The Legal English Institute is open to all international Suffolk Master of Laws students to ensure they have the tools needed to transition successfully to LLM coursework.

This three-week intensive course is designed to introduce you to the US legal system while focusing on the specific language and academics skills you'll need to be successful at an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law school.

Suffolk Law is one of only a few law schools in the country offering a special language program exclusively for LLM students. The Institute is led by an experienced international business lawyer who is also a certified instructor in English for speakers of other languages.

The Legal English Institute runs five days a week for five hours a day, covering note-taking, grammar, writing, public speaking, legal vocabulary, and using US legal materials. It's also an invaluable way for you to meet other international LLM students and build your network before the start of classes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Suffolk Law School has offered me conditional acceptance to its LL.M. program. What does that mean?

Suffolk Law School offers some applicants to its LL.M. program conditional acceptance when the applicant's TOEFL score, or other evidence of English language and academic achievement, does not meet the requirements for acceptance into the Law School. In the judgment of the admissions committee, these applicants need to improve their level of English language competence to be successful at Suffolk Law School.

In order for a conditionally admitted applicant to be granted full admission to Suffolk Law, the applicant must satisfactorily complete the Legal English Institute (LEI) program. What is the LEI?

The LEI is a 3-week intensive program given immediately before the start of the fall semester. Please see below for additional information.

I planned to do a lot of reading and studying in English on my own this summer before I start the program. Why wouldn't that be enough?

There are several reasons. First, law is taught differently in the U.S. than in many other countries. A lot of emphasis is placed on classroom discussion. Students who are not comfortable speaking in class, either because they are not confident speaking in English, or because they are not accustomed to speaking in class will miss many benefits of a U.S. legal education and may have difficulty succeeding in a U.S. law school environment. Learning to engage in classroom discussion and to answer questions when called on by a law professor cannot be learned in self-study.

Second, most courses in U.S. law schools are graded according to a single final exam. These exams often present one or more hypothetical cases which present a variety of legal issues related to the subject matter of the course. The student is then given between 2-4 hours to discuss the legal issues presented in the hypothetical case(s) and then apply the legal principles learned in the course to the facts presented in the hypothetical. Students who cannot express abstract ideas and legal concepts clearly in written English will have difficulty demonstrating that they have mastered the subject matter of the course, even if they do understand it, and therefore, risk failing the course. Independent study does not provide practice in writing English, particularly writing about legal subject matter, nor does it provide feedback and correction. Therefore, it is unlikely that an applicant could improve his or her written English sufficiently through independent study.

I have been accepted at another LL.M. program. Why should I go to Suffolk, where I have been offered a conditional acceptance, when I could go to a school where I have been offered full acceptance without condition?

Being accepted to a program is no guarantee of being able to graduate from the program. Unfortunately, some international students are accepted to LL.M. programs, but are not able to complete the degree requirements because their English language skills are not sufficient to do so. In other words, being accepted to another program is no guarantee of success in the program.

At Suffolk, we are committed to giving accepted candidates the greatest support we can to see that they successfully complete the degree requirements and graduate with the LL.M. degree. That is why, in fact, Suffolk created the LEI, which was offered for the first time in 2012. Creating the LEI represents Suffolk's commitment to providing our international candidates the skills they need to complete the LL.M. degree and get the greatest benefit from their LL.M. program.

What will be the main topics and areas of study of the LEI?

The program will focus on i) developing the level of spoken and written English language skills needed to succeed in law school; ii) learning the basic concepts of the American legal and governmental systems; iii) learning the culture and expectation of the law school classroom. Topics to be covered will include:

  • the U.S. governmental system
    • the branches of federal government and the balance of power
    • state government
    • the relationship of federal and state governments and legal systems
  • the U.S. legal system
    • the common law (judge-made law)
    • statutory law
    • the relationship of the common law and statutory law
  • the role of the lawyer in the U.S. to act as a zealous advocate
    • reading and briefing cases
    • writing legal memoranda
    • doing legal research

I'm worried about whether I'll pass the LEI. How will I be evaluated? Will I have to take another TOEFL or another standardized test? In other words, what will an LEI attendee need to do in order to be unconditionally admitted to the LL.M. program?

There will be no standardized tests. In brief, an LEI attendee will need to be able to participate fully in class discussion; answer questions completely and clearly when called on; be understood when speaking, by native English-speaking professors and classmates; and be able to express legal concepts thoughtfully and comprehensibly, both orally in class and in writing in a paper or exam. He or she will need to complete all assignments on time, carefully and completely, and attend all classes.

