Seven Things I Learned From Co-Teaching an FCIL Research Class

By Amelia Landenberger

LessonsLearned

Image from Pixaby.

This spring I co-taught an FCIL Research Class, my first since beginning as an FCIL librarian at Boston University in August of 2018. The best teachers I know engage in a good deal of self-reflection after teaching, and I’ve decided to share some of my self-reflection with you.

  1. Find a Mentor. I was lucky enough to be able to co-teach this class with my mentor, who has many years of FCIL and teaching experience. I know that isn’t an option for everyone, but I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to do this without guidance and support. It is always a good idea to find a mentor, if you can. If you can find a mentor or colleague who is willing to co-teach the course, even better!
  2. Have Patience with Yourself. Because this was my fourth year of teaching legal research, I had unrealistic expectations about my ability to teach FCIL research. Learning a new subject while also teaching it takes far longer than adapting to new methods of teaching citators or adapting to new database interfaces, for example. I wish I could go back and change my expectations, but I also wish I could make peace with my own pace.
  3. Preparation and Timing. My mentor and I had preparation meetings for each week of the class. We would talk about the objectives for the week and figure out which parts of the class would work best as in-class exercises. The class was scheduled for 4:30-6:30pm. Many people are not their best during these hours of the day, so we focused on making sure the class was broken into manageable chunks and made sure to give the students a break in the middle of class.
  4. Movement: We made as many exercises as possible group exercises or interactive exercises, with a focus on getting the students to move and speak. We took a lot of ideas from our Lawyering Class (the 1L Legal Research Component of the Legal Research and Writing Class). We used a relay-race format for an exercise in Lawyering, so we worked that format into the FCIL class as well. Students appreciated the competition, and some of them insisted on working through the break to complete the relay race. The movement exercises were one part of the class where it was very helpful to have two teachers. It can be hard to coordinate all the moving pieces of an exercise while also making sure no students are stuck or frustrated, but with two teachers, the exercise ran much more smoothly.
  5. The Structure of FCIL Law. I didn’t understand the importance of repeating the structure and grounding each class in the structure of foreign and international law. We focused on making sure students knew where each part of the class fits into the broader scheme. Most students coming into the class expect the class will be entirely about foreign law, so it was important to orient their focus to public and private international law as well.
  6. Don’t Focus on Foreign Law. Our students wanted to learn foreign law, but we aren’t qualified to practice law in foreign jurisdictions, and neither are they. We had to focus on what would be most useful to our students rather than what they thought would be the most useful.
  7. Something Will Go Wrong. In one class, an entire database unexpectedly wasn’t working. I might have been overwhelmed, but it was wonderful to watch my co-teacher keep her cool and move on to a different exercise. The students learned what they needed to learn, and we were able to show the database the next week.

I learned a lot from co-teaching FCIL research this spring, and I’ll be teaching the class again in the fall, without a co-teacher this time. Wish me luck!

New FCIL Librarian Series: Supporting International Moot Court Programs

By Sarah Reis

This is the fifth post in a series of posts about adjusting to my new position as a foreign and international law librarian. I started my position at the Pritzker Legal Research Center at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in February 2018.

Reis - Parillo Court RoomOur Class of 2019 graduated in mid-May and our returning law students are now hard at work at their summer jobs, so things have really quieted down around the library. Summertime is the best time to work on all of those projects that you never have quite enough time to get around to during the fall and spring semesters. One project I plan to focus on this summer is to figure out how to improve our support to our international moot court programs.

During this past academic year, a faculty member put together an inaugural team for the Price Media Law Moot Court Programme. This team was comprised of both JD and LLM students along with a student (LLM) coach who had previously participated in this competition. The team successfully advanced to the international rounds and competed at Oxford in April. In late January, I was invited to help out with one of their practice sessions before they traveled to compete in the regional round. I reviewed the memorials they submitted and then attended a session to hear their oral arguments and ask them questions alongside two other professors.

