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!

AALL 2018 Recap: Diverse Interactions: Addressing Race and Implicit Bias in Legal Research Instruction

By Kate Britt

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The panel for “Diverse Interactions: Addressing Race and Implicit Bias in Legal Research Instruction,” featuring moderator Raquel Gabriel and panelists Shamika Dalton, Michelle Rigual, and Clanitra Stewart Nejdl.

Speaking to a large crowd of curious and captivated attendees, moderator Raquel Gabriel began the program “Diverse Interactions: Addressing Race and Implicit Bias in Legal Research Instruction,” sponsored by RIPS-SIS.

University of Florida’s Shamika Dalton asked “Why now? Why us?” addressing the natural tendency to avoid uncomfortable topics. Regarding “why now?” she listed the social issues that had been the topic of discussion among attendees all weekend–African-Americans killed by police, LGBTQ+ persons refused service, under-compensation of women and people of color, detention of immigrant children, refugees turned away. Answering the question “why us?” she made a strong case for awareness of race and implicit bias as basic tenets of competency for attorneys. She pointed to the ABA’s professional conduct rules of competence, diligence, and ethical advising, as well as learning outcomes the ABA prescribes for law schools. Dalton recommended overcoming student resistance to the topic by directing them to the ABA’s Diversity and Inclusion 360 Commission site. She called on attendees to evaluate what steps their committees and organizations are taking to make sure they are inclusive and diverse, asserting that “in order to have diversity and inclusion, it must be in every fiber of the organization.”

Next, Michelle Rigual of the University of New Mexico spoke about addressing the external and internal fears that can dissuade an instructor from broaching topics of race and implicit bias. Beginning with those we can control–internal fears–Rigual noted that in her experience, white people are reluctant to discuss race in “polite conversation,” and law librarians may feel under qualified to teach on race. Legal research instructors “don’t need to be an indoctrinator, [they] need to be a facilitator,” she counseled. Teachers can push students to think about issues, not what to think. Perhaps the class will veer off course, but instructors can use basic classroom skills to regain control and redirect back to the topic.

External fears may relate to how others receive or react to the topics of race and bias, with potential challenges from students, colleagues, administrators, or institutions; some instructors may even feel their employment is on the line. Rigual encouraged teachers to start slowly, create relationships with students, assess the comfort level of the class, discuss possibilities with colleagues, and seek support from administrators. Rigual exhorted directors to push librarians to develop classroom skills in this area. Teachers may never be completely comfortable when addressing these topics, but that should not be a barrier to discussion.

Giving practical guidelines for how to incorporate race and implicit bias in the classroom, Clanitra Stewart Nejdl of Northern Illinois University first encouraged instructors to evaluate the names used in hypotheticals. By including names that may raise a legal issue involving race, teachers add depth to students’ analysis and research. Teachers must also address generating search terms using outdated or disfavored terminology in order to yield comprehensive results, noting that terms for race, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity fluctuate over time. Nejdl recommended using current events to create hypotheticals, since students’ future clients will likely face similar issues, and provided a list of possible topics and resources from which to gather hypo ideas.

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Groups discuss how they would approach a hypo with potential race and implicit bias issues during the program.

Encouraging attendees to face their fears of discussing race, Gabriel presented a hypo with potential race issues, and the room broke into groups to discuss how they would approach the hypo in the classroom. After a few minutes, volunteers related some issues their groups considered. Additional points brought up in this exercise included examining a single fact pattern in multiple combinations of race, gender, and other identifying factors; training students to think about multiple legal issues at a time; using a client as a legal research resource; and delving into scientific literature to determine whether race is a factor in medical or social issues.

Watch the complete recording here: https://www.aallnet.org/recording/aall2018-diverseinteractions/

AALL 2018 Recap: Lightning Lessons: Research Instruction in a Flash

By Taryn Marks

Presenters: AJ Blechner & Heather Joy

This was the best presentation that I attended at AALL. It was informative, adhered to the description given in the program, kept my attention, and easily blended expert advice and practical experience, so that I both learned about something someone else had done and got solid, replicable advice on how to implement that something at my own institution. It also was by far one of the most-attended sessions I’ve ever seen at AALL (the speakers had 100 copies of their handouts and quickly ran out).

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Heather Joy and AJ Blechner discussing how to implement your own lightning lessons.

First, the speakers described what they mean by lightning lesson (a short, less than 5 minute instructional session)—and then they provided an actual demonstration of how they have conducted a lightning lesson at their own institutions. Second, they handed out an overview and outline of how to create a lightning lesson at your own institution, providing easily scalable and replicable information that can be translated across different institutions. This was not the typical, “here’s how I did it at my institution, you can do the same thing;” they took a mile-high view of the process as they implemented it at their respective institutions, removed the esoteric descriptions of their own institutions’ quirks, and translated them into planning and organizing tips for any institution. Then, they allowed time for workshopping, so that each person could start to plan their own lightning lessons based on the material given to them at the session. Lastly, they gave the audience tips that they learned about creating and implementing lightning lessons (the two most important: get colorful baked goods, and own how cool and important the lesson you’re giving is, regardless of what it is).

