Monday, April 22, 2013

Pro Bono Requirements for New Attorneys

In addition to teaching legal writing to our international LL.M. students, I also offer an essay-writing-for-the-bar-exam writing class for foreign-trained lawyers. In fact, it seems that I have become the resident New York bar exam guru, and the latest bar exam issue of note are the pro bono requirements starting in 2015 for every applicant to the New York State Bar Association.

Students from next year's incoming LL.M. class are already asking about the new requirements and if the law school has a program to help international students meet the 50-hour requirement. Although our incoming LL.M. class is usually around 75 students, the number of international students that take and pass the New York bar exam and apply for admission to the New York State Bar Association is quite low. However, this morning I read on that California and New Jersey may follow New York's lead. Further, the ABA has been asked to incorporate a 50-hour pro bono requirement into its law school accreditation standards.

What does all this mean for teaching legal writing to international students? Well, to start, it might mean thinking carefully about what we teach and why. According to an article on,
pro bono offers students a valuable opportunity to acquire specific skills of the profession that include: interviewing clients, analyzing and developing facts, interpreting law and drafting affirmative and responsive pleadings, presenting oral argument, carrying out legal research, interpreting and explaining legal documents, educating the public about the requirements of the law, and understanding the operation of justice system institutions.
While legal writing professors may not be charged with developing all these skills, many of them fall within the purview of the legal writing class. So where do we go from here?

For more information:

New York Courts Pro Bono Bar Admission Requirements:

"Pro Bono Mandate Gains Steam"

"Is the New York 50 Hour Requirement Changing the Future of Law Student Pro Bono?"

H/T Robert Downey

Monday, April 15, 2013

Articles I'm reading now...

Now that the semester is all but over, I anticipate having more time to read. Here are four articles that sound interesting, with application to teaching international students and/or legal writing.

"Procedural Vocabulary in Law Case Reports" by Simon Harris
English for Specific Purposes, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 289-308, 1977.

For student legal readers of English case reports, being able to interpret and evaluate references to other cases is a crucial reading comprehension task. This paper examines features of the text and task in law case reports which are both characteristic and problematic. Using extended extracts from two English appellate case reports, where the discussion centres on other texts, the paper then examines a lexical feature of this genre, which may be of help in classifying and evaluating judicial evaluation of past cases. In conclusion, the paper suggests possible pedagogic applications to the teaching of legal reading.

Don't let the English-isms throw you: "law case reports" are judicial opinions and the "ratio" of a case is the rationale of the decision. More and more I feel that "legal reading" should be an integral part of "legal writing," especially for international students, who usually have much less contextual knowledge of case law than students brought up in the common law system. 

Read more here:

"Are we encouraging patchwriting? Reconsidering the role of the pedagogical context in ESL student writers' transgressive intertextuality" by Ali R. Abasi and Nahal Akbari
English for Specific Purposes, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 267-284, 2008.

This is a topic that is near and dear to me, and this article takes an interesting approach to why students may be patchwriting. The article suggests that the rhetorical context within which we place students - as learners not capable of doing and not expected to do real, professional writing - emphasizes "reproduction of authority over its production." 

From the Abstract:
[T]here is now a consensus that a multiplicity of cognitive and social reasons might be behind students’ transgressive intertextuality, and that it needs to be treated as an issue related to learning rather than ill-intentions. While recent research has increasingly drawn attention to the role of the social in the phenomenon, an issue that has received little attention is the part that the immediate pedagogical context might play in students’ unacceptable appropriative practices. There is evidence to believe that this context does in fact play a role. 
Read more here:

"Application of Multimodal Information Corpus Techniques in Legal English Teaching" by Jingbang Du
International Journal of Law, Language & Discourse, Vol. 2, No. 3, 19-38, 2012.

The article defines "multimodal information processing" as "the processing of information involving more than one mode of communication, i.e., information picked up by human perception through different sensory channels." In other words, as technology becomes ever more present in the classroom, videos, pictures, slides, music, and the like increase the modes of communication available to us. 

From the Introduction:
This paper focuses on the application of the MIC [Multimodal Information Corpus] techniques to legal English teaching in the classroom environment. It introduces and explains some relevant critical concepts, presents the techniques that can be used, discusses the procedures, methods and skills for information processing, and analyzes the principles and problems in teaching legal English. It also discusses assessment of students' ability concerning multimodal information processing.

