The Brief: “Bridging Language and Law at Georgetown”

A nice article via The Brief, Georgetown Law’s community newsletter, titled “Bridging Language and Law at Georgetown” in the January 18, 2024 issue that highlights the work of Professor Stephen Horowitz, the 2-Year LLM Program, and the Legal English faculty.

Click here to read the full article

Updates from the Georgetown Legal English Faculty (December 2023)

Post by Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

Here’s what the Georgetown Legal English faculty have been up to over the fall 2023 semester….

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Heather Weger & Julie Lake & Michelle Ueland

Legal English team members Professors Julie Lake, Heather Weger, and Michelle Ueland designed and delivered an intensive 5-week Legal English program for the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine from November 13-December 15, 2023. They collaborated with Georgetown Law’s Center on National Security (with Professor Mitt Regan and Anna Cave) and the Atrocity Crime Advisory Group (ACA).

It was an honor to work with such dedicated colleagues and students. We look forward to future collaborations of this kind. Stay tuned for a more detailed blog post in January!

John Dundon

Professor John Dundon in Bonn, Germany

This September, Professor Dundon was invited to participate as a panel discussant at a linguistics conference at the University of Bonn, Germany. The title of the conference was “Language as a Social Practice: Constructing (a)symmetries in legal discourse,” and Professor Dundon spoke on a panel (together with professors from Germany and Finland) about how asymmetries in legal discourse can lead to societal injustice.

He thoroughly enjoyed attending the conference and considers himself very fortunate to have been invited to meet with so many leaders in the field of language and law. The conference proceedings will be published (together with a contribution from Professor Dundon) in an upcoming volume with Cambridge University Press.

In other news, Professor Dundon is finishing up his final year of coursework towards his doctorate in sociolinguistics. This semester, he is researching interactional features of Supreme Court oral arguments, and specifically the “production format” of utterances made by attorneys as they negotiate having to speak on behalf of themselves, their client, and their legal team. Professor Dundon is also conducting a survey of ideologies about language use and language learning on the public-facing websites of local bilingual schools in the District of Columbia.

Stephen Horowitz

Ukraine

*Collaborated with Artem Shaipov of USAID’s Justice For All program and several other legal English professors (Alissa Hartig, Susan Dudley, Catherine Beck, Oksana Kiriiak, and Linda Pope) to provide multiple legal English trainings for Ukrainian law faculty and legal English faculty over the course of the Fall 2023 semester.

*Led one of the trainings–9 sessions of Legal English Conversation–and recruited a cohort of 15 additional law/legal English volunteers (including colleague John Dundon) to engage with Ukrainian faculty in each Legal English Conversation session.

*Currently in the process of setting up additional trainings during Spring 2024. And planning a new round of matching Ukrainian law schools with any international law school/legal English faculty interested in teaching a course, guest lecturing, providing support for academic publishing, or helping in other ways. (Email Stephen.Horowitz@georgetown.edu if interested in volunteering in some capacity.)

*Recruited Georgetown Law JD students to participate in a six-week peer-to-peer legal writing project with students from Kyiv Molhya Academy University during the fall semester that involved JD students from several other US law schools as well. Currently recruiting more Georgetown Law students for the next session to start late January.

*In collaboration with law professor Alan Blakely, helped set up the Ukraine-related Resources Page.

*Reached a 500-day Duolingo streak for Ukrainian language study!

Afghanistan

*Continued conducting assessments for Afghan judges and lawyers in connection with the ABA Afghan Legal Professionals Scholarship & Mentoring Pilot Program. The assessment project is in collaboration with Prof. Daniel Edelson (Seton Hall/USLawEssentials.com) and Prof. Lindsey Kurtz (Penn State Law).

*Created, with Daniel Edelson, a self-guided online pre-LLM legal English program (i.e., Fundamentals of the US Legal System; Reading Cases; Legal Writing) to help prepare Afghan candidates getting ready to start an LLM program at a US law school.