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AJ Blechner and Heather Joy demo how to do a lightning lesson at AALL 2018.

The session was recorded, and I encourage anyone interested in or thinking about the idea of lightning lessons to watch it. You only need to see the first 15 minutes or so to get the speakers’ demonstration of a lightning lesson and their suggested process for creating and implementing the lightning lessons, and the last 10 minutes or so to get their quick tips and answers to questions. If you are interested in creating your own lightning lessons, they posted their material to Google Drive, so that you can download them and use them to organize and plan your own lightning lessons.

Teaching FCIL Research Series: Teaching FCIL Research? Consider Not Requiring a Textbook

AJ-Books-2By Mary Rumsey

After years of teaching, I’m convinced legal research instructors shouldn’t make students buy textbooks.

We all know the tremendous financial strain affecting most law students; they accrue appalling debt. We shouldn’t impose any costs on students unless the benefits greatly outweigh those costs. Unfortunately, the benefits of textbooks don’t outweigh the costs.

Researchers can use an FCIL research text in two different ways. First, they can look up specific tasks or questions as needed. Second, they can read assigned sections before doing research.

The latter practice doesn’t work for most students. The information isn’t “sticky,” because it’s arbitrary and—let’s face it—boring. Students find nothing interesting in instructions for finding treaties on the OAS site, for example. Unlike other subjects in law school, legal research techniques have no human interest or policy implications to help students remember them.

Well, how about using textbooks as needed? That will help sometimes, but the lifespan of an FCIL research textbook is short. Websites, the primary tool for FCIL research, change often. For example, the Council of Europe’s HUDOC site, the UN Treaties database, and the EU’s legal research site have been completely overhauled at least once in the last several years. Databases such as GLIN (which had thousands of foreign laws), EISIL, and the WHO Health Law database have disappeared. Foreign government websites, particularly from developing countries, flicker on and off. New websites, such as the UN’s Women’s Family Law database (a work in progress) arrive without warning. Moreover, reading about a research process will never implant it as firmly as using that process.

For these reasons, teachers should focus on helping students navigate the legal information landscape. In my experience teaching and observing students over the past twenty years, the most effective method for learning legal research techniques is doing legal research; the least effective is reading about it. In practice, lawyers will be jumping into unfamiliar databases and figuring out how they work, so it makes sense to have them practice doing that.

Better than reading:

  • Use research problems for practice and to assess their learning
  • Show students how to find and use “about this site” information, FAQs, search tips, help pages, and updated research guides
  • Push them to think about what organizations might collect information on topics—literacy rates, patents, or denials of asylum—and to test their ideas
  • Provide a target case in a foreign language and ask them to use online translation tools to find it on a court website
  • Use brief demonstrations (live, or on video) to show how to find information on complex databases (e.g., EUR-LEX), or how to do things like use Google site-searching instead of a site’s own search engine
  • Let students work together rather than read alone
  • Ask them to write descriptions of how they found information, or to teach other students
  • Instead of reading assignments, give them problems to research outside of class

Lots of practice along these lines will be more effective than teaching from a mandatory textbook. Granted, if we could pour the contents of a recently published textbook into students’ brains, they’d learn a lot about FCIL research. But since we can’t, consider making textbooks optional and placing one on reserve. Your class can be just as effective and you’ll have done your small part in reducing the crushing debts many of your students are accruing.

AALL 2018 Recap: FCIL-SIS Teaching Foreign and International Legal Research Interest Group

By Meredith Capps

This year, Beau Steenken moderated a discussion with Marci Hoffman and Heidi Frostedad Kuehl, discussing the writing and editing process for their books, International and Foreign Legal Research: A Coursebook and International Legal Research In a Nutshell (Hoffman), and International Legal Research in a Global Community (Kuehl), and how they utilize research texts in their own courses.

Hoffman created the coursebook with the hopes of assigning it to her class as a supplement to in-class lectures, feeling that she did not have enough time to cover topics in sufficient depth (though she’s recently found it challenging to convince students to read the material–a difficulty echoed by others in attendance!).  Hoffman and co-author Mary Rumsey divided chapters for drafting, and then swapped those chapters for editing; she emphasized the importance of having a good relationship with one’s co-author.  The coursebook is now in its second edition, published in 2012, and she and Rumsey have considered updating it and publishing a third edition, though she believes that even if some of the sources cited in the second edition are dated, the research methodologies described are not.  The coursebook covers foreign and comparative law, which Hoffman did not include in the initial edition of the nutshell.  With respect to the nutshell, Bob Berring, who was approached by West, asked Hoffman to co-author the book, and she substantially completed the initial draft, with Berring contributing edits and stylistic flourishes.  Meant to be more casual than the coursebook, the nutshell is suitable for students completing cite-checking assignments and participating in moot courts and clinics.  Hoffman currently assigns the nutshell as a primary text in her course, plus certain chapters from the coursebook.

