ESL Services for International Students

Northwestern Law is unique among its peer schools in providing an in-house legal English specialist who provides a comprehensive suite of language programming designed to meet international students’ personal and professional language goals. Our English Language Support Services help students improve their academic and legal English skills and, more generally, assists students with the challenges of being advanced English language learners at a U.S. law school.

Details about our programming can be found below, and we encourage all international students to sign up for the ESL Listserv and register for the Legal English Resources Canvas page.

Programming:

Diagnostics

All incoming international LLM students are required to complete a Diagnostic Writing Assessment (DWA), which is a thirty minute essay writing assessment that informs students about their overall English language writing skills and about specific strengths and weaknesses. Five major skill areas - fluency, organization, clarity, vocabulary, and grammar - are assessed. Students in other degree programs can register for the DWA through Canvas. Diagnostic speaking assessments are also available by request.

Drop-in Workshops

Each semester, a variety of grammar and pronunciation workshops are offered to all international students. These one-hour sessions each focus on a specific language topic. Each workshop is offered twice per semester, and you can view the topics and schedule on the calendar. Past topics include:

  • Clauses
  • Articles
  • Prepositions and phrasal verbs
  • Pronunciation: TH sounds
  • Intonation

Software

The following English language software programs are available at discounted rates to international law students:

  • Native Accent: Native Accent is a cutting-edge software program that utilizes speech recognition technology and an intelligent tutor system to dramatically improve pronunciation.
  • Core Grammar for Lawyers: Core Grammar for Lawyers is an online, self-directed learning tool designed to help law students acquire the grammar and punctuation skills that are prerequisites to successful legal writing. All LLM students are required to complete this program during their CLR class.

Speaking Practice

  • Discussion Groups: Bi-weekly discussion groups facilitated by NU Alumni, faculty, staff, and community and/or business leaders are offered each semester to help students immerse themselves in an English-speaking environment and maximize opportunities to develop overall English abilities. Students sign up for discussion groups at the beginning of the semester and once their placement is confirmed, attendance is required.
  • Debate Club: Periodic sessions offered each semester to help students improve their argumentative speaking skills. Students sign up for the debate in advance and receive the topic and a few short articles in the days before the session. In the debate, students prepare an argument with their teammates and alternate speaking positions. Sign-ups are sent over the ESL listserv and students can participate in as few or as many debates as they would like.

International Writing Fellow Program

The International Writing Fellow Program is the Law School’s writing center for international students. International Writing Fellows are second- or third-year law students who are recommended by Communication and Legal Reasoning professors to work with international students. These fellows assist students with the English language aspects of law school writing assignments. In an appointment, a Writing Fellow typically edits a small portion of a student's assignment and then uses the revealed pattern of errors to provide the student with editing strategies. To use the International Writing Fellow Program, students must first attend an information session (either live or online).

Intensive Workshop Series

The Intensive Workshop Series are non-credit bearing classes designed to provide students with additional language support beyond their law school coursework. There are currently two series offered each year:

  • Intensive Writing Workshop Series (IWW): The IWW is a series of six workshops covering each step of the writing process. Students complete a short writing assignment before the program begins, and in each session, work together to address language concerns and develop successful writing techniques. Topics covered include general writing organization, paragraph structure, sentence-level clarity, and revision strategies.  
  • Intensive Speaking Workshop Series (ISW): The ISW is a series of four 90-minute speaking classes designed to build oral communication skills in both formal and informal settings. Topics covered include small talk, leading discussions, interviewing, and general pronunciation. Students are required to submit oral journal assignments before each session and complete a final presentation at the end of the series.

Sign-ups for both the IWW and ISW are sent over the ESL listserv.

Private Consultation

For individual appointments or questions about any of the programs mentioned above, please contact Nell Novara, Assistant Director of International Student Support, at nell.novara@law.northwestern.edu.