Language, Culture, and the Culture of Language International JD students in U.S. Law Schools

Chapter IN: Power, Legal Education, and Law School Cultures Meera E. Deo, Mindie Lazarus-Black, Elizabeth Mertz, editors, New York, NY : Routledge, 2020

UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2020-37

Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 20-07

31 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2020 Last revised: 13 May 2020

See all articles by Swethaa Ballakrishnen

Swethaa Ballakrishnen

University of California, Irvine School of Law; Harvard University - Center on the Legal Profession

Carole Silver

Northwestern Pritzker School of Law; American Bar Foundation

Date Written: April 13, 2020

Abstract

Although international students have been routinely admitted to U.S. law schools over the last few decades, there is little known about this demographic outside of specific programs aimed to admit these students like the LLM or the SJD. This Chapter extends this literature to focus on a rising trend of students within more the “mainstream” law school program, the JD. Our past research shows that the proportion of JDs who are international students has increased over the last decade, with the increase being most notable at elite law schools. Still, little is known about the experience of these students. In this Chapter, drawing from interview data with approximately 50 international students, as well as supplemental data from law school faculty and administrators, we suggest, in line with other research, that language is crucial to framing these students’ experiences. However, we do not limit our analysis to direct language proficiency. Instead, we argue that beyond technical language markers like vocabulary and syntax, it is the culture of language that determines the quality of students’ interactions and their institutional choices. International students, like all students, are constantly engaging in interactions that determine their perceived “fit” within sites in which they are embedded (e.g. classrooms, student groups, study groups, etc.) and across these contexts, expectations and presumptions of their abilities and identities shape the ways in which they are treated and allowed to assimilate. In concentrating on language and its interaction with students’ lived experience, these data give us important insights into understanding the creation and experience of law school cultures and their systemic reproduction of hierarchy.

Suggested Citation

Ballakrishnen, Swethaa and Silver, Carole, Language, Culture, and the Culture of Language International JD students in U.S. Law Schools (April 13, 2020). Chapter IN: Power, Legal Education, and Law School Cultures Meera E. Deo, Mindie Lazarus-Black, Elizabeth Mertz, editors, New York, NY : Routledge, 2020, UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2020-37, Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 20-07, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3575066

Swethaa Ballakrishnen (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

Harvard University - Center on the Legal Profession ( email )

1585 Massachusetts Avenue
Wasserstein Hall, Suite 5018
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Carole Silver

Northwestern Pritzker School of Law ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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