The Special Challenge of LL.M. Students

By Jim Hart

animated-question-mark-clip-art-Kijead5iqLL.M. students face a challenge that is more daunting than the one our J.D. students face; their knowledge of their own legal systems and legal publications interferes with their learning of ours.  Indeed, it is something like learning another language.  At the beginning, it’s like doing a puzzle in which all the pieces fit.  You learn it at this stage by comparing the foreign language to your own language.  At the intermediate stage, the two languages are no longer always comparable.  A lot of pieces of the puzzle don’t fit any more and it’s confusing.  At the advanced stage students don’t compare the languages anymore.  The foreign language has become separate from the native language.  Using it is now unconscious.

At the beginning of the semester, many LL.M.s don’t seem to have a clear idea of why they have to learn legal research.  But as the semester goes by, they become increasingly engaged.  I think that the reason for this apparent disengagement at the beginning is that, like American students, the U.S. legal system is entirely new to them.  American J.D. students, on the other hand, come to law without any previous idea to interfere with their learning the system.  LL.M. students, however, are already trained in their home legal systems.

Lawyers are experts in the legal systems of their own countries, including gazettes, codes, and other publications.  Their knowledge is highly complex, implicit, and entirely automatic to them.  They have used it as professionals for some period of time.  It would be nearly impossible for such knowledge not to interfere with new learning!  Let me explain.  We represent knowledge in our minds in structures.  It doesn’t matter whether you call them schemata (sg. schema), or mental models, or frames as used by Minsky.  These structures are organized hierarchically with more general concepts encompassing more specific ones and specific concepts encompassing particular instances.  Students are just learning these concepts and structures, but experts have become so adept at using them that they are unconscious of their use.  In other words, experts use them automatically.

So when lawyers from other countries try to learn our legal system and its publications, they will find that the two systems do not have the same structures.  Some aspects of their native systems may not have corresponding features in ours at all and ours will have some aspects that their systems lack, not to mention those aspects that are partially congruent.  To make things worse, our legal publications form a bibliographic system that adds another system to the complexity.  If the foreign students come from a civil law tradition, they may have difficulty with the need for the volumes of case reporters that are essential to a common law system.  Our codes may seem like a disorganized hodgepodge of laws to someone who is used to codes that are written like philosophical treatises.  But, as they learn more about our system, they see the usefulness of our tools of legal research.

So I believe that our LL.M. students begin learning our system by comparing elements of theirs to ours.  As they learn more, they go through a period of confusion from which they emerge near the end of a semester.  At this point, they no longer compare their native system to ours.  They understand ours as a second, independent one.  This explanation is simplistic of course.  This is a blog post, after all.  I hope this will do.

I suspect that there is no complete solution to this problem.  But I also suspect that giving the LL.M. students an overview of our system that includes the bibliographic aspects at the beginning of the semester and reminding students of the role (purpose?) of the relevant publications in the system when they study them might both help.  In addition, this kind of experience can suck their self-confidence right out of them.  Give them sympathy and encouragement.  Of course a little tea and crumpets wouldn’t hurt either.

In summary, the idea is to link the structure and content of the legal system with the concomitant publications.

CAFLL-WestPac Recap: Legal Research Instruction In China and Innovative Library Space Solutions

By Ning Han

The joint conference of Chinese and American Forum on Legal Information and Law Libraries (CAFLL) and AALL WestPac was held in Honolulu, Hawaii, October 7-11, 2015. The conference was a huge success and offered opportunities for law librarians from both countries to network, exchange ideas, and learn from each other. This blog post recaps a panel discussion that focused on legal research instruction in China and innovative library space solutions supporting legal education. The panel was moderated by Anne Mostad-Jensen, Head of Faculty Services at University of North Dakota School of Law.

