Guest post – Reporting from Verona

guest bookThis report has kindly been written for us by Anila Scott-Monkhouse, who teaches English as a foreign language at the University of Parma in Italy, and Legal English in the EFLIT programme.

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The Global Legal Skills conference, now at its ninth edition, was held in Europe for the first time in the romantic city of Verona (Italy), the hometown of Romeo and Juliet, on 22-23 May 2014.

Mark Wojcik and Lurene Contento from the John Marshall Law School (Chicago, USA), David Austin from the California Western School of Law (USA), and Stefano Troiano from the University of Verona Faculty of Law (Italy) were excellent hosts and organised a superb event.

bestprThis international gathering provided the opportunity to share best practices of international legal skills education as it brought together professionals from many disciplines and from around the world who have an interest in teaching international students and foreign lawyers, i.e. law professors, linguists, librarians, court translators, and others, with presenters from the US, the UK, Italy, France, Norway, Bulgaria, Latvia, Ukraine, the Republic of Georgia, Russia, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, South Africa, China, Australia.

It was an excellent opportunity to share and compare ideas, learn from the experience of others, listen to suggestions, and in general broaden horizons, not to mention a valuable chance to network during the coffee and lunch breaks which were long enough to allow time to socialise and create bonds over tasty food and good wine.

There were an average five parallel sessions to choose from, and it was difficult to decide which presentation to attend. I attended several informative, thought-provoking panels by speakers who were clearly passionate about their profession and eager to share their findings and experiences.

openbookProfessors Heidi Brown and Jodi Balsam, from the New York Law School (USA), showed ways to develop the critical reading skills of law students and lawyers, with practical handouts which can be either used as they are or adapted for similar activities.

Professors Jane Siegel and Kara Zech-Thelen, from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School (Michigan, USA), provided practical activities in which the students are required to edit texts drafted in ‘legalese’ and convert them into plain, ‘layman’s’ English.

Wearing many hatsDr. Catherine Dwyer (from the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, Cairo, Egypt) and Mr Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer (International Affairs commentator on China Radio International) described the importance of training learners to help them develop effective study skills, but also highlighted the importance of instructors themselves being aware of the multiple roles they are called to play before their students as facilitators, input-providers, trainers, leaders, assessors, etc.

Prof. Tove Klovning, from the Washington University Law Library (USA) is an expert in legal research methodologies and provided practical tips on research tools, while prof. Jessica Durkis-Stokes from the University of New Hampshire School of Law (USA) gave suggestions on how to create a cohesive curriculum for graduate students by “filling the competencies bucket”.

commoncivilProf. Juli Campagna, from the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University (New York, USA) explained the linguistic, cultural and legal challenges encountered by international students from Civil Law countries in sitting examinations in American Law School and Bars.

Prof. Jane Ching, Mr Matthew Homewood, Ms Hilary Twycross and Ms Jane Jarman, from Nottingham Trent University (UK) gave an overview of the different dimensions to be taken into consideration when teaching client interviewing skills, i.e. the lawyer dimension, the client dimension and the teaching dimension, and emphasised the implications of factors such as culture, experience and practice area.

EUUSMr Leslie Alan Glick, partner at Porter Wright Morris and Arthur (Washington, DC, USA) outlined the impact the US-EU Free Trade Agreement is likely to have on both US and EU laws and on teaching International Law.

Professors Kathryn Mercer and Jonathan Gordon, from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law (Ohio, USA), together with Dean Clifford Zimmerman from the Northwestern University School of Law (Illinois, USA), explained how plagiarism appears to take on different meanings and connotations in different cultures, and the need of today’s ‘global’ student for a clear definition.

A more ‘human’ factor in the teaching of law was introduced by Prof. Maggie Tsavaris, from the Savannah Law School (Georgia, USA), who talked about infusing pathos into pedagogy and preventing/facing the psychological issues which law students and lawyers need to deal with.

Finally, Dr. Stefano Maffei and myself, from the University of Parma (Italy), presented EFLIT (English for Law and International Transactions), a national postgraduate training project for professionals in the fields of Law and Economics which combines a linguistic focus (i.e. English for Law) and a content focus (i.e. Law in English) based on a participant profile which is the result of a detailed needs analysis.

Prof. David Austin closed the conference with an interesting talk which covered the issues of Law and Love, linking them to the location and its treasures in the fields of art, literature and music.

This was followed by a ceremony with the announcement of the 2014 GLS awards, to individual winners (Heidi Brown, Juli Campagna and Marion Dent), books [Deborah B. McGregor and Cynthia M. Adams, The International Lawyer’s Guide to Legal Analysis and Communication in the United States (Wolters Kluwer 2008), and Anthony S. Winer, Mary Ann E. Archer, and Lyonette Louis-Jacques, International Law Legal Research (Carolina Academic Press 2013], and institutional winner [BarWrite and BarWrite Press, New York, USA (Dr. Mary Campbell Gallagher)].

vicenzaThe whole conference came to an end with a trip to the nearby city of Vicenza, a UNESCO heritage site since 1994, which included visits to the stunning Palladian villas and indoor theatre, meeting local authorities in Palazzo Trissino, which houses the Town Council, and a complimentary aperitif in the courtyard of Ca’ D’Oro (Palazzo da Schio), followed by a social dinner. The day gave participants a chance to follow up the connections they had made in a more light-hearted, relaxed manner, and also discover cross-curricular interests (e.g. the use of Mindfulness for law students and lawyers; strategies for unwinding for teachers, professors and instructors; art, travels, etc.). The organisers made sure everyone was well looked after and shared personal anecdotes and jokes which led to plenty of laughter.

To close it all, it was a great pleasure for me to be able to host Professors Mark Wojcik and David Austin in Modena (Italy) the following week and see them in action during an EFLIT session. Participants thoroughly enjoyed Mark and David’s class, and jumped at the chance to ask questions about the US context and describe the figure of lawyers in Italy.

All is all, a truly memorable and rewarding experience.

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