In considering how to structure their book, Kuehl and co-author Megan O’Brien considered how they could add to the existing literature, topics with which students commonly struggled, gaps they wished to highlight, and how to organize the material they decided to cover.  Ultimately, they chose not to focus primarily on researching international law, and organized the book around Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, including substantial discussions of customary and subsidiary sources of international law, and a section on cultural competencies.  Kuehl feels that, like Rumsey and Hoffman’s coursebook, instructors could select certain chapters to assign in class, if they did not wish to assign the entire book, and that the bibliography will be a useful tool.  Keep an eye out for the forthcoming Teachers Edition!

Hoffman and Kuehl offered several pieces of advice to law librarians with publishing aspirations.  One was that authors should allow more time for editing than they anticipate and should not assume that editors assigned by the publisher will do substantive editing or provide an index (a substantial undertaking!).  They should also be cautious in assigning rights to a publisher and negotiate designations such as a Creative Commons license, if desired, up-front.  Consider working with a co-author, as co-authors hold one another accountable throughout the process, and co-authors should consider one another’s strengths when dividing the workload.   In considering teaching opportunities and text use in a course, the discussion highlighted the limitations of time (one- vs. two- vs. three-credit course offerings) and students’ difficulty in absorbing a text when they were not faced with a specific need to understand the material.  Hoffman noted that training opportunities for Jessup Moot Court teams provide a teaching opportunity for librarians who wish to teach FCIL research but do not have their own course, and that if librarians can design courses that meet the ABA’s experiential learning requirement, they are more likely to be approved and see substantial enrollment.  They also emphasized that in teaching foreign and international legal research, more examples are always better than few, and that librarians can consult multiple works and resources (including the FCIL-SIS teaching materials page) to locate examples to utilize in teaching.

Teaching FCIL Research: Revisiting 15 DipLawMatic Posts on Teaching

By Alyson Drake

As the semester winds teachingdown, many of us begin turning to summer projects. For some us, this involves either revamping or overhauling our FCIL Research courses. Others may be prepping to teach FCIL Research for the first time. With that in mind, this month’s installment of Teaching FCIL Research revisits DipLawMatic Dialogues‘ posts on teaching. Check them out for tips as you begin thinking about your courses!

  1.  Textual Selection: Chair of the Teaching FCIL Research Interest Group Beau Steenken gives some considerations for choosing a textbook for your FCIL research course.
  2. 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Teaching Legal Research: Alyson Drake shares some broader considerations on teaching, including some helpful resources for getting started with course planning.
  3. Using the “A” Word in Legal Research Instruction: Alyson Drake advocates for the importance of talking explicitly about research as an analytical task.
  4. Fun with FCIL Assignments: Beau Steenken gives some tips on developing assignments for a FCIL simulation course.
  5. Reflections on Teaching Foreign & International Legal Research for the First Time: Beau Steenken reflects back on his first semester of teaching his Foreign & International Legal Research course.
  6. Teaching Foreign Customary Law: Tips and Tricks: Susan Gualtier gives her pointers for tackling teaching foreign customary law.
  7. Teaching Foreign & International Legal Research — From the Beginning:  Beau Steenken outlines steps for creating your first FCIL research course.
  8. Using News Stories to Connect Students to the World: Alyson Drake discusses the four reasons I use news stories as a teaching tool in my FCIL research course.
  9. An Experiential Learning Primer: Alyson Drake outlines the requirements that must be better to meet the ABA’s Standards for experiential learning courses.
  10. The Special Challenge of LL.M. Students: Jim Hart addresses some of the challenges of teaching LL.M. students.
  11. First Time Teaching FCIL Research: Final Weeks: Alexis Fetzer reflects on teaching foreign law to her students and giving them their final project.
  12. First Time Teaching FCIL Research: Weather Woes & Student Conferences: Alexis Fetzer reflects on holding conferences with her students for their final projects.
  13. First Time Teaching FCIL Research: Initial Class Meetings: Alexis Fetzer reflects on her first few weeks teaching FCIL Research for the first time.
  14. First Time Teaching FCIL Research: Preparing a Syllabus & Marketing My Course: Alexis Fetzer discusses her process for creating a syllabus and advocating her course to her school’s curriculum committee.
  15. On Film and the FCIL Librarian: Susan Gualtier discusses using films in FCIL courses to help students understand different legal systems.

