By Rosa Kim
Imagine that a lawyer with a solo practice in downtown Boston has two clients: Client A is injured on a flight from St. Louis to Boston, when the flight attendant accidentally slammed the beverage cart against her arm, breaking it. Client B is injured in the same way on a flight from Beijing to Boston. Is the airline liable? What is the extent of its liability?
In short, the answers are different for Client A and Client B. Client B’s case is governed by an international treaty that sets liability standards for accidents on international flights. To help Client B bring a case against the airline, the lawyer will need to research, analyze, and write about this treaty and how it is interpreted and applied by U.S. courts.
This is a simple example of how international law can make its way into a domestic case, and the kind of hypothetical I use in the upper level writing course I teach called Advanced Legal Writing: International Advocacy.
The practice of law is becoming more and more globalized as people cross borders with increased ease, markets expand, and digital communication instantly connects people from different corners of the world. While relatively few Suffolk law school grads will go on to practice international law, many will encounter issues of foreign or international law in their domestic practice. Other practice areas such as family law, commercial law, and immigration law are increasingly more internationalized as well.
Mindful of this trend towards globalization of legal practice, I developed the writing course to give students the opportunity to hone their written and oral advocacy skills in the context of international legal issues. I also was inspired by the opportunity to teach in an area that is of great interest to me, as I studied and worked in the field of international affairs prior to law school.
I begin the course with a discussion of the various ways international law affects our lives, and provide an overview of the basics of international law and legal research. The memo assignments allow students to further develop their legal writing and analysis, as these skills are the same regardless of the type of forum or law involved. There also is an opportunity to hone oral advocacy skills at the end of the course, when students perform a mock oral argument before the International Court of Justice.
Students comment on how surprised they were to realize the impact of international law on our everyday lives and on domestic legal practice. They also appreciated my enthusiasm and passion for the topic, which sparked their interest as well.
There is no prerequisite for the course, so previous knowledge of international law is not required. For those who are interested in improving legal writing skills while expanding their knowledge of international law, this course is a great option. With the practice of law becoming increasingly globalized, having this knowledge may prove to be beneficial as a marketable skill and on the job.
Rosa Kim is a Professor of Legal Writing at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. Prior to practicing as a civil litigator and joining Suffolk, Professor Kim earned a master’s degree in International Economics and Latin American Studies and worked at the Republic of Korea’s Mission to the United Nations. Learn more about Suffolk Law’s Legal Practice Skills program at suffolk.edu/law/lps.