Thursday, March 17, 2016

Save the Date! Webinar: Teaching Int'l Graduate Students at U.S. Law Schools

Looking forward to this latest webinar about teaching international law students on Monday, March 21! 

For more info and to register, click here.

Teaching Int'l Graduate Students at U.S. Law Schools Part 3

Monday, March 21, 2016 12:30-1:30 PM EST

The Legal Writing Institute’s Global Legal Writing Skills Committee is pleased to invite you to attend its third live webinar hosted by Michigan State University College of Law. The speakers will expand on their recorded presentations, available at, and respond to live questions and comments from attendees. This webinar is designed for those teaching or planning to teach international graduate students at U.S. law schools. The webinar is free. No special software is required for attendees to watch or ask questions, but attendees are strongly encouraged to register in advance. Attendees should also watch the presenters’ recorded videocasts in advance of the live webinar. Please contact Sammy Mansour at if you have any questions about the webinar, or call MSU College of Law’s Technical Support at 517-432-9292 if you are having technical difficulties on the day of the webinar.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

What is Second Language Writing and Why Should I Care?

Second Language Writing

Those who teach legal writing generally, or to international students specifically, may not realize that second language writing is a discipline in itself. The Journal of Second Language Writing publishes "theoretically grounded reports of research and discussions that represent a contribution to current understandings of central issues in second and foreign language writing and writing instruction."

Teaching legal writing to international students fits nicely under the under the SLW umbrella, which focuses on "characteristics and attitudes of L2 writers, L2 writers' composing processes, features of L2 writers' texts, readers' responses to L2 writing, assessment/evaluation of L2 writing, and contexts (cultural, social, political, institutional) for L2 writing." 

Many of these areas of pedagogical concern -- such as the composing process, features of texts, assessment and feedback, and the writing context -- should be familiar to legal writing teachers generally. However, there are variables specific to L2 writers, including the transfer of writing strategies from L1 to L2, unfamiliarity with rhetorical norms and processes, and social and cognitive challenges, such as motivation, goals, and general learning strategies.

Here are just a few resources for further investigation of and practical advice for teaching second language (legal) writing:




Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Guest Post: Jennifer Romig on Logical Punctuation

Jennifer Romig

TILS is very excited to offer this guest post from Professor Jennifer Romig, a.k.a., Listen Like a Lawyer. Professor Romig teaches legal research and writing at Emory Law. She also teaches an advanced course in blogging and social media for law students and lawyers. Professor Romig can be followed on Twitter at @JenniferMRomig and @ListenLikeaLwyr.

Thank you, Professor Romig, for this insight on logical punctuation! 

Logical punctuation?

U.S. English has a peculiar style with its quotation mechanics. When you are quoting a passage of text and when that text ends with a period or comma, the period or comma should be placed inside the quotation mark.

               U.S. English style prefers this:

The key reason the court adopted the objective rather than subjective test was “administrative necessity.”

               Not this:

The key reason the court adopted the objective rather than subjective test was “administrative necessity”.

Professor Nadia Nedzel’s book Legal Reasoning, Research, and Writing for International GraduateStudents sums up the U.S. style:

In American usage, the ending quotation marks come after (not before) commas and periods: The court held that “[i]n an action for negligence, the plaintiff must prove duty, breach, causation, and damages.”

U.S. law students often struggle to adopt this style, perhaps because it does not seem logical to them. After all in the example above, the period is not actually part of the quote. Thus it does not seem particularly logical, which is why placing the period outside the quotation is described as “logical punctuation.” If the period outside the quote is logical punctuation, then the prevalent style for quotations in U.S. English is, well, illogical.

Adapting this style can be even more challenging for students with educational backgrounds outside the U.S. because the U.S. style is out of step with quotation practices in other countries. A helpful article on this issue is Ben Yagoda’s The Rise of Logical Punctuation. In the article, he distinguishes “American style” from “British style.” He points out that British style is more aptly described as “logical punctuation” in part because it is more consistent with the logic of computer coding. 

But stylistic practices are not always logical; they are cultural and often the product of longstanding historical uses. Thus, to reiterate U.S. style, the following examples are viewed as correct in a U.S. legal document:

As defined by the Fifth Circuit’s opinion, “The principal issue on appeal [was] whether the taxpayer [was] entitled to deduct as an ordinary and necessary business expense the cost of purchasing and maintaining the Yves St. Laurent clothes and accessories worn by the taxpayer in her employment as the manager of the boutique.”