*Currently working with ABA program leaders to recruit additional mentors–both law faculty and law students–to provide legal English and other support for the candidates. (Email Stephen.Horowitz@georgetown.edu if interested in volunteering.)

Japan

*Guest-lectured in three classes for the legal English course at Keio University Law School on the topics of Case Reading Strategies and the Language of Analogy.

USA

*Teaching a December/January “Bar Essay Writing Skills for LLM Students” online course for USLawEssentials together with Prof. Daniel Edelson. The course is designed to be accessible to all students who need it regardless of finances, and provides specialized bar essay writing support geared to non-native English speakers.

*Was the subject of interviews by Wordrake (on Legal English and Plain English) and Amicus Partners (on my career path to becoming a legal English professor.)

*Provided a book cover blurb for The “Getting to Yes” Guide for ESL Students and Professionals: Principled Negotiation for Non-Native Speakers of English by Barrie J. Roberts at the request of University of Michigan Press.

*Received a wonderful email from a former student, reprinted with her permission:

“I found out I passed the New York bar yesterday! I wanted to thank you specifically because both torts and criminal law came up on the exam. The torts essay was asking for all elements of negligence so that was our entire final exam for Legal English 1. The criminal law essay had 4 sub issues and they were all about Miranda rights, custodial interrogation and whether the defendant waived it knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently. Thank you again for the classes. I remember writing everything I learned from classes instead of from the bar prep materials for those two essays. I’m really grateful for that!”Sokunthyda Long (Cambodia), graduate of the 2-Year LLM Program at Georgetown Law

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Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and peace-filled holidays and New Year!

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.

AI/ChatGPT as a tool for Legal English and LLM students


Post by Prof. Stephen Horowitz, Professor of Legal English

As we start to shift past the “wow” factor of AI and ChatGPT (see, e.g., this very cool post from the FCPA Blog posing questions to ChatGPT related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and also this academic article titled “GPT Takes the Bar Exam“), I’ve seen articles and social media posts and heard comments and commentary focused on the potential plagiaristic dangers of ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence-fueled chatbot that can produce complex, natural-sounding essays in a matter of seconds:

But my initial reaction was less of concern and more along the lines of, “What a great potential legal English tool! How can we use this to help our LLM students learn better?”

And this thinking feels connected to what I’ve read in articles like “AI and the Future of Undergraduate Writing” by Beth McMurtrie in The Chronicle of Higher Education which essentially says that the horse is out of the barn; how are we as teachers and educational institutions going to adapt our assessment methods and how can we use this as a teaching tool. (This is really the underlying point of “The End of High School English” as well.)

Some of my own tests of ChatGPT, by the way, have included:

1) To ask it to “write an essay comparing Marie Antoinette and Rachel Carson,” the idea being to see if it could find connections on two seemingly unrelated people. And it did this quite effectively, acknowledging the lack of connection but finding comparison and contrast in that they were women of different social status who had certain accomplishments. About as good as I could expect from any student given a similar question.

Continue reading “AI/ChatGPT as a tool for Legal English and LLM students”

Linguist humor: What we really do

Stephen Horowitz is the Director of Online Legal English Programs at Georgetown Law.

From 11/25/20 xkcd (“A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language”)

And go to the Language Log blog (which is where I first aw this xkcd webcomic) for some great linguist commentary and reactions to this.

Ever since reading this webcomic, my life ambition has become to put it on a coffee mug and give the mugs out to everyone else at the law school outside of the Legal English Team to help shift the perception of the ways we help LLM students and other non-native English speaking law students.

When I dream, I dream big.

Crash Course Linguistics

Stephen Horowitz is the Director of Online Legal English Programs at Georgetown Law.

For anyone who’s interested in learning more about linguistics from a language teaching perspective or who’s thought about doing a masters in applied linguistics or TESOL but doesn’t have the time, the creators of the Lingthusiasm podcast now have a YouTube channel with a series of short videos on the basics of linguistics called Crash Course Linguistics.

Here’s a sampling:

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