Lee Peoples, Director and Professor of Law at Oklahoma City University Law Library, who has published extensively on innovative library space solutions, introduced the audience to the concept of user-centric library space design. The traditional notion of what an academic law library should look like has been disrupted by a combination of factors in recent years. Designing law libraries to encourage learning is the new focus. The variety of ways students use space and their learning styles should be accommodated. Professor Lee showcased the implementation of this new design notion through examples of several recently constructed or renovated academic law libraries. Data diner booths, bar-height tables, and collaborative spaces with built-in trendy technologies are no longer novel. The offering of outdoor studying space, either courtyard or roof-top, is quietly happening as well. Professor Peoples indicated that a nicely designed library space helps with admission and attracts donations. He even mentioned that many law schools have already converted the so-called “prime” space from law professor offices to student learning space. The mindset of space use and how to promote admissions, marketing, and publicity through transforming space has radically changed. Law librarians from China showed strong interest in this discussion.

Ning Han, Technical Services Librarian and Assistant Professor of Law at Concordia University School of Law and Liying Yu, Director and Professor of Law at Tsinghua University School of Law delivered the findings of their recently conducted survey. The survey aimed to find out what the current practices of legal research instruction in China are and compare them to the American legal research education practices. This new survey was derived from a 2008 survey conducted by Professor Liying Yu, which confirmed the dearth of legal research course offerings at that time. Twenty-five law schools were surveyed this time and the survey found a steady improvement of legal research course offerings in law schools in China since the last survey. The offerings of basic legal research course have gone up to 73%. ALR and SLR courses were found to be more available than in 2008. 38% of law schools surveyed are offering some sort of ALR or SLR courses. The format of the course, credit structure, teaching method, assessment method, and more were studied and compared to the U.S. approaches. Professors Han and Yu also touched on students’ and legal employers’ perception toward legal research courses and legal research skills. They also examined whether there is any feedback or regulatory system in place among legal educators, legal employers, the bar association, and Ministry of Education. A more detailed analysis of the survey will appear in the paper that Professors Han, Yu, and Mostad-Jensen are currently finishing.

IALL Recap: Legal Blogs as a Means to alter Scientific Communication Structures and Legal Research: Insights from Verfassungsblog’s Research Project

By Teresa Miguel-Stearns

Humbolt University Berlin, Faculty of Law

Humbolt University Berlin, Faculty of Law

Researcher Hannah Birkenkotter, of Humboldt University Berlin, gave a fascinating presentation on the various types of German legal blogs and their effects on German society. She acknowledged that she and her fellow researchers do not know exactly who is reading the blogs, and that although blogs are not yet firmly entrenched in the establishment, they are genre that provides a valuable space for experimentation and the exchange of ideas. Birkenkotter described two types of blogs:

  1. External alteration blogs: to spread ideas and alter scientific discussion
  2. Internal alteration blogs: to shake up academic institutions and structure

In 2009, legal journalist Maximillian Steinbeis, started blogging to report on constitutional law developments in Germany. The intended audience of Verfassungsblog is the general public and the desired outcome is to shape and affect policy. The blog is primarily in English in an effort to reach a broad audience. Although Steinbeis is the solo owner and moderator of this “external alteration” blog, he has a long list of guest contributors including several U.S. law professors.

Humboldt University Berlin, Main Campus

Humboldt University Berlin, Main Campus

Several years ago Andreas Palos, then a practicing attorney, started a popular international law blog. It was short and informative with a clear opinion. Palos is now a sitting judge on the Federal Constitution Court and, therefore, no longer maintains this solo blog, but at the time it was a primary means of sharing developments in international law with the public who would not otherwise have timely, in depth, and easy access to such developments.

Several popular blogs are group projects where there is a pre-publishing peer review process allowing for a less formal forum for publishing one’s scholarship. One such blog is a group of young researcher in German public law who run Junge Wissenschaft im Offentlichen Recht, an “internal alteration” blog. This blog provides ample opportunity for up-and-coming scholars to express their ideas and get feedback from their peers through posted comments and responses.

Some of the most popular legal blogs in Germany are the following:

In sum, blogs in Germany, though not as prolific as in the United States, provide an important tool for scholars and experts to share developments in the law, exchange novel ideas and receive instant feedback, and educate the public in a timely, open fashion. Not so different from DipLawMatics Dialogues!

Humboldt University of Berlin, Main Campus

Humboldt University of Berlin, Main Campus

AALL 2015 Recap: Customary and Religious Law Interest Group Meeting

By Susan Gualtier

Front page of CARLIG flyer distributed at FCIL-SIS Exhibit Hall table.

Front page of informational flyer distributed at the FCIL-SIS Exhibit Hall table.