Read more here: [PDF]

"Legal Writing, the Remix: Plagiarism and Hip Hop Ethics" by Kim D. Chanbonpin
Mercer Law Review, Vol. 63, No. 2, 597-638, 2012.

I had the pleasure of attending Professor Chanbonpin's presentation at the LWI One-Day Conference at Southern University Law Center in December. You may not think that hip hop music and plagiarism in legal writing have much in common, but Chanbonpin makes a strong case for her "attempt to theorize a hip hop ethic and develop its application to the teaching, the academic study, and perhaps eventually, the reform of the law." 

According to Chanbonpin, hip hop music and legal writing rely heavily on the work of others to "build credibility and authority." Both genres also follow an ethic of giving credit to that prior work. Borrowing others' work without giving the appropriate credit is called plagiarism in the academic world; in the hip hop community, it's called "biting." Interesting! 

Read more here:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Etiquette Guidelines for Students Interacting with Instructors

Although the guide says it's for undergrads, law students, especially international law students, could benefit from the advice as well.

"Making social rules and expectations explicit is a big part of contemporary classroom management, and this document is a good starting point for other instructors developing their own syllabi or cataloguing their own expectations."

How To Interact With Your Instructor: A Guide for Undergrads

Friday, April 5, 2013

Summer Legal English Lecturer Positions

From LRWPROF-L: Job Posting

Qatar University College of Law requires several Visiting Legal English Lecturers to teach in its inaugural Legal and Commercial English Summer School, June 16 to July 25, 2013. The positions pay in the $12-15,000 range, and free round-trip airfare, housing and daily transportation are provided.

Applicants should have a law degree and must have a strong legal English teaching background, preferably with the Cambridge University Press text, “International Legal English.” Duties will include provision of four skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing) legal English lessons to designated students, counseling during office hours, assistance and advice to other teachers regarding class planning and teaching methodologies, arrangement and supervision, if necessary, of after-class testing and evaluation, and socializing with and provision of advice to students at once or twice weekly lunch hour after-class functions. Teaching hours will be 10 hours and 50 minutes per week, Sunday to Thursday.

Accommodation is at Ezdan Hotel & Suites Doha, which features a health club, Olympic-size swimming pool, and a free shuttle bus to the nearby City Centre Shopping Mall.

John Haberstroh
Legal English Programme Director
Qatar University College of Law


رؤيتنا: أن تصبح جامعة قطر نموذجا للجامعة الوطنية في المنطقة، تتميز بنوعية التعليم والأبحاث، وبدورها الرائد في التنمية الاقتصادية والاجتماعية.

Our Vision: Qatar University shall be a model national university in the region, recognized for high quality education and research, and for being a leader of economic and social development.

Writing Sample Guidance

As the end of the school year approaches, I have been inundated with recommendation letter requests and requests for advice on preparing writing samples. 

Depending on the purpose for which the writing sample will be used, an assignment from legal writing class may be the best or only piece of writing available to the student. The handout linked below has been floating around the legal writing program here at I.U. Maurer School of Law for some time, and I think it provides clear, concise guidance on turning a writing assignment into a writing sample for a potential employer. I really like the instructions on including a cover page for the writing sample "to give your reader context."

While acknowledgement of the original source is given on the handout, I couldn't find a complete citation to that source. If anyone has more information, please send it along, and please keep the "adapted from" acknowledgement on the handout if you use it. Thanks!

Writing Sample Guidance [PDF]

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

50 Ways to Teach Them Writing

A quick shout-out to my friend and colleague, Maggie Sokolik, for her book Fifty Ways to Teach Them Writing: Tips for ESL/EFL Teachers. The Kindle edition is available for download from Amazon for $.99. Yes, that's right, 99 cents! You can also purchase an online format here

The book recommends a recursive, process approach to writing and includes tips for three categories: pre-writing and planning, writing topics and strategies, and editing and revising. The tips are easily adaptable for any classroom context, and I am happy to see a few listed that I use already - e.g., Reverse Outlining, Listen to Your Writing - and plenty more that I'd like to use in the future - e.g., Write a Proper Email, Writing Thesis Statements. Also included is a link to additional material (worksheets) for classroom use.