For next year, I have already coordinated with the supervising professor about possibly holding a session on conducting international legal research in the fall. Although the competition rules do not permit anyone to assist team members with researching, writing, or editing, an in-person research session will at least help make them aware of resources they have access to through the library, many of which they may not have encountered or used before.

We also had a team compete in the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot in Vienna in April. I helped a few of the Vis team members locate some resources in the fall, but I would like to form a closer relationship with the future teams. Our library worked to obtain a trial subscription to Born’s International Arbitration Lectures in the weeks preceding the competition because one of the team members requested it. This resource would be helpful for future participants, but Wolters Kluwer only permits access via individual usernames and passwords, so we were unable to subscribe to it when the trial period ended. If any of you have successfully managed to arrange for IP access to this resource with Wolters Kluwer or know of any helpful (and less cost prohibitive) video alternatives covering international arbitration concepts, I would greatly appreciate your suggestions to pass along to our future teams.

In the upcoming academic year and beyond, I plan to touch base with the participants on these two teams and our Jessup team as soon as the problems are released to let them know about resources available through the library. This summer, I will also be working on creating research guides on international commercial arbitration and international media law to support next year’s Vis Moot and Price Media Law Moot teams. I would love to hear how you support your moot court teams at your law schools so I can steal some of your great ideas!

Teaching FCIL as a Non-FCIL Librarian: Go-To Resources

By Janet Kearney & Michelle Penn

SlawFCILCareersWordle1This is the second in a set of posts from Michelle and Janet on FCIL for non-FCIL librarians; the previous post highlighted some go-to databases, and our next post will take a look at collection development. Michelle and Janet are both from Fordham Law Library, where Michelle is Faculty Services Librarian and Janet recently made the leap from Reference Librarian to FCIL Law Librarian. Thanks for having us!

When we first proposed this idea for a blog post, we did not realize just how often DipLawMatic Dialogues discusses tips for new teachers and FCIL teaching. Our challenge was to make this a useful post that doesn’t simply repeat the great advice of our colleagues who have come before us. We decided to once again focus on “go-to” resources in the hope that this will serve as a useful guide no matter what FCIL teaching situation finds you.

How might you find yourself teaching FCIL? In addition to the fact that we all do things outside our wheelhouse, teaching FCIL research can be a great way to help keep your FCIL research skills current even when you are not a FCIL librarian. Proposing a FCIL course can encourage you to brush up on your FCIL skills and help prepare you to move to a FCIL position in the future, if that’s something you want. For the less experienced non-FCIL librarian, teaching a FCIL class in a general advanced legal class, or offering research instruction for a doctrinal class, such as International Criminal Law or International Business Law, can be great ways to gain teaching experience and subject matter familiarity, without committing to teach an entire course on the subject. Offering research help for FCIL student journals, is another good way to explore different areas of FCIL research.

Although there are so many great resources out there on teaching, like 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Teaching Legal Research, here a few geared specifically towards FCIL.

Teaching Tip: Above all else, ask for help when you need it.

Do not hesitate to ask for help from other librarians! Even though our job is to provide assistance, it can still be difficult to turn around and be the one asking for help instead. Many of your colleagues probably have varying degrees of FCIL research experience and may be willing to share their course materials and insights on teaching FCIL. This includes your immediate colleagues, but the wider world of the FCIL-SIS is incredibly helpful as well.

Where can I ask for help?

The FCIL-SIS website, https://www.aallnet.org/fcilsis/education-training/teaching-fcil/, has information on existing classes and contact information for people willing to answer questions. You can send out an email on a listserv, like the FCIL-SIS My Communities forum or the Int-Law listserv. You could also leave us a lovely comment on this post!

Where can I find course documents, like syllabi or assignments?

