Wordrake Plain Language Series: An Interview with Prof. Stephen Horowitz

In connection with International Plain Language Day (which is a real thing), Wordrake recently published an interview with Georgetown Legal English Prof. Stephen Horowitz, who teaches in Georgetown Law’s Two-Year LLM Program, in which they asked him questions such as:

  • “What prompted you to combine Law and English as a Second Language?”
  • “What connections do you see between writing for lawyers, linguistics, English as a Second Language, and the plain language movement? How do you see these fields working together to promote clarity and equity?”
  • “How can other lawyers help clients who speak English as a second language? What should lawyers know about ESL processing that would help them better serve clients?”
  • “How can professors help students who speak English as a second language?”

Below are some quotes from the interview:

  • “In Japan I encountered so many situations and behaviors that felt uncomfortable and at times even irrational. I learned to stop myself and consider the possibility that it actually was rational if you’re working from a different set of assumptions. And I learned to question and evaluate my own assumptions about how things should work before I fell back on a judgmental view or comment. It’s led me to a passionate curiosity for trying to understand why people do things they do.”
  • “The plain English movement is a reaction to a sense that the writing of lawyers and judges had become unnecessarily complicated and was acting as a barrier to access to justice. Although not stated explicitly, the plain English movement seems to me to assume native English speakers as its primary users and consumers. Legal English, on the other hand, is a catch-all term relating to the approach and curriculum for helping lawyers and law students from other language backgrounds study or work with US (or UK, Canadian, Australian, etc.) law or contracts in English.”
  • “The primary overlap [between Plain English and Legal English] is probably with regard to input. In the case of plain English, if you simplify language and use fewer words, then there is less information to process, both in volume and complexity. That should work to the benefit of non-native English speakers. In other words, using plain English makes a text closer to the idea of “comprehensible input.” Of course, it’s also possible that even a text that meets plain English standards could still be challenging for a non-native English speaker to understand for a variety of reasons, including vocabulary, grammar, and cultural knowledge gaps. And of course among non-native English speakers, there will also always be a wide range of facility with English.”
  • “However, it seems to me that plain English and legal English begin to diverge regarding output. This is because plain English can often be conveyed as a series of prescriptivist rules and principles for how to use and not use language. Whereas in legal English, the priority is generally learning to communicate one’s ideas accurately, with style a little lower down the priority list depending on the student. From a legal English teaching perspective, we want the students to learn to feel confident in expressing their ideas.”

Below is a link to the full interview.

Wordrake Plain Language Series: An Interview with Professor Stephen Horowitz

Master of Laws Interviews Season 2: Episode 3: Guillaume Zouker, Director of International Tax Services at PricewaterhouseCooopers Miami office

By Yi Song

Guillaume Zouker

Director of International Tax Services at PricewaterhouseCooopers Miami office

How to make it to the top at Big Four?

Guillaume was tired of living Paris when he left his in-house job for a French oil and gas company. He always imagined himself working and practicing law in a language other than French, his native tongue.

Today he lives in Miami and directs the International Tax Services at PwC. What is like to work in a fast-paced multilingual dynamic place like PwC, where the entire floor was staffed with people from around the world? How to get an internship at the Big Four?  How to turn your internship into a job offer?

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

Master of Laws Interviews Season 2: Episode 2: Alina Solodchikova, Tax Controversy Leader and Principal Attorney at RSM

By Yi Song

Alina Solodchikova, Tax Controversy Leader and Principal Attorney at RSM

How to make it as an internationally trained tax attorney?

When Alina moved to New York with her newly minted LLM as a Russia-trained lawyer, someone told her that there was little chance that she would make partner because of her exotic last name. Boy, doesn’t she prove the naysayer wrong? After having worked at the IRS’s Office of Chief Counsel for nearly six years, today she’s the tax controversy practice leader and the principal attorney at RSM, the fifth largest accounting firm in the U.S.

How did she make it to the top at one of the biggest accounting firms in the U.S.? How did she find her first job through a networking event? What activities and events are the most helpful during her LLM year to develop her career?

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

Master of Laws Interviews Project Season 2 is back!

Posted by Yi Song

Yao Liu

Shareholder at Cavitch Familo & Durkin

How did he become the first ever international intern turned shareholder at a firm founded in 1886?