The Customary and Religious Law Interest Group (CARLIG) met on July 19 at 11:30 as part of the FCIL-SIS Jurisdictions Interest Groups Joint Meeting. The group briefly discussed the year’s progress, which included acquiring approximately 35 members in My Communities, developing several programming proposals for the 2015 conference, and publishing an article in AALL Spectrum describing the group’s formation, purpose, and goals. The majority of the discussion then focused on 1) improving communication with the group’s membership in order to generate better response to the My Communities posts; 2) increasing the number of blogging and book review opportunities on customary and religious law topics and soliciting participation by the group’s members; and 3) developing and prioritizing additional projects for the coming year.

CARLIG intends to continue proposing conference programming, and brainstormed a few ideas for the 2016 conference. The group discussed the possibility of putting together a panel of librarians and researchers who are currently working on comprehensive online portals or printed bibliographies of religious law resources. Kelly Buchanan, of the Library of Congress, also shared some preliminary information relating to an Islamic law program to be held at the Library of Congress in December. The group discussed potential opportunities for collaboration between CARLIG and the Library of Congress staff, which has been working on increasing the number of available customary law and religious law resources.

In addition to planning substantive programming, the group decided that CARLIG’s primary focus over the upcoming year should be to create teaching/research toolkits for customary law and for each of the major religious law systems. The purpose of these toolkits will be to encourage more librarians to incorporate customary and religious law research into their FCIL research classes or their presentations in substantive law classes. CARLIG will also work on some of the ideas proposed at the 2014 conference, including creating bibliographies of core resources for use in collection development, and identifying the major library collections in customary law and in each of the major religious law systems.

AALL 2015 Recap: Chinese Legal Information: Availability, Accessibility and Quality Control

By Alex Zhang and Anne Mostad-Jensen

NewAALLClogoSmallHave you ever been tasked with finding an English translation of a recently enacted ordinance in Hong Kong when all of your colleagues in the Hong Kong office on the other side of the world are asleep in their beds? Have you been asked to help a member of the law journal reverse engineer and decipher an esoteric citation to a Chinese regulation that has been translated into English? Have you ever been asked by your favorite law professor to figure out whether the State Council of the People’s Republic of China has translated its open government information regulation into English?

The Asian American Law Librarians Caucus (AALLC) program on Chinese legal information, held on Monday, July 20 from 4:30pm to 5:30pm, was designed to help you to handle these problems and others like them that you may have already encountered or will likely encounter in the future. Alex Zhang, from the University of Michigan Law Library, and Anne Mostad-Jensen, from the University of North Dakota Law Library, explored some of the most practical yet important issues related to English translations of Chinese primary legal materials, such as availability, accessibility and quality control.

Before using any English translation of primary legal materials of any jurisdiction, it is important to understand and fully appreciate the characteristics of the legal system and infrastructure. The Chinese legal system is a mixed legal system composed of the socialist civil law system of Mainland China, the common law system of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), and the civil law system of Macao Special Administrative Region (Macao SAR). Each section has its own official language that directly impacts the authority and availability of English translations of primary legal materials. For example, in Mainland China, the official language is Mandarin Chinese nationwide. As a result, English translations, regardless of its issuing organ, are only for informational purposes. On the other hand, English and Chinese are both official languages of HKSAR and therefore, English and Chinese versions of primary legal materials issued by the official governmental entity are considered equally authoritative. Macao SAR is unique in the sense that Chinese and Portuguese are both considered as official languages. Consequently, English translations are of informational purposes only.

The different legal systems and framework also impact the availability and accessibility of English translations of primary legal materials in all three jurisdictions. With English as one of the official languages, English versions of primary legal materials of Hong Kong SAR are the most accessible among the three jurisdictions. Legislation in both English and Chinese is available through HKSAR Department of Justice Bilingual Laws Information System. The website also provides glossaries of legal terms prepared by the Law Drafting Division of the Department of Justice. Similarly, Hong Kong Judiciary’s Legal Reference System provides the full text of court decisions in English.[1]

The PRC government is making progress toward making its laws available in English. Both the National People’s Congress and the State Council have been publishing English translations of selective laws and regulations since the late 1970s. Furthermore, both branches have made laws and regulations in English available online. For example, the National People’s Congress launched the online database Laws and Regulations in English in 2006. Its Chinese Law database also provides English translations of certain laws and regulations when available. Commercial vendors, such as Chinalawinfo, Westlaw China and Lexis China all provide extensive English translations of primary legal materials from Mainland China.