The FCIL-SIS website also contains a Syllabi and Course Materials Database, https://www.aallnet.org/fcilsis/education-training/teaching-fcil/syllabi-course-materials-database/. This resource is very helpful and mentioned in almost every teaching FCIL post on DipLawMatic Dialogues. Check out this entry, Teaching FCIL Research Series: Fun with FCIL Assignments, https://fcilsis.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/teaching-fcil-research-series-fun-with-fcil-assignments/.

What are the best texts to help me prep/assign for reading?

The general consensus seems to be:

  • Marci B. Hoffman & Robert C. Berring, Jr., International Legal Research in a Nutshell (2d ed. 2017).
  • Marci Hoffman & Mary Rumsey, International and Foreign Legal Research: A Coursebook (2d ed. 2012).
  • Heidi Frostestad Kuehl & Megan A. O’Brien, International Legal Research in a Global Community (2018).

For more on textual selection see this AALL panel review and this post on selecting books.

How can I find more helpful DipLawMatic Dialogues posts on this subject?

This blog allows you to find posts by subject using both tags and categories using the right-hand side menu. Check the posts tagged teaching here, https://fcilsis.wordpress.com/tag/teaching/, and the category of teaching here, https://fcilsis.wordpress.com/category/teaching-2/. Last May, Alyson Drake compiled a great list, Teaching FCIL Research: Revisiting 15 DipLawMatic Posts on Teaching, https://fcilsis.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/teaching-fcil-research-revisiting-15-diplawmatic-posts-on-teaching/.

 

Teaching a FCIL Research Course for the First TIme

By Sarah Reis, Foreign and International Law Librarian, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

 This is the third post in a series of posts over the next year about adjusting to my new position as a foreign and international law librarian. I started my position at the Pritzker Legal Research Center at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in February 2018.

A couple of weeks ago, I started teaching my Foreign, Comparative, and International Legal Research course for the spring semester. (Perhaps in Chicago, it would be more accurate to refer to the “spring semester” as the “winter semester.”) Not only is this the first time I am teaching a FCIL research course, but it is also the first class that I am teaching on my own, which has been simultaneously exciting and nerve-racking.

Reis - Photo 1.jpgTo help me feel more comfortable with teaching, I spent the fall semester co-teaching an Advanced Legal Research class with one of my colleagues. I learned so much from my co-instructor, Clare Willis, about how to ensure that assignments are appropriately meeting learning objectives, how to develop useful rubrics for grading assignments, and how to effectively employ creative teaching methods to keep students engaged during class. I am grateful I had the opportunity to work closely with an experienced instructor for a semester prior to teaching on my own.

In designing my FCIL research course, I consulted materials other librarians have generously shared and read through the DipLawMatic posts about teaching. Additionally, the teacher’s manual for International Legal Research in a Global Community has been an essential resource in preparing my class materials (thank you, Heidi Kuehl and Megan O’Brien!). I chose not to require my students to purchase a textbook, but rather assigned selected chapters from International Legal Research in a Nutshell, which is available electronically through our West Study Aids subscription, along with a few chapters from International Legal Research in a Global Community and International and Foreign Legal Research: A Coursebook, for which we have copies on reserve.

My two-credit class meets twice a week for 55-minute periods. Already, I recognize it is going to be challenging to fit in a lecture/discussion and an in-class exercise while leaving sufficient time for a debriefing or review. I am looking forward to experimenting with various methods to give students time to practice using research tools and resources. For instance, some class sessions are set up with short exercises scattered throughout the session, while other class sessions are going to be dedicated workshop days where they will spend almost the entire class period working on a research problem in a guided environment.

One of the most exciting things about this class is the student diversity. The class has fifteen students, which includes a mix of JD students, LLM students, and students from our LLM in International Human Rights program. Some students have taken several international law courses, other students have already spent a semester working on projects for the Center for International Human Rights, whereas still others are completely new to international law concepts. I am encouraging the students to work together on in-class exercises so that some of the students who are more familiar with international law can help others who might not have taken an international law course before. Because the LLM students are familiar with legal systems in other countries, I am really looking forward to our class sessions on foreign law because I know the students will learn a lot from each other.