When Yao was applying for internships during law school, most firms had stopped accepting new applications. He decided to cold show up at the doorsteps of the top 20 firms in Cleveland, Ohio, where he was studying. He went to the first firm on his list. The receptionist welcomed him, offered him coffee and informed him that the hiring partner was not in the office that day. He left his cover letter and resume. He thought it was a dead end.

As he was waiting for the elevator, he saw another gentleman was waiting as well. He looked at his watch, it was 3:30. He thought that this guy must not be a lawyer. No lawyer leaves work at 3:30. They struck up a conversation. As it turned out the guy was indeed an (estate planning) lawyer who has been with the firm for 25 years. He introduced Yao to the hiring partner a week later. During the subsequent interview, Yao wasn’t begging the firm for a job, but rather trying to figure out: why were his peers with stellar grades not being hired?

This is a story with a happy ending. Yao became the first intern the firm ever hired in its 137-year history. At the end of his internship, he received a job offer, and eventually, he made history once again by becoming the first shareholder with an international background at the firm.

How did he manage to persuade the hiring partner to offer him the internship?

How did he turn the internship into a permanent position?

Why indeed didn’t his peers with stellar grades secure jobs like he did?

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

Georgetown Law on AI in the TESOL Applied Linguistics Newsletter (Sept 2023 issue)

The September 2023 issue of AL Forum (the applied linguistics newsletter for TESOL) is out, thanks in part to contributions from several members of the Georgetown Law faculty. And the theme is language, teaching, and generative AI.

Co-edited by Georgetown Legal English Professor Heather Weger  and George Washington Teaching Associate Professor Natalia Dolgova, it leads with a letter from the editors and includes two articles by Georgetown Law colleagues.

AL Forum: The Newsletter of the Applied Linguists Interest Section

1. Letter from the Editors, by Prof. Natalia Dolgova and Prof. Heather Weger

“In this issue, you will find leadership updates summarizing past and future ALIS activities, and this issue provides a closer look at how educators are grappling with the impact of generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology, such as ChatGPT, on our field.”

2. Generation GPT: Nurturing Responsible AI Usage in College Curricula, by D. Ellery Boatwright, Instructional Technologist

“This article offers some resources and advice to consider as you make informed decisions about integrating AI into your workflows and prepare students to inhabit an AI-rich world.”

3. ChatGPT Experiment: Creating an Online Vocabulary Course for Legal English, by Prof. Stephen Horowitz

“A detailed case study of his experimental use of ChatGPT to design teaching materials for a vocabulary course, [including] examples of how to prompt ChatGPT to generate materials (e.g., quizzes and practice activities.)”

For more articles and issues of the AL Forum, click here.

Mistakes and Oral Communication in Legal English

Prof. Paula Klammer
  • The below was initially posted by Prof. Paula Klammer on LinkedIn. Re-posted here by Prof. Stephen Horowitz with permission.
  • Prof. Klammer is a Legal English Lecturer & Research Fellow at Georgetown Law. Currently earning her Ph.D. in Law from Universidad de Palermo in Argentina, Paula is an experienced lawyer and translator and is bilingual in Spanish and English.

In legal English (and in life), mistakes are good.   

Educators often talk about what and how we teach our students. But in my last semester as a Legal English Fellow at Georgetown, I want to share what I’m learning from the two colleagues who have taken me under their wings.  

The number one pain point of many legal English learners is their lack of confidence in their oral communication skills….. They’re afraid that communication mistakes will be interpreted as if they don’t know what they are talking about (law-wise) or that people will think they are not good lawyers.

This week’s most valuable lesson can be summed up like this: it’s good to make mistakes.    Here’s a little context:    In Prof. Julie Lake’s Oral Communication in the Law class which is part of Georgetown’s Two-Year LLM Program, students were given prompts to practice their oral communication skills. The class is designed to start students off within their comfort zones and help build up their confidence as legal English speakers.   

Prof. Julie Lake

The number one pain point of many legal English learners is their lack of confidence in their oral communication skills. Like their English-speaking colleagues, non-native English speakers are highly intelligent and well-versed in their legal systems. They want nothing more than to display their exceptional lawyering skills in English, but they often doubt their ability to communicate effectively. They’re afraid that communication mistakes will be interpreted as if they don’t know what they are talking about (law-wise) or that people will think they are not good lawyers.

This is a legitimate fear. Nobody wants to be embarrassed, especially not when practicing law.     That’s why oral communication training is not just about getting students to speak English, but to do so in a way that builds up their confidence. Students know a lot more than they realize and they are often much better at communicating in English than they think.   

