Master of Laws Interviews Project Season 1: Episode 3: Xin Tao – How did he make it to the top at BigLaw as a non-native English speaker?

Posted by Yi Song

Before Xin made partner at Baker McKenzie, he could not find many role models who have the exact same background as his. He moved to the U.S. from China in his early twenties to pursue a graduate degree in biochemistry. He was increasingly disillusioned about the scientific research he was doing. One day, he was studying in the library with a friend, who was studying for the LSAT. It all started with a joke about whether Xin would be able to beat his friend on the test. Xin ended up going to law school and the rest is history.

By now you have probably read the Paul Hasting’s presentation on the non-negotiable expectations for junior associates, what does a BigLaw partner think of that? How did Xin find his first job in the U.S. leveraging the alum network at Georgetown Law? How did he survive and thrive at BigLaw? What are the challenges he faced as a non-native English speaker and how did he overcome it? How does he develop meaningful relationships with colleagues and clients?

Subscribe to the LinkedIn weekly newsletter to receive FREE insider tips from Xin. Read Xin’s story here.

Master of Laws Interviews Project Season 1: Episode 4: Yara Karam – How did a LinkedIn recipe turn into her BigLaw externship?

Posted by Yi Song

It’s also important to know how to market yourself to potential employers without selling yourself short.

Yara Karam

Yara Karam and Amal Clooney have at least two things in common. They are both Lebanese. They are both international lawyers with a LL.M. degree. Yara is fluent in Arabic, French and English. How did a Rice Krispie recipe on LinkedIn lead to her externship at Hogan Lovells, where she was tasked to do cool things such as going to congressional hearings and joining a call with the Secretary of State of the United State? How did she leverage her language skills and work experience through existing connections on LinkedIn? What’s her advice on how to become a valuable addition at your first job?

Subscribe to the LinkedIn weekly newsletter to receive FREE insider tips from Yara. Read Yara’s story here.

Yi Song, the Executive Director for Graduate and International Programs and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law, is the founder of the Master of Laws Interviews Project. The project provides curated insights to help internationally trained lawyers to establish and develop their U.S. legal careers.

Linguistic analysis of great vs. average legal writing

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

As a legal English professor in Georgetown’s 2-Year LLM Program and a “law & language” nerd, I greatly appreciate any efforts to analyze and identify concrete elements of legal writing that help distinguish the quality or genre of the writing. (See, e.g., some of my experiments with ChatGPT and legal writing as a grammar fixer and on cohesion.)

For my international LLM students, this kind of information can be exponentially more helpful to understand that, e.g., dependent clauses can help one’s legal analysis come across more cohesively, as opposed to suggestions to “Include more analysis” or “Be more concise.” A dependent clause is an objectively defined thing that you can hang a hat on. And even if a student doesn’t know what it is or how to recognize or construct it, it’s something that is very learnable.

I was therefore very excited to come across the below Twitter thread from UNLV Legal Writing Professor and Write.law founder Joe Regalia today, explaining that he was in the midst of a linguistic comparison involving 10 court opinions written by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan (renowned for the quality of her writing) and 50 legal briefs written by various lawyers. In his tweets he shares some early observations from the analysis. Though alas, it’s just a teaser and it seems like we’ll have to wait for the full report or article to come out at some point to see the rest. If this were published as a book, I would be right there in the line outside Barnes & Nobles with all the other lawyer linguists waiting to get one of the first copies, a la Harry Potter mania.

Enjoy!

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ISMO: “The Silent Struggle (with English)”

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

Another bit of great perspective on English by Finnish comedian ISMO. This one on all the wonderful silent letters one encounters when trying to function in English. Something I’m sure all of my 2-Year LLM Program students will appreciate.

And if you missed it, check out this previous post with another clip from ISMO on how “ass” is the most complicated word in the English language.

Prof. Weger’s Grammar Workshop for Georgetown 2-Year LLM students

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English, with special thanks to Prof. Julie Lake

Georgetown Law and its Two-Year LLM Program students are fortunate to have Applied Linguistics expert Prof. Heather Weger on the faculty to help multilingual law students with their writing skills.

Prof. Heather Weger

This week Prof. Weger, who holds a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics, held a Grammar- Focused Workshop to introduce  students to specific strategies to improve their self-editing skills. Self-editing is a notoriously difficult skill to develop, and students benefit from tailored support and direct practice. In Prof. Weger’s words, “My goal is to help students engage with their language choices so that they can express their thoughts and personality with clarity and confidence.”

The workshop had two components: (1) A hands-on review activity to review strategies to correct clause-level errors and write more concisely and (2) a Grammar Review Workbook with several self-diagnostic and self-study activities The workbook, created by Prof. Weger, was designed with input from the Legal English team and tailored for students in the Two-Year LL.M. program.

 

Analyzing ChatGPT’s use of cohesive devices to help international LLM students improve cohesion in their writing

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English, with special thanks to Prof. Julie Lake and Prof. Heather Weger for their time and linguistics expertise in analyzing and discussing the texts and editing this post, which is far more cohesive because of them.

Hot on the heels of my recent experiment to try and better understand ChatGPT’s view of improving language and grammar (See “Analyzing ChatGPT’s ability as a grammar fixer,” 2/23/23), I was grading my students’ timed midterm exams and noticed a paragraph in one students’ answer that had all the right pieces but decidedly lacked cohesion.

“….the biggest takeaway of all for this experiment…..ChatGPT can help instructors identify the kinds of cohesive devices that a student is not using and then support the student in learning to use and become more comfortable and familiar with those cohesive devices.”

So I mentioned this in a comment and gave some suggestions as to how to improve the cohesion in the paragraph. And then I had a thought:

Maybe ChatGPT can help!

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Georgetown Law’s Prof. John Dundon presents at American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) Conference

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

Georgetown Law Legal English faculty member Prof. John T. Dundon was invited to present over the weekend at the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon (March 18-21, 2023), in his capacity as a doctoral student in sociolinguistics. Georgetown’s Linguistics Department was well-represented at AAAL this year, and a number of Prof. Dundon’s professors and classmates also gave talks or participated in colloquia.

Prof. Dundon’s talk, titled “Challenging monolingual ideology in the U.S. judicial systems: A proposal for multilingual courts,” focused on one of the many intersections between law and linguistics.

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Activities for teaching cross-cultural competence via LLM-JD interaction

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

Recently on the Legal Writing Institute listserv, a request was made for examples of ways to help teach cross-cultural competency. And I shared with the requester the following two activities from when I worked at St. John’s Law which I think were very effective for both teaching cross-cultural competency and also for fostering interaction between JD and LLM students. I think they also helped shift perspectives away from a deficit mindset of LLM students and toward a view that recognizes and takes advantage of the asset that LLM students are to a US law school.

Activity #1: Legal Writing Role Play

This activity involved collaboration between an LLM legal writing section and a JD writing section. It was the result of brainstorming with the JD legal writing professor and coming up with a plan based on the legal writing assignment the JD students would already be doing. The role play would explain to both the JD and LLM students that they were associates in a global law firm but in offices in different countries. And they had no previous relationship or interaction.

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