Throughout the semester, students will be required to submit four assignments accompanied by research logs so I can provide them with continuous feedback. Because I anticipated that that they would have diverse interests in areas of law (which was confirmed by the responses to the intro survey I had them fill out during the first week of class), I have incorporated an element of choice into the course by allowing them to select their own final project topic.

I realize that my first semester teaching this class will be the most challenging semester because over the next three months I’ll be getting a feel for what works well—and what doesn’t. After each class session, I have been carefully documenting and keeping track of how I felt the class session went so I can remember to adjust things as needed in future semesters. I am looking forward to reviewing all of these self-assessment notes alongside feedback from the course evaluations at the end of the semester. I also always welcome stories, suggestions, and teaching tips from other librarians—both from those who are newer to teaching like me, as well as from those who are experienced pros!

 

Teaching FCIL Research Series: A New FCIL Librarian’s Very First FCIL Research Course

By Meredith Capps

Following in the footsteps of past newbie FCIL librarians, I write to share my experience teaching my first for-credit FCIL research course.  At my institution, Transnational Legal Research is a one-credit, pass/fail class, offered once in an academic year in either the fall or spring.  Though it made for a busy fall semester, it seemed worthwhile to offer the course then, so as to benefit the 2L students on our transnational legal research journal at their point of need as they tackle initial cite-checking assignments and select note topics.

teachingfirstcourse.jpeg

Topic selection:

The FCIL course materials page, teaching materials from prior iterations of the course, and two texts: International and Foreign Legal Research: A Coursebook and International Legal Research in a Global Community, proved invaluable resources as I planned my course.  I identified treaties, international courts/tribunals, the UN, the EU, and foreign law as major topics covered in most FCIL research courses, and determined that I could cover custom, NGOs, and IGOs more generally in the conjunction with these.  Since many of our graduates initially accept positions at large law firms, I also felt that it would be worthwhile to spend a week on private international law and international commercial arbitration.

Reading:

Based on feedback from other FCIL librarians, I chose not to assign a textbook, and instead assigned chapters from International Legal Research In a Nutshell, which students could access online via their West Academic subscription, and a handful of articles and chapters from treatises and study aids in West.  I assumed that most students would not do the reading—a highly accurate assumption—requiring me to cover the most critical points in lecture; I posted lecture slides in the course page immediately after each class.

Assignments:

I designed in-class exercises to introduce key resources and skills, with more advanced or open-ended questions included in weekly, graded post-class assignments.  Here prior course materials again proved valuable, as for about half of my questions, I modified a research question used by a colleague.  Post-class assignments consisted of two research questions along with a reflection question, in keeping with the ABA’s focus on self-assessment for skills-based courses.

As a final project, I asked students to devise a fairly simply, practice-oriented hypothetical of their choosing involving transnational elements, and draft a research report detailing their process, along with a reference list of at least twelve sources, all of which should be evaluated within their research report.  Students described their projects in brief, five-minute presentations during our last class.

So, what did I learn?

  • My in-class assignments were always too lengthy and complex. Reduce and simplify!
  • My students seemed more engaged in class when divided into small groups to work on assignments. (I gave up, however, on asking students to demonstrate their work at the podium by class 4.)
  • I was a tad anxious that in assigning weekly, substantive assignments, I’d have too little time for grading during a busy time of year. Grading these assignments was a far lesser burden than I feared, and proved a valuable component of the course for several reasons:
    • they provided students an opportunity to practice skills discussed in class without time constraints,
    • they provided me a benchmark for student progress and comprehension, and
    • they provided me timely examples to review at the start of the next class and discuss common difficulties.
  • Allowing students to select their final project topics ensured that they researched a subject that was of interest to them, and often of use in other course or journal projects. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of topics selected, though several were initially far too broad.
  • My greatest disappointment in the final projects was sloppy writing, which I perhaps should have anticipated in a pass/fail course! Alas, I will be adding spelling and grammar to my already detailed grading rubric.
  • In most instances, materials from colleagues provided me great ideas, but that I could not shortcut the effort of creating lectures and assignments that were current and suited to my own teaching style.

