First-ever Self-study Online Legal English course

In 2020, in my role as the Director of Online Legal English at Georgetown Law, I helped create a 6-week online legal English course titled “OLE: Orientation to the US Legal System, the first-ever such course to exist (I think.) And in Fall 2020 I had the opportunity to teach two 6-week sessions of the course to approximately 40 incoming LLM students who had deferred for a semester (because covid.)

Now I’m excited because the course–which I designed to be usable both with an instructor but also without an instructor–is being offered for free to incoming Georgetown Law LLM students scheduled to begin their studies in the Fall 2022 semester.

Online Legal English: Orientation to the US Legal System – Self-Study (2022-23).

All incoming Georgetown Law Fall 2022 LLM  students can enroll and start the course whenever they’re ready–and at their own convenience and on their own schedule–by clicking the above link.

Note: Currently the course is only available to students registered at Georgetown Law because it was created in Canvas (the learning management system that Georgetown uses), and Georgetown University’s Canvas system is only accessible by those with a registered Georgetown account.

If you’re an incoming student and have any questions, feel free to email me (Professor Stephen Horowitz) at sh1643@georgetown.edu.

And if you’re a legal English teacher or work with LLM students and you have any questions, also feel free to get in touch. I always enjoy chatting about legal English and online curriculum development and sharing what I’ve learned along the way.

The course home page
An overview of the course modules

An interview with Georgetown Legal English Professor John Terry Dundon

In the latest episode of the USLawEssentials Law & Language podcast’s series on Multilingual Lawyers, I interview my colleague (and friend) Professor John Terry Dundon, an accomplished attorney and linguist, about his passion for language and teaching legal English. We learn about his career path from some of the most premier law firms in the world to teaching an immersive legal English transactional course at Georgetown Law.

Multilingual Lawyer: John Dundon

Book recommendations on language, law, race, and politics for LLMs coming to the Washington, DC area

Post by Prof. Stephen Horowitz, Legal English Lecturer

Are you an LLM student who will be studying (or has studied) at Georgetown Law, George Washington Law, American University Washington College of Law, University of Maryland Law, George Mason Scalia Law, University of Virginia Law or any other law school in the greater Washington, DC metro area?

Here are three books that may be interesting and helpful reads for better gaining background knowledge on language, legal, racial and political topics in the DC area. Even if you never read these books, just reading a little bit about them will go a long way towards giving you useful cultural perspectives, not to mention relevant conversation topics for engaging with classmates, professors, and others.

cover art

1. The Black Side of the River: Race, Language, and Belonging in Washington, DC

by Jessica A. Grieser

“In The Black Side of the River, sociolinguist Jessi Grieser draws on ten years of interviews with dozens of residents of Anacostia, a historically Black neighborhood in Washington, DC, to explore these ideas through the lens of language use. Grieser finds that residents use certain speech features to create connections among racial, place, and class identities; reject negative characterizations of place from those outside the community; and negotiate ideas of belonging. In a neighborhood undergoing substantial class gentrification while remaining decisively Black, Grieser finds that Anacostians use language to assert a positive, hopeful place identity that is inextricably intertwined with their racial one.”

And here’s a book review by HillRag which provides additional insight on the book.

Politics & Prose Presents Rosa Brooks on "TANGLED UP IN ...

2. Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City

by Rosa Brooks (Georgetown Law professor and former Dean of the Office of Graduate Studies, i.e., for a couple of years she was in charge of LLM programs at Georgetown Law)

Why Professor Rosa Brooks Added Police Officer to Her ...
Georgetown Law Professor Rosa Brooks

From Goodreads:

Journalist and law professor Rosa Brooks goes beyond the blue wall of silence in this radical inside examination of American policing

In her forties, with two children, a spouse, a dog, a mortgage, and a full-time job as a tenured law professor at Georgetown University, Rosa Brooks decided to become a cop. A liberal academic and journalist with an enduring interest in law’s troubled relationship with violence, Brooks wanted the kind of insider experience that would help her understand how police officers make sense of their world–and whether that world can be changed. In 2015, against the advice of everyone she knew, she applied to become a sworn, armed reserve police officer with the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department.

Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D ...

3. Dream City: Race, Power and the Decline Revival(?) of Washington, DC (20th Anniversary Edition)

By Harry S. Jaffe and Tom Sherwood

The title is potentially misleading. The book was published in 1994 and much has changed since then as DC (and many other cities in the US) are flourishing economically. So make sure to read the 20th Anniversary Edition with all of its updates.

But it provides great insight into the modern history of a major city (Washington, CD) without a state. The US Congress is actually in charge of DC and didn’t even allow it a mayor until 1978. And that’s when things get really crazy.

Marion Barry, Former Washington DC Mayor, Dies At 78 ...
Marion Barry next to a poster for the movie made about him.

It’s also the political history of Mayor Marion Barry, a true character in the modern history of Washington, DC. You need to get to know Barry to truly understand Washington, DC. Also, mentioning Mayor Barry is a great way to get any Washingtonian talking with you if you’re ever trying to make conversation. Everyone has an opinion, a story, a reaction.

