I had to look up the year! I first taught non-US students in TU’s LLM program in 2002, about a year after I returned from teaching in North Africa at the University of Tunis as a Fulbright visiting professor.
2. How did you come to teach Introduction to US Law and Legal System?
TU’s US Law Survey course seemed a natural sit for me to do, because I’d spent a year teaching Frech-speaking graduate students in law in Tunisia. Back in Tulsa, I was also then teaching Comparative Law and Public International Law, so I had an international orientation and a basic understanding of civil law and Islamic law. Also I’d spent many years in general practice in the US, and so I had a broad exposure to most areas of US law as contemplated in the LLM introductory course.
3. What are some things you like about teaching this course?
Non-US students are satisfying to teach, because they seem to enjoy the experience of small-group interaction, personal contact with the professor, and the course’s bird’s eye view of US law. Most of them come from the impersonal atmosphere of a professor lecturing to 500 students.
Because they are graduate students, their levels of engagement and sophistication in reasoning are generally high. It is a challenge for me to measure what I am doing from their vantage points- to make sure my word selection and sentence structures are understandable to non-native speakers, and to make sure I’m identifying any assumptions they may be making about US law based on what they know from their own systems. If I am not careful about seeing things from their perspective, the students would encounter obstacles in understanding how US lawyers think and do their work.
4. What are some of the countries you have taught in and what is becoming of them?
My students have come from all over Europe, South America, Asia and Africa. Certainly, many after graduating from TU have remained in the US, usually because of family connections here. But I do have contact with former students who have returned to their countries of origin. I was in Italy for several weeks last summer and had lunch with one of my former students in Vicenza, a town about 50 miles west of Venice. She is now a lawyer there and is consulted by her colleagues whenever there is an issue about US law or there is a need to deal with U.S. lawyers or clients. She said she always starts working on a US law problem by opening the book we used during the seminar. Of course, being a professor, I told her that she needed to do additional research too! I’m sure she needed no reminding to do that.
5. What are some memorable things you’ve learned while teaching the LLM course?
A French student I once had in the seminar was also a lawyer in Paris and told me about how judicial attitudes toward judicial precedent are so different there. The student (lawyer) was arguing for a certain outcome in French litigation and informed the judge that another judge in a nearby courtroom had just decided the same issue in the way my student was urging. “What does the have to do with me?” the judge replied. “My responsibility is to decide this case in the way I think the law requires, and what another judge has done is not a matter of consequence to me.” US lawyers make certain assumptions about consistency of outcomes in a legal system, and those assumptions are simply not true always and everywhere, at least in the same way.