Overall, I was very pleased with the course, and took extensive notes on each assignment regarding students’ unexpected findings, difficulties, and ambiguities.  I also left this year’s IALL course with a host of ideas for future assignments!

New FCIL Librarian Series: Supporting the International Team Project Program

By Sarah Reis

This is the second post in a series of posts over the next year about adjusting to my new position as a foreign and international law librarian. I started my position at the Pritzker Legal Research Center at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in February 2018.

At the start of this academic year, I took over as director of the International Team Project (ITP) program at Northwestern Law. In this program, students spend a semester studying the legal system, culture, and political system of another country and then travel to that country to conduct interviews with in-country contacts. Since the program started in 1999, students have conducted research in more than 40 countries.

During this initial first year of taking over this program, my goal is to provide a research guide and an in-class research presentation for each class. The countries of study differ from year to year and are typically not repeated in consecutive years, which is both a challenge and a great learning experience for a new FCIL librarian because it means that I need to quickly familiarize myself with researching the law of various foreign countries.

ITP courses are student driven: students are responsible for developing the syllabus with the approval of a faculty advisor, leading class discussions, setting up interviews with in-country contacts, and arranging travel. Generally, the law school offers one ITP course in the fall with travel occurring over winter break and four or five ITP courses in the spring with travel occurring over spring break.

Students in the fall ITP course will be traveling to Tanzania in a few weeks. Earlier this semester, I created a research guide on researching Tanzanian law and also visited their class to give a research presentation. This presentation provided the students with a basic introduction to international legal research as well as an overview of how to research the law of Tanzania and keep up with current events in that country. I customized the presentation to include hands-on exercises geared toward their research topics.

I have also been brainstorming methods to support the ITP classes beyond a research guide and in-class presentation. Students in an ITP class form small research groups of 3-4 students who work together on a research topic and write a paper together. I am eager to explore possible opportunities for students to publish these papers (as long as their interviewees give consent). Countries of study are selected in the spring prior to the academic year when the courses will be offered. The countries of study for the ITP courses being offered this academic year were set prior to my taking over this role, but I am looking forward to assisting students and faculty advisors with selecting countries and providing resources to help generate research topic ideas for next academic year’s course offerings.

So far, this role has been a helpful way for me to get to know students outside of the classroom and beyond the reference desk because approximately a hundred students participate in the program each year. I held a few trainings for the student team leaders earlier this year and frequently communicate with them on an ongoing basis about logistics pertaining to travel, curriculum, and finance. The program has also been a great way for me to get to know faculty members who I may not otherwise work with often because our library has a liaison system. Additionally, this role has provided me with the opportunity to work with other law school and university departments, including the Registrar, Office of Financial Aid, Alumni Relations, and the Office of Global Safety & Security.

Students in our five spring ITP classes will be traveling to Morocco, Switzerland, Iceland, South Africa, and Argentina. If other law schools have a similar program to this one or offer comparative law classes that require presentations or trainings by FCIL librarians on researching the law of particular foreign countries, I would love to be able to share materials, ideas, and exercises.

Reis - ITP Photo

Teaching FCIL Research Series: An Interview With Myself

By John Scherrer

Author’s note: The format of this post was inspired by Saul Bellow’s “An Interview with Myself.”  Or Henry Hart’s The Power of Congress to Limit the Jurisdiction of Federal Courts: An Exercise in Dialectic.  Or the author is just too plain lazy to pen prose.  You decide.

Q: Let’s start: you’re an FCIL librarian?

