Ukraine/US peer-to-peer law student legal writing project completes second session

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

On Wednesday, March 20, 2024, the closing Zoom call for the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Peer-to-Peer Legal English Writing Project was held, concluding a second 6-week session of this continuing innovative project. (The first ran during the fall 2023 semester.)

The project was initiated in 2023 by National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy (KMA) Law Dean Volodymyr Venher working with project Director Taisa Markus, who is an adjunct professor of law for University of Illinois College of Law (which hosts the website for the project) as well as a Visiting Professor at KMA, Project Deputy Director Nataliia Maksymchuk, Senior Lecturer of English at KMA, and Ivan Yatskevych, Professor of Labor Law at KMA who collaborated with Markus to create the legal writing assignments for the participants.

In each session, approximately 20 KMA law students have been paired with tutors who are JD students from a variety of US law schools including University of Illinois, Georgetown, Yale, Columbia, University of Chicago, and Fordham. The KMA students are given a writing assignment created by faculty. (e.g., For the January 2024 session, Markus and and Yatskevych created the assignment along with support from Georgetown Legal Writing Professor Eun Hee Han as well as from Virginia Robinson (University of Chicago Law, ’23) who had served as a tutor in the fall 2023 pilot version of the program.

For the Spring 2024 assignment, KMA students learned they were junior associates at Ukraine’s largest law firm, and their firm’s client–a US cookie company–was planning on purchasing a 10% share of Ukraine’s largest confectionary company. But they need the junior associates to prepare a legal memo for the General Counsel and CFO of the US client analyzing an intellectual property rights dispute potentially affecting the acquisition.

KMA students met with their JD tutors via Zoom approximately 1 to 2 hours each week as they researched the law and wrote their memos in English. And in addition to learning about legal writing, everyone involved also seemed to learn more than they initially expected–about each other’s lives and countries; about each other’s legal systems and legal writing cultures.

I’ve been very fortunate to have a role in helping to identify Georgetown Law students interested in participating. And they shared some wonderful insights upon the completion of this second session:

Kevin Jupena (JD, 2025): “It was a great experience. I found it extremely helpful personally to reexamine my own writing style when making edits. Hopefully I can continue to be a part of this program next time they run it.”

Fankai Meng (LLM, 2024): “This project was very meaningful. I actually had the opportunity to learn more about legal writing myself through this project. I admire how hard the KMA students worked during this difficult time. And my peer mentee also helped me learn a lot about Ukrainian law and how a civil law system deals with this kind of case. I greatly appreciate having had this opportunity.”

Joey Gaston (JD, 2025): “I learned from my peer mentee that long, complex sentences are commonly used in Ukrainian legal memos. At times, a single sentence in a Ukrainian legal memo may make up an entire paragraph. Based on the complexity of the writing my peer mentee submitted, we worked to break down her complex sentence structure into more manageable segments, with a goal of keeping the sentences in the US legal memo three lines or less in length. Overall, the experience was great for me, and I hope it was equally as informative for my peer mentee.”

The KMA Peer-to-Peer Writing Project is one of a number of legal education collaborations happening between Ukrainian law schools, faculty, and students and law schools and legal education professionals in the US and elsewhere around the world.

If you or your institution is interested in getting involved in the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Peer-to-Peer Legal English Writing Project, please feel free to contact Taisa Markus (taisamarkus@icloud.com) and Nataliiya Maksymchuk (n.maksymchuk@ukma.edu.ua).

For more information about the program, check out this post from the KMA Faculty of Law website titled “Innovative English Language Peer to Peer Writing Workshop Pairing US and Kyiv Mohyla Law Students.”

Strengthening Capacity of Ukrainian Law Schools to Teach Legal Research, Analysis, Reasoning, and Writing Skills

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

I was very fortunate yesterday to be involved in kicking off a new collaboration among legal research and writing faculty from Ukraine, the U.S., and Canada. Organized by Artem Shaipov of USAID’s Justice For All project in Ukraine, the collaboration is an outgrowth of continued collaboration initiated in 2022 by members of the Global Legal Skills Institute community together with Shaipov and various Ukrainian law faculty members.

(See the ABA International Law News article ““Global Legal English Skills Community Expands Support for Ukrainian Law Schools” for more information about these efforts.)

The goal of the new initiative is to introduce Ukrainian legal research and writing faculty to the various approaches in the US and Canada to teaching legal research, analysis, reasoning and writing skills in order to lay a foundation for future discussion and exploration of ways to support Ukrainian legal writing faculty as Ukraine’s legal education system shifts to a more western-facing focus and continues to build its rule-of-law culture.

Today’s Zoom session, which is the first in a series of five 2-hour sessions, had over 30 participants from across Ukraine and was facilitated with the help of a simultaneous interpreter. It also included five experts on teaching legal skills from the US and Canada who will be participating in this series.

  • Joel B. Kohm, BSc JD, Mediator & Arbitrator, Member of the bars of British Columbia and Ontario (ret.) who presented today on the topic of “Case Analysis and Written & Oral Advocacy.”
  • Katherine Renee Schimkat, Professor of Legal Writing, Co-Director of the Litigation & Dispute Resolution Concentration, University of Miami School of Law, who will be presenting on the topics of “Understanding Case Law” and “Objective Analysis v. Persuasive Advocacy.”
  • Diane Kraft, University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Professor of Practice, Director of Academic Achievement Program, who will be presenting on the topic of “How to Read a Case.”
  • Rachel Wickenheiser, JD, Independent Scholar, Adjunct Faculty at University of Delaware, who will be presenting on the topic of “Legal Writing as a Genre.”
  • Nicole Lefton, Professor of Academic Support and Bar Preparation, Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, who will be presenting on the topic of “Legal Analysis Using IRAC.”

