This great question was recently emailed by Prof. Eileen Pizzurro, Director of Academic Success & Bar Studies at Rutgers Law School to me and to Prof. Daniel Edelson (founder of USLawEssentials and Director of Academic Success at Seton Hall Law School.)
It gets at the challenge many law schools face in supporting international students–particularly those in JD programs as opposed to LLM programs–since those in JD programs need to take Constitutional Law with all the American JD students. And of all the 1L courses, Constitutional Law in the US has a particularly high degree of the kind of background and cultural knowledge that you absorb by growing up and going to school in the US.
And it’s frequently academic support faculty, legal writing faculty, and occasionally legal English faculty who find themselves needing to provide self-guided resources (because who has the time to teach a 1-on-1 Constitutional Law seminar?) to students thrown into the water and trying to learn to swim.
“Do you have any resources you recommend for international students trying to get their bearings in constitutional law?”
After hitting send on my email reply, I realized this should be a blog post so that other instructors out there have something they can easily refer students to when asked this question.
Below is my response. Though I’m happy to add more if others have suggestions:
Easily accessible (for free) on YouTube and created by Prof. Daniel Edelson (Director of Academic Success at Seton Hall Law and the founder of USLawEssentials), these often animated videos may be the quickest and easiest way for non-native English speaking lawyers/law students to start getting their head around the US Constitution and related topics in the US legal system.
In particular, there are playlists (i.e., multiple videos on a related topic) relate to Constitutional law on topics such as Constitution: The Federal Government and Important Freedoms (30 videos) and The Constitution: Tests for Constitutionality (18 videos). There are plenty of other helpful explainer videos Daniel has created that might be helpful. But those two playlists are good place to start and will give a learner plenty to do. Notably, Daniel has a great knack for communicating in a way that is intended specifically and very accessible for non-native English speakers.
Daniel Edelson and I have created an online self-guided pre-LLM course program based on curriculum we’ve developed and taught in the past. It’s currently being provided on a pro bono basis to Afghan judges and lawyers in connection with the ABA Afghan Legal Professionals Scholarship & Mentoring Pilot Program. Certain course modules focus on the Constitution and fundamentals of the US legal system. (Others focus on Case Reading & Analysis; Fundamentals of Legal Writing; the US Civil Litigation System; and a Law & Language podcast-based study module.) The course has not yet been made generally available. But if anyone has interest–either as an individual or an organization–you can contact Daniel Edleson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Legal English Resources page lists various books and podcasts, among other items, that may be helpful to learning about US Constitutional Law and related topics.
An extensive series of podcast episodes, created by New Hampshire Public Radio, which are great explainers on a wide range of relevant topics.
An online gamified way to let US school students teach themselves about US government and constitution. Many (most?) schools in the US are using this to teach civics to their students. (My 10 year old daughter has been using it a lot lately.)
6. Khan Academy
Khan Academy has a large library of lessons that might be helpful. I once went through all the offerings that seemed possibly relevant (there’s a lot!) and pulled out ones that might be helpful for my students. Then I organized them into a “course” on the Khan Academy website and titled the course “OLE: US Legal System-Core Concepts & Vocabulary (supp). A fair amount of the lessons I think were intended for AP History/Government students in US high schools. I haven’t used it in a while, but it still exists. So if you don’t feel like looking for all the lessons yourself, feel free to just join my course. Here’s the link for the OLE: US Legal System-Core Concepts & Vocabulary “course.”. And the join code for my “class” is VQ6XUCKW if you need it.
Intended for high school students as a practical guide to US law, government, and civics. But great for non-native English speaking lawyers and law students because it is rich in law-related vocabulary and US legal system concepts, it’s easier to read than a law school textbook, and it has a great glossary in the back of the book.
Do you have ideas and suggestions for other materials that should be included here?Maybe something that has been been helpful to you or someone else you know?
Just email email@example.com and let me know. I’m happy to add more to this post. Thanks!