LLMs and JD students: Creating opportunities for interaction

Post by Prof. Stephen Horowitz, Legal English Lecturer

Question: Aside from class integration and language partners, have you done any programs at your respective schools that have been particularly effective at bringing these groups together?

I recently saw the above question (on a listserv for LLM program administrators) about ways to foster connections between LLM students and JD students, as this type of integration is something greatly appreciated by LLM students and can make a program more appealing and provide a richer and fuller experience for LLM students.

For JD students, on the other hand, this is not necessarily something many of them are seeking as they often have their own priorities and pressure-filled law school lives. So how do you flush out the JD students who might be interested in connecting with LLM students? Or create opportunities for connection and interaction that are genuinely engaging and don’t feel forced?

Here are some previous ideas and experiences I shared for building LLM-JD connections and interaction that are a little outside the usual ideas and which I thought may be helpful or inspire new ideas:

1. Getting organized: An assignment where my LLM students had to interview one or more JD students about their process and systems for keeping organized in law school. Then share in class what they learned and which things, if any, they’ll use going forward. Part of the assignment involved taking photos of some of the JD student’s apps, notebooks, and other organizing paraphernalia.

2. Cross-cultural Email Exchange Activity:  At a law school where I worked previously, we had a legal writing section of all LLM students. And we had that class partner with a JD legal writing section to pair up each LLM student with a JD student. Around mid-semester when the JD students finished a big writing assignment, we had the LLM students each email their JD student with a question about the writing assignment topic. The premise was that they were both associates at a global law firm, and the LLM student needed to understand more about this issue in the US for a client. The JD students in their response had to summarize this topic they were now experts on. And the LLM students followed up with a thank you and any additional questions. The biggest topic of discussion in the classes, for the record, was all about, “How to I address this person based on how I’m seeing their name?” And I think there was a follow up class where some of the JDs and LLMs joined together to do a post-op.

3. LLMs as Clinic Clients:  Also at the law school where I worked previously, one of the clinics needed students to pretend to be clients to train the JDs in the clinic program. Since a lot of the actual clients are often non-native English speakers, we gave LLM students an opportunity to participate as clients. So they had to read the background info and prepare for their role. Then they went into the clinic and were interviewed by a JD student. A week or two later the LLM students were invited to join the clinics class where everyone downloaded about their experience. It was really fantastic and the LLMs loved the whole experience, getting to learn about in-take interviews and other things that young lawyers need to learn about. This exposure to practical training was especially appreciated as it’s generally difficult for LLMs to get involved in clinics at US law schools.

4. Writing Fellow Partners: At my previous law school, there was a cohort of Writing Fellows who worked in the Writing Center. I was able to reach out to them and see if any of them would be interested in providing language feedback to LLMs on their writing. Then I reached out to the LLMs and asked if anyone was interested in getting additional language feedback. I then paired participating LLM students with participating Writing Center Fellows (I only got 3 of those.) And the LLM students were then instructed to email a paper they had already submitted from a class to their assigned Writing Fellow. The Writing Fellow then reviewed the paper for language issues and provided written feedback. The LLM student then also had the option to email their Writing Fellow and meet to discuss. 

5. Field Trips: I’ve organized a lot of field trips for my LLM students, and occasionally I was able to connect it with another student group. Two different times I took my LLM students to meet with the head of Business Investment Districts in NYC–one for Grand Central Station, and one for Hudson Yards–and we also invited students from the Real Estate Law Fellows program to join us. (And actually, I think the Grand Central one was set up through the head of the Real Estate Law Fellows program.) I’ve also taken LLM students to police stations and the police academy and sort of randomly invited JD students I knew to come along. 

6. Pumpkin Carving: My former colleague Katy Piper started a yearly Halloween activity where we would bring in a bunch of pumpkins into a classroom along with carving implements and candles and of course some treats. And for a 2 hr window, LLM students could drop in and carve pumpkins. And we managed to pull in some JD students too. And then we put candles in the jack-o-lanterns and set them all out for everyone to see. The students loved it, and it made for great photos and social media sharing too!

I hope these ideas are helpful and would love to hear about other ideas people have or have tried in law schools or other settings.

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