For more information about this initiative, please feel free to contact Stephen Horowitz at stephen.horowitz@georgetown.edu.

ABA International Law News: “Global Legal English Skills Community Expands Support for Ukrainian Law Schools”

An article Prof. Stephen Horowitz wrote for the ABA International Law News, Winter 2024 issue titled “Global Legal English Skills Community Expands Support for Ukrainian Law Schools” was just published. It describes the expanding number of legal educators from the US, UK, and elsewhere who have gotten involved in an expanding variety of ways to support Ukrainian legal education.

Here’s a link to the article on the ABA website (membership required to access)

Here’s a link to a PDF of the article (accessible to all)

The purpose of the article is to let members of the US and global legal community know there are real, concrete needs and there are ways to help. If interested in getting involved, feel free to email stephen.horowitz@georgetown.edu.

Legal English for Ukraine’s War Crimes Prosecutors

Post by Heather Weger and Julie Lake

Today, the second anniversary of the ground and air campaign on Kyiv in the early hours of February 24, 2022, we stop to reflect on Ukraine’s ongoing innovation during a full-scale Russian invasion. We, members from the Legal English team – Julie Lake, Michelle Ueland, and Heather Weger – were honored to contribute to this endeavor through our tailored, intensive 5-week program focusing on language skills for a team from the Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG) in Ukraine in November and December of 2023.

The Participants

The participants from the OPG team included Viktoriia Litvinova (the Deputy Prosecutor General), Oleksii Boniuk (Head of the Criminal Policy and Investment Protection Department), Veronika Plotnikova (Head of the Coordinating Center for the Support of Victims and Witnesses), Siuzanna Savchuk (Head of the Communications Department), and Yuliia Usenko (Head of the Department for the Protection of Children’s Interests and Combating Domestic Violence).

Our program empowered these incredible OPG representatives to meet the linguistic demands of their varied responsibilities. According to Veronika Plotnikova, the program and teachers enabled her team to meet their goal of “acquiring language skills necessary to communicate to the world about all the damage of the unprovoked and brutal aggression unleashed by the Russian regime.” 

The Program

Our participant-centered pedagogical approach was genre-based – built around texts and speech acts needed for the OPG participants’ interactions. Examples of pedagogical methods that we used included:

  • Brainstorming and practicing answering common questions to identify critical gaps in legal and academic vocabulary, 
  • Developing a series of interactive activities to help the team facilitate conversations with legal experts, 
  • Creating talking points that followed the expected organizational strategies in legal English (i.e., begin with the main point and then offer details and support),
  • Drafting CVs and bios that employed expected rhetorical strategies for meetings with US governmental counterparts,
  • Reviewing pronunciation and grammar guidelines based on student needs, and
  • Providing intensive personalized feedback for language development.

These pedagogical approaches allowed for participants to enrich their Legal English skills within our brief – but intensive – five weeks with them.

Learning was not confined to the classroom walls. Our OPG team was ushered into numerous law-focused and historical experiential opportunities. During these opportunities, they engaged in real-world language practice, including following the McElrath v. Georgia case from Georgetown Law’s moot court to the Supreme Court, attending the Atlantic Council’s EU-US Defense and Future Forum, a visit to the Library of Congress, a tour of the US Capitol, and a visit to Lincoln’s Cottage. In addition, the participants completed ACTFL’s oral proficiency interview.

The Partnerships

This specialized Legal English program was possible due to a deep collaboration with members of the Georgetown Law community. This collaboration allowed the OPG team to not only strategize how to combat the harm from Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine’s people and environment but also to innovate their legal system. Partners included members of Georgetown’s Center on National Security (CNS) with funding through the Office of Global Criminal Justice (GJC) via the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group (ACA) for Ukraine. 

We want to share special appreciation for the dedication, creativity, and professionalism of CNS Co-Director Professor Mitt Regan and Executive Director  Anna Cave; ACA Law Fellow Gus Hargrave; and the CNS logistical support team, Ann McKinnon and Angelika Osiniak. Together, these partners provided opportunities for the OPG team to meet with experts and governmental officials, and they supported the logistical aspects of their stay in Washington, D.C. 

Razom (Together, We are Ukraine)

It was an honor to work with this dedicated group of professionals from the OPG team, and we look forward to future collaborations!

Want to learn more about Ukraine? Check out these selected resources:

Websites

Press Releases

Humanitarian Feature Stories 

  • “Ukrainians Accuse Russia of Kidnapping, Indoctrinating Ukrainian Children”: Link to transcript (here); Link to video (here)
  • “Ukrainian Widows, Children Work to Overcome Grief, Trauma at Climbing Camp in the Austrian Alps”: Link to a transcript with video (here); Link to related article (here)
  • Contemporary Ukrainian authors recommended by Veronika Plotnikova
  • “Ukrainian Literature in Times of War: A Conversation with Oksana Zabuzhko” (here)

Articles

LE Journal: ChatGPT conversations with Ukrainian legal English faculty

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English. LE Journal is an opportunity to share some of the current goings-on of Georgetown Law’s Legal English Faculty.

Professors Julie Lake and Heather Weger met via Zoom this week with four Ukrainian philologists (i.e, historical linguists) to discuss pedagogical approaches and the use of Chat GPT in Legal English classrooms.

The Ukrainian legal English faculty members were Anetta Artsysshevska, Nataliya Hrynya, and Lily Kuznetsova from Lviv Ivan Franko National University and Olena Zhyhadlo from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv Law School

We enjoyed a fruitful conversation about our collective successes and challenges, and we plan to meet again in February to continue the conversation.

The relationship evolved from a larger effort initiated by the Global Legal Skills community back in 2022 to foster connections and collaboration among law and legal English faculty in Ukraine

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