Language Log: Lawyers as linguists

Stephen Horowitz is the Director of Online Legal English Programs at Georgetown Law.

Language Log has become one of my favorite blogs. Especially when they get into the intersection of law and linguistics. Here’s a good one:

Alison Frankel, “Lexicographer (and Scalia co-author) joins plaintiffs’ team in Facebook TCPA case at SCOTUS“, Reuters 10/20/2020:

Can a lexicographer fend off the combined forces of Facebook, the Justice Department and the entire U.S. business lobby at the U.S. Supreme Court?

What if said lexicographer is also the co-author, with Justice Antonin Scalia, of a landmark book about textualism that is cited multiple times in the other side’s briefs?

Bryan Garner – the Black’s Law Dictionary editor, legal writing consultant and, with Justice Scalia, author of Reading Law – has joined the Supreme Court team of Noah Duguid, a Montana man who sued Facebook in 2015 for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. And though he’s only been working with Duguid’s other lawyers for a matter of weeks, Garner’s influence on Duguid’s just-filed merits brief is unmistakable. Who else could so boldly assert that the TCPA’s meaning depends on whether the statute’s “adverbial modifier” applies to just one or both “disjunctive verbs” with a “common object”?

Without taking anything away from the well-deserved kudos for Bryan Garner, I want to underline how odd it is to suggest that without his help, lawyers couldn’t be expected to understand simple grammatical concepts like “adverbial modifier”, “disjunctive verb”, and “common object”.

Read the full post on Language Log.

Scrambled States of America: The Game

Stephen Horowitz is the Director of Online Legal English Programs at Georgetown Law.

I’ve realized in my legal English teaching that a lot of LLM students are not very familiar with American geography. And yet it’s very helpful background knowledge to know about in the context of studying in law school. 
I thought about it again today because my kids just got a game called The Scrambled States of America Game

It’s based on a very clever children’s book called the Scrambled States of America. But more importantly, it can be an engaging and fun way for LLM students to get more familiar with American geography. 

The way the Scrambled States of America Game seems to work (after watching my kids play it today) is that each person has 5 state cards in front of them. Each state has the state name, the capital, and the state’s nickname. Then you draw a card from the deck and it says something like “A state nickname with 4 different vowels in it.” So you look at your cards to see if you have one that fits the requirement, and you try to be the first to say that state’s name before the other players can identify one from their state cards.
There’s also a map without state names that is put out that has some purpose that I haven’t had time to determine yet. 

But it seems to create a lot of repeated exposures to state names and locations while connecting basic knowledge about states in a way that’s fun and leads to absorption of the info. On top of that, it’s social and a good ice-breaker. Plus it leads to lots of back and forth negotiating and commenting, all of which is good for speaking and listening practice. 

Conclusion: This would be an ideal great game to play during LLM Orientation. Well, in a normal non-pandemic year anyway. And in that regard, it wouldn’t hurt if an online version could be created.