The book is also offers great insights and perspectives on corruption. In fact, a former LLM student of mine from Italy who had written about corruption and organized crime in Italy greatly enjoyed and appreciated the book after I suggested it to him.

Advice for applicants to LLM programs

international business lawyer

My friend and former colleague Joshua Alter recently posted on LinkedIn some very frank and helpful advice for students preparing to participate in an LLM program in the US. With his permission I’m re-posting here for the benefit of future LLMs who may follow the Georgetown Legal English Blog.

It’s the time of year when international LLMs begin finalizing their plans for August. Advice I share with my LEALS students as they prepare to join a law school, modeled on what I’ve done over my career to onboard international LLMs:

1. Reach out to a current student at the school you’re planning to attend! I hope your school has already made a few introductions, but if not, use LinkedIn or your existing network to reach out to someone currently at the school (JD or LLM). Or, ask your school to make that introduction. It’s helpful to know people who can share advice on a number of academic, professional, and personal experiences. You’ll also begin to learn about the community based on those interactions.

2. Reach out to an alum at the school you’re planning to attend! Similar to #1 above. The LLM experience isn’t just about the education or the credential. Plugging into a high-powered or high-profile network can also be a major value-add if used properly. This is even more important if you’re planning to stay in that jurisdiction to practice. Find someone (through LinkedIn or request through your school) in a similar practice area or market.

3. Schedule a one-on-one with whoever the “me” is at your school. I tell my students that if they “begin” their LLM experience at orientation it may feel like a very short LLM experience. In the months before you begin, you can build a course schedule and research agenda. You can start thinking through bar exam eligibility and roadmap. You can begin building the foundations for a CPT or OPT experience (depending on # of semesters and programs). You can begin getting involved in a student organization. And with so much virtual nowadays, you may be able to attend a lecture or event.

Joshua Alter

If you’re an LLM student, or an LLM graduate, or thinking about applying to an LLM program in the US, does this seem like helpful advice? Have you done any of these things? Is there anything else you did–or wish you would have done? Please feel free to post a comment below, or let me know by email at sh1643@georgetown.edu.

Wow! Over 500 views in the last 24 hrs

Since the posting of the Legal English Resources page, the Georgetown Legal English Blog has had over 500 views and almost 300 visitors. Wow, I figured it would be a helpful resource. But I didn’t realize there would be this much interest in it. Maybe everyone ran out of Netflix shows to watch?

Now I’m really curious to know more about all these people are who are so interested in legal English. From the WordPress stats I can see geographically where visitors are from. But of course it doesn’t say anything about why visitors are interested or what is viewed as helpful or interesting about the page.

It also got me thinking–these are legal English resources I consider helpful from my narrow perspective as a US-based, English-speaking law school teacher of primarily international students. But if you’re a student or learner coming from other countries:

What resources or strategies for learning legal English are popular or particularly helpful for you?

I realized that’s a big blind spot on the Legal English Resources page. So any input or suggestions from learners of legal English are extremely welcome.

As always, you can post in the comments below or email me at sh1643@georgetown.edu. You’re also welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn and/or WeChat (@stevenwaseda) and message me there.

Legal English Resources for All

What is arbitration? - YouTube

Here is a link to the Legal English Resources page I recently created on the Georgetown Legal English Blog. (You can also get to it by clicking on the Legal English Resources tab at the top of the page on this site.)

I’d been gathering resources in a Google Doc and sharing it that way. But I finally got around to actually putting it onto a more easily accessible web page.

Hope it’s helpful!

Legal English II: Final Case Assignment – Criminal Procedure

Happy April Fool’s Day!

As you hopefully now realize, there is no “Final Case Assignment” for the Legal English II class. This is all part of a semi-elaborate April Fool’s Day prank. 🙂

For readers not in my Legal English II class, here’s the email that was sent to my students today:

Hi everyone,

Our sincere apologies but there’s one additional Crim Pro case assignment we neglected to include in the syllabus and which needs to be completed before Monday.

Here’s a link to the:

1. Final case assignment instructions

2. Final case

Again, our apologies for the late notice.

Professor Horowitz

ps Have fun with it!

BONUS Part 1: My own greatest and worst April Fool’s Day prank was my senior year in college. I was taking a large-lecture European History class. And in addition to the weekly lecture, we also met once a week in small sections with a Teaching Assistant. For one assignment, we had to write a 3 to 5 page paper, and I realized it was due on April 1.

So after I finished writing my paper, I also wrote an alternative version of my paper. Except it was just 4 pages of the text “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” repeated over and over again. And if you’re not familiar with the horror movie The Shining, there’s a climactic scene where an author is going mad and his wife goes into his office and looks at all of the pages he’s been typing for weeks, and she realizes they all have that phrase over and over and over. Very chilling!

barbara on Twitter: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work  and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull

Anyway, back to the story, I went in to the history department office, found my Teaching Assistant’s in-box (amidst a wall of many Teaching Assistant in-boxes), and then put the alternative paper at the top of the pile and my real paper at the bottom.

The following week in our small section, I brought a couple extra copies of the real paper just in case anything went wrong. And it definitely did.