A: Not at all—I just dabble.  For one, our school doesn’t offer an FCIL course.  My reference office neighbor says I know how to find old, weird English things, so she’s dubbed me the unofficial FCIL dude.  In that role, I’ve done a few one-off presentations.
sherlockQ: What was your last gig?

A: Comparative Criminal Law.  The instructor is a serious Sherlockian, as in being an authority on Doyle.  His class reads Holmes stories and they analyze how the stories’ crimes would be treated by U.K. and U.S law in Victorian and modern times.
Q: So how did you prepare for the class?

A: Watching lots of Benedict Cumberbatch.  That’s my jam, as the kids say.
Q: No Tony Stark?

A: He’s Derek Lutz and also that obnoxious dude in Weird Science.  Not Sherlock.
Q: You’re totally betraying your age.

A: Don’t my students know this.
Q: And after a copious amount of PBS Masterpiece…

A: Chapter 22 in Fundamentals of Legal Research is excellent—that gives a great overview of UK resources.  I also looked at the Foreign Law Guide and GlobaLex.  And Alison Shea submitted a UK lesson to the AALL-FCIL syllabi bank.  By the way, I’ll be embarrassed if I missed any other UK centric materials on the FCIL-SIS site.
Q: What about pedagogy?

A: My previous presentations on foreign law resources have seemed like mere smorgasbord offerings to the students.  In, say, Comparative Constitutional Law, the students’ paper topics were all over the place, so there was a lot of ground to cover.  It wasn’t a very interactive class.  So I thought this was a great opportunity to use Nearpod and insert multiple choice quiz questions throughout the PowerPoint.
Q: How did that go?

A: Still a work in progress.  But I was thrilled that no student chose Lloyd Dobler’s Commentaries on the Laws of England as the answer to the last question.
Q: Huh?

A: OK, I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear my trousers rolled.  Or should my peeps refer to an ill-fitting cardigan?  I will say, though, that when I suggested Flavor Flav as a mnemonic device to remember Wayne LaFave of Search and Seizure fame, just about everyone got it.  Everything old is new again.
Q: So what was the biggest challenge for this class?  Besides your propensity for self-indulgence…

A: Our library doesn’t have a particularly strong UK collection.  If the students wanted, say, The Digest or a current edition of Halsbury’s, they would have to take the Metro to Georgetown.  But for the historic UK material, I actually love that a student couldn’t rely upon a Westlaw keyword search and instead should start by looking at the index in the first edition of Halsbury’s.
Q: And you didn’t have to worry about translations.

A: Indeed.  Thankfully no student has come to me with a Law French document.  The closest thing I’ve come to a translation is telling students how to read the regnal years.  That was mostly solved with a handout.
Q: You also met for required individual research consultations shortly after the class?

A: Right.  One takeaway from those meetings was that despite adding a “major key alert” to the secondary sources slide (and a shout out to DJ Nick Harrell for the major key alert idea), I needed to emphasize secondary sources more in class.  Simply too many students were starting with Google.  After the meetings, I sent follow-up emails to the students that included links to Halsbury’s and Russell on Crime.  In retrospect, I should have given the students a tour of HathiTrust during my initial presentation and pointed out the finding aids available for Halsbury’s and Russell.  After all, the Halsbury’s index is itself two volumes and around 2000 pages.  It’s intuitive for me to start there, but not for them.
Q: Backing up a second, is Google really all that bad?

A: Well, no.  Using Google I found that the Wikipedia entry for Statutes at Large includes a very useful index for Pickering’s Statutes with hyperlinks.  But I don’t want the students to start and end their research with Google.  The ones who do might suffer the fate of Sisyphus?  Almost make it to the top of the hill but don’t quite summit.  Then starting anew, they try a fresh keyword search and yet still never reach the top.
Q: Last question: any advice to librarians tackling UK law?

A: Don’t assume the students will be able to find a case even when they know the citation—especially with the old stuff.  Thank goodness for the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations!