“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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.