At the end of class, my Teaching Assistant approached me tentatively and said, “Um…Professor Hunt would like to meet with you.” I said, “Is this about the paper?” And he said, “Um…you better just go talk with Professor Hunt.”

I walked across campus to Professor Hunt’s office, and the Teaching Assistant followed behind me. I went into Professor Hunt’s office, and I asked, “Is this about the paper?” And she said, “Yes.” I said, “You know that’s from The Shining, right?” And she said, “Yes. That’s why everyone was worried. We had a big meeting about this and discussed whether this was a threat.”

I said, “It was meant to be an April Fool’s joke. I put my real paper in the TA’s in-box.” And I looked at my TA and he uncomfortably shook his head and replied, “I didn’t see it there.” And I thought, “Oh crap. This isn’t going well.”

I then pulled out one of my extra copies of the paper and said, “See, I really did write the paper. Here’s a copy!” And Professor Hunt replied, “Oh, you just happen to have a copy of the paper now?” And I thought, “This is really not going well.”

But somehow I was able to persuade her and the Teaching Assistant that I did not create this elaborate prank just to buy extra time to write the paper. I was a senior, I wasn’t worried about my grade, and I this was not a difficult paper to write. So there was no bigger agenda.

Finally they decided they could trust me and I walked out of the office and across campus picturing what the meeting and discussion with the professor and all the Teaching Assistants must have been like. I felt terrible. But then I also thought, “Well, at least they’ll always remember me!: 🙂

BONUS Part 2: One of the greatest April Fool’s Day jokes ever in American modern history was in 1985 when Sports Illustrated magazine published an article about an amazing baseball player named Sidd Finch who no one had really heard of but who could throw faster than any player ever had. This was pre-internet and most people didn’t realize for at least a week or two that it was an April Fool’s joke.

And the only real clue was in the sub-heading of the article–“He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd’s deciding about yoga—and his future in baseball.” The first letter of each word in that sub-heading spells out: “Happy April Fool’s Day — a(h) fib.”

Sidd Finch: A pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. - Sports Illustrated
The immortal–and completely fictional–Sidd Finch.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidd_Finch

Teacher control vs student control in legal English

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

Giving students more control and more voice makes teaching so much more effective. Yet figuring out how to do it is a process that takes time and effort and does not necessarily come naturally. (At least for me anyway.)

I’m thinking about this topic because of an excellent post on the EAP Essentials blog by Prof. Olwyn Alexander titled “They have to talk and you have to listen: The importance of collaborative conversations in online classrooms.”

The post explains that “Without student talk, the teacher has no immediate way of knowing whether the students understand the materials and tasks and therefore no opportunity to adapt to the in-the-moment needs of the students.”

I think as legal English teachers, most of us intrinsically understand that. We want our students to talk. We want to know what’s going on in their heads. But we’re not always sure how to make that happen. And when it doesn’t happen, it’s easy to shift responsibility to the students, particularly students from certain countries or cultures that teachers perceive as not as talkative in class.

Consequently, I think it’s helpful to be aware of the ways that we, as teachers, get in the way of ourselves and our students. And I think this may be particularly heightened in a legal environment where lawyers and law professors are expected to be sources of knowledge and much of one’s identity as a lawyer or law professor is connected with the ability to share knowledge that others seek or need. In my own experience, this is very true in law schools where the professors–even when they use Socratic method–still often maintain full control of the dialogue and shift frequently from questioner to explainer and knowledge-distributor.

Continue reading “Teacher control vs student control in legal English”

Among Us as a teaching tool with LLM students?

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

My 11-year-old daughter plays Among Us frequently these days, as apparently does every other pre-teen I’m aware of.

I have yet to play it, though I understand it’s a multiplayer, social game you can play on a smartphone or tablet. It’s set on a spaceship, you play with a group of 10 people (could be people you know or random people you don’t know or a mix), and the aim is to solve problems or complete certain tasks with your crewmates. However, one of you is an impostor who apparently sabotages the crew’s efforts by killing crew members. And each time a crew member is killed, then everyone stops and has a discussion about who might have done it and tries to figure out who did it.

Question: How could this be used as a teaching tool? Especially given the desire and potential to engage students, particularly in the context of online or remote learning?

According to high school teacher Angelique Gianas, Among Us is an excellent vehicle for teaching students about argumentative writing. (“How ‘Among Us’ Helps Students Master Argumentative Writing“) It requires students to devise claims and then support them with evidence and analysis.

But could this also be appropriate and helpful in working with LLMs and other non-native English speaking law students?

My initial thought is that Among Us could be used as a first-day-of-class activity for a legal writing class or during orientation. And then in subsequent classes, the process in which students engaged can be referenced in discussing the discourse of legal writing or when providing feedback to students who tend towards conclusive statements.

This could be particularly helpful to students from other countries or cultural backgrounds who are accustomed to a different approach to argumentative writing. At the same time, some of this could get flushed out in the initial playing of the game if students from different backgrounds have different approaches to the problem solving and communicating entailed by the playing of Among Us.

Of course, I have yet to try any of this. So if you or anyone you know has incorporated Among Us into a class with their students, I would greatly appreciate hearing about it and hopefully writing about it in a future post.

css.php