Instituting Field Visits in North American (Pre-) LL.M. Legal English Programs

To truly master the language of law, one needs an appreciation of the culture of law. What better way for foreign lawyers to develop an appreciation for the U.S. legal system than to be exposed to legal language in a real-world context. For that reason among others, Columbia University’s English-for-Legal-Purposes Program instituted field visits. At the GLS V Conference, ELP Coordinator Shelley Saltzman will propose a list of field trips beyond the standard criminal court trial. Drawing on visits to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the New York County District Attorney’s Office, the United Nations' Office of Legal Affairs, and Sullivan & Cromwell, she will present a variety of preparation and follow-up activities and exercises. She will then demonstrate a unit based on an in-chambers meeting her students had with the Honorable Judge Denny Chin about his sentencing of Bernard Madoff to 150 years. Prior to the visit, the students engaged in a cross-cultural comparison of, and a simulation activity on, the appropriate punishment for white collar criminals. They read articles, transcripts, and blogs and watched a video of the victims’ reaction to the sentence. On a voice board, they posed questions that they might ask the judge and then corrected them for grammar, pronunciation, and register. During the meeting, the students asked those questions and many others. From the follow-up, it was obvious that they had listened intently. As one student wrote on his course evaluation, “It was a (language-learning) experience I will never forget.