Published In

The Second Draft

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2017


Legal research, Legal composition -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- Foreign students, Immersion method (Language teaching) -- Applications to legal studies -- Evaluation


Before I began my current position, I worked as a writing specialist with multilingual international students in the LL.M. legal writing program at Penn State Law for four years. At the time I started working with law students, I was taking coursework for my Ph.D. in applied linguistics, focusing on second language acquisition and writing. Since I was new to the field of legal education, I tried to get a better sense of what legal writing faculty saw as best practices in working with international students by speaking with faculty, reading articles in law reviews and journals, and attending conferences. What I found, however, did not always align well with what I was learning in my degree program.

In both conversations with law faculty and published articles in legal education, I found an insistence on the need for “complete immersion.” This article will begin by looking at how immersion has been operationalized in legal writing scholarship and practice and compare this with a similar model from applied linguistics. It will then consider how the contexts in which this form of immersion is most effective differ in important ways from a law school context. Finally, it will examine various ways that students’ use of their first language can serve as a resource for second language learning, as well as offer concrete suggestions and considerations for teaching.


Originally appeared in The Second Draft, published by the Legal Writing Institute. Available at

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