Are there any benefits I can expect from attending the LEI?

Absolutely. Most international students who begin LL.M. studies have little or no knowledge of the American legal and governmental system, the common law, or the case study method. All of these are central to LL.M. study. Students attending the LEI will study all of these areas and, if admitted for study, will enter the fall term with a far better background in American legal systems than many of their classmates. They will also have had training in reading, understanding, and briefing cases and in engaging in classroom discussion. We expect that LEI attendees will therefore be better prepared at the start of the fall term than many of their international classmates.

Are there textbooks that will be used in the LEI? What are they?

The texts are 1)"An Introduction to the Legal System of the United States (4th edition)," by E. Allan Farnsworth, 2) "Legal English (2nd edition), An Introduction to the Legal Language and Culture of the United States," by Teresa Kissane Brostoff and Ann Sinsheimer, and 3) "The Basics of Legal Writing (Revised), by Mary Barnard Ray. In addition to assignments from these texts, there will also be legal research assignments using library databases and sources and presentations to be prepared individually and in a study group for team presentations.

Who teaches the LEI course? What are the person's qualifications?

Attorney Barlas received her J.D. from Columbia University, where she was an editor of the Law Review, and her B.A. from Tufts University. After practicing law for more than 20 years, she earned an Ed.M. from Boston University in Teaching English at the College and Adult Level to Speakers of Other Languages, thereby combining her experience in international law with her love of language and teaching.

Attorney Barlas practiced law predominantly in-house, with a focus on international business counseling and transactions. At Reebok International Ltd., she was responsible for the legal affairs of all of the international businesses. Prior to that, she was general counsel for the Asian and Latin American divisions of Bestfoods, for which she traveled extensively to counsel businesses and conduct transactions in China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela, among others.

In addition to teaching she is an executive coach in English language business and communication skills to international executives and management teams. She has taught at Harvard University's Institute for English Language Programs, at the Boston campus of the Showa International Institute for Language and Culture (based in Tokyo). At Suffolk University, she teaches advanced English-language communication skills at the College of Arts and Sciences to international students preparing for graduate school, and Advanced International Business Transactions at the Law School to J.D. and LL.M. candidates.

Similar programs are offered at some other law schools, but they're usually 5 or 6 weeks long. Suffolk's program is only 3 weeks. Why, and what's the difference?

The longer programs are generally less intensive. They offer fewer hours of classes a day, and some days are spent going on field trips to courthouses and the like.

Suffolk's LEI offers the same number of class hours, but because there are more classes per week and no trips and extracurricular activities, we are able to offer the program in just 3 weeks rather than 5 or 6. We decided to do this because we know that our applicants have busy lives, and many of you have family and professional responsibilities in your home countries. By designing the program with intensive class days, Suffolk enables you to add only 3 weeks to your schedule.

Structure and Curriculum

Classes meet Monday - Friday from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Students will also have class an additional 2 hours on four other days of the week. In total, students can expect to be in class at least 28 hours each week. In addition, there are three 2 hour classes with Suffolk Law reference librarians during the three week session.

The program will focus on i) developing the level of spoken and written English language skills needed to succeed in law school; ii) learning the basic concepts of the American legal and governmental systems; iii) learning the culture and expectations of the law school classroom.

Topics to be covered will include:

  • the U.S. governmental system
    • the branches of federal government and balance of power
    • state government
    • the relationship of federal and state governments and legal systems

  • the U.S. legal system
    • the common law (judge-made law)
    • statutory law
    • the relationship of the common law and statutory law
  • the role of the lawyer in the U.S. to act as a zealous advocate
  • reading and briefing cases
  • writing legal memoranda
  • doing legal research

Selected Quotes from the Legal English Institute Student Evaluations ~ August 2012

If an LLM student came to you and asked you for your advice in whether they should enroll in Suffolk's LEI program, what would you tell them?

  • Especially for those students who come from civil law systems, I would advise them that in order to get familiar and to be successful in the LL.M. program, it should certainly be done. ~ Cem from Turkey
  • I would tell them that it is the best decision they can do if they enroll in the Legal English Institute because it would help them in every aspect (writing, analyzing, and communicating) and it would give them useful tools for when they start the LL.M. ~ Vaneska from Venezuela
  • If I was dean at Suffolk Law School, I would make this program mandatory for every international LL.M. or J.D. student. ~ Mohammed from Saudi Arabia
  • That they should always be prepared to study a lot and that it's necessary to enroll in the Legal English Institute to have a better understanding of the U.S. legal system. The course is absolutely necessary for international students. ~ Manuel from Venezuela