Are there teaching-related topics that you’d like to see covered on DipLawMatic Dialogues? Leave your ideas in the comments and we’ll work to solicit posts on those topics in the coming months!

ASIL 2018 Recap: Legal Education and Professional Training in the Culture(s) of International Law

By Gabriela Femenia

On the final morning of the 2018 ASIL Annual Meeting, Anthea Roberts (Australian National University) moderated a nuanced panel discussion of the significance of global differences in legal education and professional training of international lawyers, considering their evolution over time and their impact on the practice and efficacy of international law, from both Western- and non-Western perspectives. The panel comprised Bryant Garth (UC Irvine School of Law), Lucy Reed (National University of Singapore Faculty of Law), Natalie Reid (Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP), and Carole Silver (Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law).

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Panel for the Legal Education and Professional Training in the Culture(s) of International Law at ASIL’s 2018 annual meeting.

The first point of discussion was legal education practice and the channels through which people in different countries come to the practice of law. Anthea Roberts presented some initial thoughts based on her recent book, Is International Law International? (2017), observing that legal education used to be a primarily national endeavor, with a small amount of movement at the graduate levels, but we are now seeing more people crossing borders to study law. While the majority still do so for the LLM degree, there is increasing study at the first-degree level. Roberts made two general points about the flow of students. First, the flow is asymmetrical: students go from the periphery to the core, and from non-western regions to the west, with most returning home to practice and bringing with them both ideas and materials. Second, there are clearly different cores for legal study (principally Anglophone, Francophone, and Russophone), and there are distinctive patterns of students from certain countries going to certain countries. Lucy Reed and Natalie Reid shared their own experiences both as former law students following similar trajectories to the core to obtain the necessary credentials for desired careers, as well as educators working with such students. Reed noted that there is a guided, funded outflow of students from China to the West in all fields, with China particularly interested in bringing back students trained in international economic law and law of the sea. There is no equivalent outflow from the U.S. of students sent abroad or investment in training lawyers in those fields, and it remains difficult to convince law faculty in the U.S. and Singapore that international law should be integrated into instruction. As a result, Asia is more present in international law practice than the U.S., and Reed suggested the consequence of this disparity is a more level but not necessarily more forward-looking playing field in international law.

Carole Silver observed that in some senses law education is wonderfully internationalized, but the program that most students attend, the LLM, is somewhat segregate as a result of being a one-year program, most of which do not allow students to participate in 1L courses, clinics, or moot courts.  LLMs do benefit from being part of diverse international classes, but there are limits on interacting with U.S. students, and there is often pushback from those students to hearing about how things are done in the LLMs’ home countries. As a result, more international students are enrolling in JD programs, and in those cases the flows are not from the periphery to the core. A quarter of foreign JD students go from Canada to the U.S., and 60% of all foreign JDs are from Canada, China, and Korea. Those students face some trouble integrating because they’re not American, and they tend to also distance themselves from LLMs because they’re not “international” students. They also put more effort into course selection, generally choosing business concentrations because transactional practice is easier to break into than litigation. Silver concluded that while there is a huge inflow of students to the U.S., there is also segmentation and social isolation at the micro level.

Bryant Garth reminded those present that, historically, the flow of students reflected colonial relationships, e.g. Commonwealth students getting to know each other in London, with a more recent substitution of the U.S. for those colonial relationships.  U.S.-style law schools are also now being established around the world, so the flow of students is no longer necessarily from one country to another, while there is increasing international competition for students, both in order to impart values and to obtain the tuition revenue.

The panelists then discussed the challenges faced by graduates returning to their home countries from the core. Reed pointed out that international law books are rarely available in Asia in the necessary languages, and many are still by the former colonial masters. Libraries are insufficient in many areas. New academics must also work alongside older colleagues who are not interested in changing their teaching, while at the same time facing pressure to publish in global journals in order to secure tenure, which prevents them from engaging with their local communities. Garth added that publication in international journals is difficult if the young professor does not buy into U.S.-dominated paradigms, further limiting the inclusion of local perspectives. Reid observed that the influence of U.S. perspectives plays out in practice as well; U.S. cases and sources are cited even if they are not the best examples, in order to resonate with an American audience, and most sources will be in English even if they’re not U.S. sources..

Anthea Roberts asked the panelists what could be done to address these challenges in legal education. Silver suggested intentionally requiring international students to offer specific contributions in class. Several panelists offered the Jessup competition as a model for bringing together students to develop a common language and toolkit.

Garth asked the panel to what extent the field of international law had been affected by the globalization of law firms. Reid noted that it depended on the field, e.g. in international investment there has been a significant impact because the multinational firms guide the development of the law by picking the arbitrators who then create it. Reed added that cross-border transactions were more affected by big firm mergers than international law was.

In the brief time remaining, audience members solicited suggestions from the panel on how professors can improve international law classes.