So Prof. Lake gives students prompts that are personalized to each individual and serve as both a diving board for them to start speaking, and also as an ice-breaker for them to get to know each other and to build a sense of community. Ultimately, the underlying feeling at the end of each of Prof. Lake’s classes is that we are all in this together, and this is a safe space for students to speak English, make mistakes, and learn.   

Mistakes are welcome and should be embraced. Mistakes are learning opportunities. And making mistakes in English doesn’t reflect poorly on learners as lawyers. Mistakes are, according to Prof. Lake, when learning happens.    So my favorite takeaway this week is to welcome mistakes. 

❤️

 #legalenglish #englishlearning #englishcommunication

Click here to see previous Georgetown Legal English Blog posts about Prof. Paula Klammer.

The (mis-)use of “Besides,…..”

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

I have nothing personal against the conjunctive adverbBesides,….”

However, I’ve frequently noticed that “Besides,…..” is used by some foreign-trained LLM students in lieu of connecting phrases such as “Additionally,….” or “Furthermore,…..” And the students don’t realize that “Besides” has a different feeling and nuance, and is not an equal substitute for other connecting words used to signal that the sentence is adding information related to the previous sentence.

For example:

(Ex. 1) “The US Constitution granted the federal government with certain enumerated powers, while the state governments were granted residual powers. Besides, the federal government and the state governments share some common powers as well.”

(Ex. 2) “In this case, Jason was in his home with two officers sitting across from him at the kitchen table, and the officers’ car’s police lights were flashing for all to see. Besides, Jason’s mother was marking making breakfast in kitchen, which means his mother leave left Jason alone to talk with the officers.”

As a result, I find myself frequently providing corrective written feedback along the following lines:

“Besides,….” is not the connecting word you should use here. A better word would be “Additionally,…” or “Furthermore,…..”

Although we do use “besides” to communicate to the reader that we are adding more information, “besides” also feels less neutral and more informal than a word like “additionally.” It feels kind of pushy, like trying to persuade the other person by appealing to the their sense of personal connection to you.

For example, “Come on, let’s go see the movie tonight. It’s Friday night and you’re assignment isn’t due for a week. Besides, all of our friends are going to be there.”

In the above sentence, “Besides” works well in communicating the intent to persuade. It’s appropriate between friends when one friend is trying to push the other friend into changing their mind. But this informal, pushy feeling undermines your credibility in legal writing when your intention is just to add more information, e.g., one more reason or example, and let the example itself help with the persuading.

In other words, “besides” is saying more to your reader than you probably intend to say. For these reasons, I suggest using “Additionally” or “Furthermore” (among other options) as a connecting phrase in your legal writing rather than using “Besides,….”

I find myself writing this kind of comment so frequently, in fact, that I finally decided it would be more time effective to just write a blog post about it so that I can always share with my students in the future. Besides Additionally, now other legal English and legal writing instructors can use this as well, if it helps make their work a little easier.

In the meantime, if anyone ever figures out what English language textbook or publisher keeps teaching “besides” as an exact synonym for “additionally,” please let me know so I can lead an effort to try and address the problem at the source.

***********************

Bonus: This language (mis-)use example reminds me of when I taught English in a middle school in Japan years ago. From my well-meaning supervisors I would occasionally hear statements like, “You had better sit down now.” Or, “You had better eat the food now.” Each time I wondered why they were threatening me, even though a threat seemed unnecessary in the situation. But then I realized their English classes must have taught them that the phrase “(you) had better” is a synonym for “should.” And it is. Sometimes. But sometimes it can also sound like an organized crime family member making a veiled threat. Thereafter, I told myself, “You had better get to the source of that misinformation before leaving Japan.” But alas, I never did.

Oh well, in both instances it could be a lot worse. Besides, at least it gives me something fun to write about!

Dissents, LLM students and learning to read cases

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

One of the challenges for many foreign-trained LLM students studying at a US law school, especially if they come from a civil law legal culture rather than a common law legal culture, is getting their brains to buy into the notion that the words and language and arguments that they read in a court opinion have weight. That statutes and statutory language is not the final say in a legal argument, but actually just a first step followed by a search for and review of case law that interprets various parts of a statute.

Click to see the full article.

A subsequent and related challenge for many foreign-trained LLM students (as well as for US-trained JD students) is then training their brains to also understand that, even though what a judge writes in a court opinion may constitute law (at the time and in the jurisdiction of that particular case), it is not infallible and may have major flaws in its arguments. And this is even more so in law school in the US where the goal of study is often not just about determining what the law is, but thinking about what it could or should be. And training one’s brain to analyze arguments in order to be able to construct effective arguments in the future.

In that vein, I recently came across an article about the role of dissenting opinions that may be helpful for foreign-trained LLM students trying to wrap their brain around the US common law legal system. (Or legal English professors trying to help them get there.) Because from the perspective of one trained in a civil law legal system, a dissenting opinion may seem rather extraneous.

Prof. Sherri Lee Keene, Georgetown Law

The article, “Teaching Dissents” (Minnesota Law Review, July 7, 2023) by Prof. Sherri Lee Keene of Georgetown Law, is intended to help law students better understand the significance of dissenting opinions.

The abstract of Prof. Keene’s article notes that, “Court opinions are often written to sound authoritative and sure, making legal decisions seem purely logical and channeling a tone of inevitability…… In contrast to the voice of the majority, which often seeks to draw attention away from conflicts, dissents can show where choices were made in the decision-making process, and where others could have been made.”

Prof. Keene highlights the notion that teaching and studying dissenting opinions is a great way for students to learn to be critical readers and “identify spaces where they can challenge existing precedent and advocate for positive change.”

And from a legal English perspective, I appreciate that Prof. Keene has provided those of us who work with foreign-trained LLM students a very useful tool for helping our students to more deeply understand and get comfortable with the concept the US common law legal system and its culture.

Below is the full abstract and a link to the article:

Continue reading “Dissents, LLM students and learning to read cases”

Updates from the Georgetown Legal English Faculty (September 2023)

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

Here’s what the Georgetown Legal English faculty have been up to over the summer….

Craig Hoffman 

Professor Hoffman gave a talk at the U.S. Supreme Court in early August.  He was invited by the Association of the Reporters of Judicial Decisions, whose annual meeting was held at the Supreme Court.  He was asked to speak about Language and Law and specifically about his paper,  Parse the Sentence First: Curbing the Urge to Resort to the Dictionary When Interpreting Legal Texts.   (Additionally, he also managed to get the New York Reporter of Decisions to send him an opinion from a New York trial court that the Georgetown Law librarians had been seeking!)   

Heather Weger

Prof. Weger with Georgetown Law alumni in front of Deoksugung Palace

Summer 2023 was packed with legal English endeavors! A highlight was meeting up with LL.M. and J.D. alumni during a visit to South Korea, generously hosted by Law Center alumnus, Chairman Seung-Hoon Lee .

The opportunity to connect with our multilingual community in a global setting affirms the legacy of the Georgetown experience. I was delighted to share insights about our Two-Year LL.M. program with these colleagues and welcome two of our incoming students.

Back in the U.S., I’ve been excitedly working on the release of the next issue of AL Forum, the Applied Linguistic Newsletter for TESOL, a publication I co-edit with Dr. Natalia Dolgova. This issue will explore the impacts of artificial intelligence (AI), such as the emergent use of ChatGPT, on educational practices; it includes articles from Georgetown colleagues Professor Stephen Horowitz and Technology Specialist Ellery Boatright.

Research also found a way into the summer! Professor Julie Lake and I are collaborating on upcoming conference presentations and publications that focus on integrating asset-based pedagogical practices into Legal English education. As this busy summer wraps up, I look forward to an even busier school year!

Julie Lake 

Professor Lake had a wonderful summer traveling around the U.S. with her husband and daughter. She spent a week at Cape May, NJ at the beach, a week in Chapel Hill, NC, and a week in Philadelphia, PA.

During her summer she made progress on her personal “language-based” summer project to learn Spanish. Language learning is a lifetime journey!

Professor Lake also spent time working with Professor Weger to revise the language-focused curriculum for Fundamentals of Legal Writing for the 2023-2024 academic year. In Fall 2023, incoming Two-Year students will learn how to use language-based strategies to craft a high-quality memo (i.e., a lawyer-to-lawyer document). In Spring 2024, incoming Two-Year students will learn about the scholarly writing genre and how to write a high-quality mini-scholarly legal research paper.

And finally, Professor Lake enjoyed researching productive ways to use ChatGPT as a learning tool for law and linguistic students.

