A. in TESOL from CUNY-Hunter College and several years of experience teaching English and studying law in Japan. He designed the curriculum and teaches in the American Law: Discourse & Analysis (ALDA) program and also co-designed the curriculum for the English for American Law School (EALS) courses and the Bar Exam Language & Strategies (BELS) course which he co-teaches with Kathryn Piper.
  2. Kathryn Piper, a graduate of UC Hastings College of the Law, where she served as the Executive Editor of the Hastings Women’s Law Journal, and Brief Editor for the Traynor California Law Moot Court Team following several years of teaching English in Japan. She teaches the Legal Writing I & II courses and co-teaches Transnational Legal Practice (TLP) I & II for our LL.M. students.
  3. Joshua Alter, a graduate of St. John’s University School of Law, who has taught legal writing and related courses since 2013.  He is currently teaching a legal English course in China in his capacity as a visiting professor at schools including Beijing Jiaotong University, East China University of Political Science and Law, and Southwest University of Political Science and Law.

Of all the fields of study that interact with language support and cross-cultural interaction, it is fair to say that law–a field where livelihoods can be ruined based on the placement of a comma or the meaning of “is“–requires the most control and comprehension of the language.

Our goal within this blog is to share our experiences, successes, experiments, challenges, ideas, and anecdotes with the “legal English” community.  We want to discuss and learn in our attempts to fuse the challenges and pedagogy associated with the learning of law with the challenges and pedagogy associated with the learning of a second language.

We invite you to join us in our conversation and welcome your thoughts and insights.