Because subjectively determining whether certain clothing is appropriate to an individual taxpayer’s lifestyle is “virtually impossible,” the Fifth Circuit instead applied an objective test.

For many U.S. readers who may not have critically examined their own stylistic preferences, periods and commas inside the quotations just look right. Even though tens of millions of English speakers place the periods and commas outside the quotation marks, doing so may look wrong to a U.S. reader.

There are a few more specific points to note here. First, this rule does not apply to question marks and semicolons. Semicolons and question marks should be inside a quotation mark if they are part of the quote. Semicolons and question marks should be outside the quotation mark if the question mark is part of the larger sentence that includes the quote. Here are several correct examples:

Does this objective test truly provide a “practical administrative approach”?

The court asked, “Would a reasonable taxpayer wear these clothes for personal wear when not performing work-related duties?”

The objective test is a “practical administrative approach”; it has the benefit of avoiding subjective decisions about taxpayers’ lifestyle and clothing.

British style on quotations differs a little bit or a lot, depending on what source you consult.

The University of Oxford Style Guide recommends very different quotation practices. It would differ on two of the examples above, when the quote is a fragment of text within the broader sentence:

The key reason the court adopted an objective rather than subjective test was “administrative necessity”.

Because subjectively determining whether certain clothing is appropriate to an individual taxpayer’s lifestyle is “virtually impossible”, the Fifth Circuit instead applied an objective test.

The Oxford Style Guide points to stylistic differences that are actually even more pronounced. British style’s use of single and double quotation marks is exactly the opposite from U.S. style: “Use single quotation marks for direct speech or a quote, and double quotation marks for direct speech or a quote within [a quote].” (This is from page 16.)

Thus, the following example shows British and U.S. styles for embedded quotations in which one source quotes another:

               British style:

‘An objective test is not only reasonable but “the only administratively necessary alternative”.’

               U.S. style:

“An objective test is not only reasonable but ‘the only administratively necessary alternative.’”

Note the multiple differences here: U.S. style uses double quotations for the main quotation and single quotations for the quote within the quote. U.S. style places the period inside both sets of quotation marks at the end of the sentence.

Happily, when a quotation is a full sentence and is formally introduced, U.S. and British styles treat it essentially the same:

As defined by the Fifth Circuit’s opinion, “The principal issue on appeal [was] whether the taxpayer [was] entitled to deduct as an ordinary and necessary business expense the cost of purchasing and maintaining the Yves St. Laurent clothes and accessories worn by the taxpayer in her employment as the manager of the boutique.”

In both styles, the period goes inside the quotation marks, whether single or double, with U.S. style using double quotation marks shown above.

There is one evolving exception in U.S. style. That exception is for transactional drafting. When defining a term in a contract, the logical or British style is often preferred:

Employees shall wear “Official Acme Clothing”, defined as the following: a polo-style shirt bearing the Acme logo on the right front and no other markings, khaki slacks with a belt, and brown or black dress loafers with a heel lower than 0.5 inch. The key reason the court adopted an objective rather than subjective test was "administrative necessity".

Recently U.S. corporation Adobe Systems published its internal Legal Department Style Guide (downloadable here) The Adobe Legal Department Style Guide focuses largely—but not exclusively—on drafting licensing agreements. The flowchart titled “Organize Yourself Before You Begin Writing” would benefit any legal writer creating any type of document. The Adobe Legal Department Style Guide uses logical punctuation—in other words, British style—throughout. Legal writing author and speaker Ross Guberman has also noted that U.S. patent prosecutors often use the British style.

The difference in these two styles can create a decision for law students seeking employment. To seek employment in the United States, a student is well advised to format application materials using U.S. style. To seek employment in other countries where law is practiced in English, the British style may be more commonplace. Overall, the most important thing is to recognize the difference between these two styles and to select the best approach for the situation, then implement it as consistently as possible throughout each document.

Also please know that your word processor may be able to notify you when quotations are using (or not using) a particular setting. On Microsoft Word for Mac 2011, for example, it is possible to check whether punctuation required with quotations is “inside” or “outside.” To do so, use the “Tools” menu to check spelling and grammar, and then click on “options” and further on “settings” to select your preference. [Screen shots can be found below.] The U.S. preference would be to place the punctuation inside. Microsoft Word will indicate possible errors with a green wavy line under the problematic text:

However, Microsoft Word will not be able to differentiate complex situations such as a quoted question in contrast to a question that contains a quote at the end. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Inspiring Ideas for the Teaching & Learning of Law

Wow! What a Resource!