John Dundon

Professor Dundon began his summer by presenting at the Sixth International Language & Law Conference at the University of Bialystok Faculty of Law in Bialystok, Poland in June (see prior post).

He then taught a summer class, Introduction to U.S. Contract Drafting and Interpretation at IE University Law School in Madrid, Spain, where he has taught for the past three summers.

In July, Professor Dundon presented a paper, When multilingual litigants encounter monolingual ideologies in U.S. judicial opinions, at the Twelfth Bonn Applied Linguistics Conference in Bonn, Germany; he’s been invited back to Bonn to appear as a discussant in a conference focused on legal discourse, taking place in September (more on that in a future post).

He also traveled in Morocco, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan with family, before returning to Georgetown to teach U.S. Legal Research, Analysis, and Writing as part of the LL.M. Summer Experience program.

Professor Dundon ended the summer with a presentation at Georgetown Law’s faculty summer research workshop, where he spoke about his paper “A shifting precipice of unsettled law?”: A survey of how U.S. courts treat expert testimony using forensic stylistics, which was published this month in the International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law.

Yi Song

Prof. Yi Song takes a selfie with Prof. Michael Cedrone and their Georgetown Summer Experience “Foundations for American Law” class.

1. Summer Teaching

Professor Yi Song taught two courses during the Summer Experience – “Foundations for American Law” (co-teaching with Professor Michael Cedrone) and her summer stable, “U.S. Legal Research, Analysis and Writing.”

She’s especially proud of being responsible for the idea of the group assignment for the Foundations class.

  • In July 2023, 102 international lawyers from around the world walked into McDonough 203 as strangers.
  • They were asked to form 10 groups to present before class “What I have learned from the Foundations so far.”
  • In the subsequent 10 days, we saw history reenacted as Marbury v. Madison came alive.
  • Like most historic events, it all began with a fateful night at the bar. 
  • The foundations of the American legal system were reimagined in the multiverse with the prompt “what if the Founding Fathers were_____?”
  • An uncanny Professor Cedrone Impersonator? A jury trial, where a top international model found herself in the midst of legal dramas? A tort case that occurred on the premises of Georgetown Law, inspired by the Office-style-behind-the-scene footage?
  • When Dean Treanor came in one morning for a surprise visit, Prof. Song regretted that she forgot to take a group class selfie with him. But the one she got with Professor Cedrone still came out pretty good.

2. Professor Song’s Master of Laws Interviews Project

Master of Laws Interviews Project has come to the classroom this summer. Season 2 is being recorded now. Stay tuned for the Fascinating journeys such as how a lawyer got hired and became the first shareholder with international background in a firm’s 137 year history; How a former star student from legal research and writing class successfully turned her externship into the international associate position at BigLaw. And more!

Michelle Ueland

Prof. Michelle Ueland (standing, far left) with fellow presenters and faculty at Universidad Nacional in Costa Rica.

I was an invited keynote speaker for this conference in Costa Rica (at a branch campus of my MA alma mater, la Universidad Nacional) on August 17 & 18. I gave two presentations (#1 and #2 below) and the closing plenary (#3).

1. “Advancing Listening and Speaking Skills in English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Classrooms”

2. “In Your Voice and In Your Shoes: Experiencing Sanaz Toossi’s Pulitzer-prize-winning play “English”

3. “What’s all the chatter about? Writing educators’ pedagogical responses to generative artificial intelligence (AI) products like ChatGPT-3.5”

Mari Sakai

I presented at the Global Legal Skills Conference at Nottingham Law School at Nottingham Trent University, England (July 30-Aug 1, 2023). My presentation was titled “Addressing international law students’ pronunciation needs: Best-practices informed by linguistics research and pedagogy.”

Abstract

  • Although professors notice issues in their international students’ speech, they may not feel equipped to address them. This presentation will cover four research-based, best practices for teaching second language (L2) pronunciation: orienting towards intelligibility, creating task-based lessons, increasing talk-time, and giving feedback. 
  • Many L2 speakers express a desire to “eliminate their accents”, however, accents carry valuable information of our diverse identities and experiences. Teachers can instead help students reorient towards the crucial feature of communication called intelligibility, which asks if the listener received the message the speaker intended to convey. Oral skills can then be addressed through task-based teaching, which focuses on tasks students face (e.g., oral case briefs, negotiations) and guides them through the language necessary to complete them. Third, increasing the amount of productive (versus receptive) interactions in the target language will help students to see progress more rapidly. One suggestion is assigning a video reflection after observing courtroom proceedings. Finally, explicit pronunciation feedback can be a salient tool for progress. Feedback can focus on unintelligible speech, articulation of a sound, and spoken grammar.
  • These four approaches can be applied in any classroom around the world. Digital access to all teaching materials will be provided.
Shuguftah Quddoos, the first Asian woman to serve as the Sheriff of Nottingham

Also,….