Users may have the least luck when it comes to finding English translations of Macao laws and regulations. Both Chinese and Portuguese versions of the laws and regulations of Macao are readily available at the Macao SAR Legislative Assembly website, but English versions are not included on the website. The Government Printing Bureau of Macao does make English translations of certain major codes available at its official website, including both the Commercial Code and the Industrial Property Code.

On the other hand, making translations available does not necessarily indicate the quality of the translations. Translation is hard. Legal translation is even harder. Deborah Cao claims “the sources of legal translation difficulty include the systematic differences in law, linguistic differences and cultural differences.”[2] Olga Burukina argues that legal translators are constantly challenged with “time and quality issues as well as a number of contradictions” related to time, systems, terminology, meaning, etc.[3]

Relying on a misleading translation is worse than not relying on a translation at all. Therefore, both presenters spent time discussing issues and concerns with the quality of the currently available English translations of all three jurisdictions. The presenters provided concrete examples of some of the major concerns, such as inconsistency, lack of officially issued bilingual legal terminologies for Mainland China and Macao SAR, and omissions and additions of words from the version in the source language. At the end of the presentation, presenters also shared tips and strategies for using English translations of Chinese primary legal materials with the audience. If you would like to receive a copy of the presentation materials by email, please feel free to contact Alex Zhang (zxm@umich.edu) or Anne Mostad-Jensen (anne.mostadjensen@law.und.edu).

[1] HKSAR judicial decisions are issued either in Chinese or in English, with a majority of cases still issued in English. Judicial decisions of jurisprudential value originally issued in Chinese are translated and made available in English as well. See http://legalref.judiciary.gov.hk/lrs/common/ju/tjpv.jsp.

[2] Deborah Cao, Translating Law 23 (Multilingual Matters, 2007).

[3] Olga Burukina, The Legal Translator’s Competence, 5 Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice 809, 810–812 (2013).

AALL 2015 Recap: “International Attorneys and LL.M. Students: Filling Research Gaps”

By Alexis Fetzer

scalesThe late Sunday afternoon session entitled “International Attorneys and LL.M. Students: Filling Research Gaps” targeted librarians working with international students in an instructional setting. Each speaker presented on his or her experience working with foreign LL.M. students.

The first of the three speakers was Jinwei Zhang, Reference and Instructional Technologies Librarian at the University of Tennessee School of Law. Ms. Zhang had a unique experience in that she had been a foreign LL.M. student herself. She began by discussing some of the unique challenges instructors face in teaching these students, such as language barriers, cultural differences, and introducing a new legal system. One cultural difference that Zhang emphasized was a reluctance to ask questions in class. Many of these students are coming from learning environments in which they are not encouraged to interrupt a lecturer with comments or questions. It is important to be patient and encouraging of these students in order to get them to open up in class. One suggestion offered was instituting more one on one meetings with students in order to get them comfortable talking to instructors and to answer any questions that they are too uncomfortable to pose before an entire class.

Nina Scholtz, Head of Reference Services & Instruction Coordinator at Cornell University Law School, was the second of three speakers. Ms. Scholtz spoke on her experience as an academic law librarian instructing LL.M. students in legal research in their Principles of American Legal Writing course. In this course she instructs students in four class sessions and then works with students individually on their research for writing projects.

One challenge she highlighted was the difficulty in overcoming language barriers for legal citation abbreviations. It is important for instructors to keep in mind that what appears to make sense in the English speaker’s mind as an abbreviation for a court or publication may not always translate clearly to the foreign student. An instructor should look for ways to make this easier for students to understand and should be able to point to resources that can assist students in abbreviating or deciphering abbreviations of citations.

Scholtz shared one of the exercises she performed with her students, entitled “Thinking like a Common Law Lawyer.” This exercise focuses on the factual analysis that needs to take place before students can begin tackling legal research. Students are tasked with finding the basis of the case, generating search terms, and looking to other synonyms and antonyms of those terms. After the class performs this exercise together as a whole, students are broken up into smaller groups and given the same type of assignment with a different fact pattern.