I applaud Vickie Eggers for the amazing breadth and depth of resources collected on this website. Not all of the materials are specific to law students and schools, and few to none are specific to international law students; nonetheless, these materials appear to be infinitely translatable and adaptable and generally appropriate for a number of teaching/learning contexts. 

Consider these topics: Teaching, Learning, Thinking, Outcomes, Assessment, Skills, Practice, and Technology. I'm looking forward to spending a great deal of time on this website! 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Painting with Print

On the homepage for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals under Guides is a link to an interesting article published in the Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors: "Painting with print: Incorporation concepts of typographic and layout design into the text of legal writing documents."

You might think that nice typography and design are just the icing on the cake - the cake being the substance and organization of your legal writing - but author and professor Ruth Anne Robbins suggests that "[m]aking a textual document visually effective means making the document as readable as possible. The more readable the document, the more likely the reader will remember the content."

The Seventh Circuit appears to agree on the importance of typography in legal writing; in addition to Professor Robbins' article, the court offers a link to its own "Requirements and Suggestions for Typography in Briefs and Other Papers."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Global Legal Skills Conference 2014

Mark Wojcik and crew did it again!

The Global Legal Skills Conference, which took place 21-24 May in Verona, Italy, was truly wonderful. The wide array of speakers and participants, along with generous sponsors and hard-working staff, made this one of the most well-organized, interesting, and enriching conferences I've ever attended.

A sampling of the panel presentation topics include the following:

  • Institutionalizing Practical Lawyering Skills in a Continuing Legal Education Program
  • Creating a Cohesive Curriculum for Graduate Students
  • Comparative Legislation, Statutory Drafting, and Statutory Interpretation
  • Needs of Legal English Users in Italy
  • International Legal Frameworks to Prevent Financial Abuse of Elders
  • Teaching Students to Produce Scholarship
  • Cool and Useful Foreign Law Legal Research Tools
  • “Interference” and the Legal Writing Needs of International Lawyers
  • Get Your Students Talking: Emphasizing Speaking Skills in LWR Courses for Foreign Lawyers
  • Demystifying the American Law School Classroom for International LL.M. Students: Oral Reporting on Legal Research
  • The Proposed EU-US Free Trade Agreement (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership): Its Impact on U.S. and European Law and How it Will Affect the Teaching of International Law

Additional GLS 2014 information here:

Next year's GLS Conference takes place in Chicago, and I highly recommend attending. These conferences just keep getting better and better!

The GLS Conference facebook page will post up-to-date information as it becomes available:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Multiple Perspectives on ESP Needs Analysis and Research

ESP = English for Specific Purposes, e.g., Legal English and Teaching International Law Students

It's a short article, but it brings up an important issue that may be overlooked in developing LL.M. programs and courses: needs analysis and research.

Multiple Perspectives on ESP Needs Analysis and Research
by Kevin Knight on the TESOL Blog

The author suggests that multiple perspectives must be considered for a needs analysis to be valuable. Focusing on "multiple perspectives" may manifest in a variety of ways. For example, from the article:

In the field of professional communication research, Candlin & Crichton (2012) write of a multi-perspectival research framework. This framework includes multiple and overlapping perspectives of site-specific discursive practices. Briscoe (2009) defines discursive practices in education to be as follows: 
Briefly defined, discursive practices in education are the uses of language in an educational context (e.g., the typical pattern of teacher question, student answer, teacher feedback) or the use of language in context relating to education (e.g., state legislators’ talk when making new educational laws).
Alternative perspectives may include focusing on "necessities, lacks and wants":
Needs or ‘Target Needs’ are comprised of necessities, lacks and wants (Hutchinson & Waters, 1989, p. 54). First, necessities are ‘determined by the demands of the target situation.’ This procedure involves the estimation of necessary skills required for the learner to work efficiently in the target situation. Second, lacks are the gaps between the target proficiency and existing proficiency of the learner. Third, wants are perceptions of the learners about their own needs (Hutchinson & Waters, 1989, pp. 55–57).