  • A fun tidbit about the city was that it is the birth place of the Robin Hood lore, and there is actually a real Sheriff of Nottingham position (from what I learned, it’s apparently similar to Mayor).
  • The current Sheriff is the first Asian woman to hold the position, and we learned from her that all the city buses and trams are electric vehicles too.
  • GLS was a great small conference, and next year it will be in Bari, Italy!

 

Stephen Horowitz

Georgetown Legal English professors John Dundon and Stephen Horowitz together with National Chengchi University law professor Anna Yan

*Collaborated with a USAID Ukrainian representative to establish online legal English training programs for Ukrainian law faculty starting in Fall 2023. The effort has involved identifying interested US legal English instructors and matching their areas of expertise with the interests of Ukrainian law faculty.

*Set up assessments (pro bono) for female judges from Afghanistan preparing to enter LLM programs at US law schools. The project, which involved collaboration with Prof. Daniel Edelson (Seton Hall/USLawEssentials.com) and Prof. Lindsey Kurtz (Penn State Law), was at the request of an ABA initiative working to mentor and support female Afghan judges.

*Taught a 4-week online Bar Exam Essay Writing for LLM Students course during May/June, in collaboration with Prof. Daniel Edelson. The mission (and experiment) was to make the course accessible to any LLM or non-native English speaking law student, regardless of ability to pay, and it worked well. A second section of the course had to be created to accommodate excessive demand.

*Released a USLawEssentials Law & Language podcast interview with Seongryol Ryan Park, a graduate of Georgetown Law’s National Security Law LLM program, who previously worked for South Korea’s Ministry of Unification and now serves as Assistant Secretary to the President for International Public Relations.

*Set up the Tax Legal English Resources page on the Georgetown Legal English Blog.

*Wrote a soon-to-be published article abou for AL Forum, the Applied Linguistic Newsletter for TESOL, about using ChatGPT to create tax vocabulary practice activities.

*Invited to guest lecture (via Zoom) for a legal English course at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan during the fall 2023 semester.

*Had the opportunity to meet visiting scholar Professor Anna Yan, who teaches law at National Chengchi University in Taiwan and show her the new Legal English faculty offices in McDonough 477.

*Sadly was unable to attend the Global Legal Skills Conference in Nottingham, UK, July 30-Aug 1, which some attendees have shared was really fantastic. But hoping to attend the 2024 GLS Conference in Barri, Italy.

*Fortunate to have had a family vacation in July in a small town (Puerto Morelos) on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, which was a very positive linguistic experience and first time out of the US for my children.

“Approaching Legal English Through Transactional Law” – Prof. Dundon presents at Language & Law Conference in Poland

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

Prof. John Terry Dundon, a member of Georgetown Law’s Legal English Faculty who teaches in the Georgetown Two-Year LLM Program, recently attended the Sixth Biennial Language and Law Conference at the University of Bialystok, Faculty of Law in Bialystok, Poland.  It was his second time at the conference (he last attended in 2019), and he had a great time reconnecting with legal English professionals from all over Europe. 

Prof. Dundon presenting at University of Bialystok

Prof. Dundon gave a presentation titled Approaching Legal English through Transactional Law, which summarized the way that his current class on Contract Drafting at Georgetown Law combines substantive instruction about contract drafting with practice in a number of legal English skills (e.g., adapting language from precedent contracts, explaining contractual changes in ordinary English, and writing professional emails). He walked the audience through his syllabus, course materials, and one of the units from the course.

Questions afterwards related to ways that the course could be adapted to classes in programs that are not overtly US-law focused, as well as different ways to combine expertise from both lawyers and linguists in a single classroom.

Prof. Dundon in Warsaw

Other presentations at the conference related to legal English instruction in a variety of educational and institutional contexts, legal translation, the Plain English movement, and the work of multilingual lawyers in Europe.

Overall it was a fascinating conference, and Prof. Dundon felt very lucky to attend.

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