The final speaker was Furman Scott DeMaris, Research Services Librarian at Reed Smith LLP, who spoke of his experience as a firm librarian when Reed Smith took on several Chinese LL.M. students as apart of work-study program with Temple University School of Law. One thing the firm did was to offer research refreshers and training for these students. Mr. Demaris found that it was important to let these students know that the librarians were there to assist them, because otherwise they might not have identified the librarians as a resource. Research guides were also offered to students on topics such as how to avoid research pitfalls and how to perform cost effective research. One challenge in hosting these LL.M. students was that, because they were guests rather than employees, they could not be given access to all of the firm’s resources. At the end of their time with Reed Smith, the students were asked to give a presentation on Chinese Law. This was a great way take advantage of the special knowledge of these foreign educated attorneys and to educate the firm’s attorneys on a foreign legal system.

After the final speaker, attendees were asked to discuss amongst members seated at their table the challenges in training foreign attorneys in an LL.M. instructional program or similar setting. The microphone was then opened for attendees to share and for the speakers to answer any questions.

Schedule of FCIL Events in Philadelphia

Blog Postcards 2015Hello FCIL-SIS!  Are you ready for Philly?  We at the publicity committee certainly are!  We have swag for the exhibit hall ready to go, and we’re looking forward to seeing all of our SIS friends again next week!

As we approach the 2015 AALL Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, we encourage you to keep an eye on the blog and to follow us on Twitter for coverage of FCIL-SIS programming both during and after the conferenceIf you are interested in covering any of the events listed below, please contact blog administrators Susan Gualtier (susan.gualtier@law.lsu.edu) or Loren Turner (lturner@law.ufl.edu).  Finally, remember to send us your original photos from the Philadelphia conference so that we can share them with our readers who were unable to attend!

FCIL-SIS EVENTS

2015 AALL ANNUAL MEETING, PHILADELPHIA

Saturday, July 18

9:30am – 4:45 pm

Researching the European Union (University of Pennsylvania Law School)

5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Exhibit Hall Ribbon-Cutting/Opening Reception. Stop by the FCIL-SIS table!

Sunday, July 19

11:30 am – 12:45 pm

AALL/LexisNexis Call for Papers: Researching International Agreements other than Article II

Treaties (PCC-Room 104A)

FCIL-SIS Jurisdictions Interest Groups Joint Meeting (Marriott-Grand Ballroom Salon C)

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Cross-Border Disputes: Dissecting the International Investment Arbitration (PCC-Room

201BC)

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Designers’ Workshop: Subject Guides that Create the Effect You Want (PCC-Room 103BC)

5:15 pm – 6:00 pm

FCIL-SIS Foreign Selectors Interest Group (Marriott-Room 306)

6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

FCIL-SIS Internships and International Exchanges Committee (Marriott-Room 310)

FCIL-SIS Publicity Committee (Marriott-Room 308)

Monday, July 20

7:15 am – 8:30 am

FCIL-SIS Business Meeting and Breakfast (PCC-Room 110AB)

3:15 pm – 4:25 pm

FCIL-SIS Teaching Foreign and International Legal Research Interest Group (PCC-Room

112A)

4:00 pm – 4:30 pm

FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant for Foreign Law Librarians Fundraising Committee (Marriott-

Conference Suite 2)

4:30 pm – 5:30 pm

FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant for Foreign Law Librarians Recipient Presentation (Marriott-Grand

Ballroom Salon D)

5:45 pm – 6:45 pm

International Attendees Joint Reception (AALL/FCIL/IALL) (Marriott-Grand Ballroom Salon

IJ)

Tuesday, July 21

8:30 am – 9:30 am

Mighty MT: Enhancing the Value of Machine Translation Tools for FCIL Reference and

Collection Services (PCC-Room 103BC)

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm

LHRB/FCIL-SIS Roman Law Interest Group: Researching the Corpus Juris Civilis (PCC-Room

105A)

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

FCIL-SIS Education Committee (Marriott-Grand Ballroom Salon B)

FCIL-SIS Electronic Research Interest Group (PCC-Room 104B)

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