by Takato Masuda
I participated in “English for Law” course, one of the English Language Institute (ELI) programs at Yale University, from June 29 to August 7. In that course students came from all over the world: Mexico, Ecuador, Spain, Italy, Turkey, India, South Korea and so on.
I took “The U.S. legal system and the Constitution” as my morning class and the written/oral legal communication class in the afternoon. Also I had the class named “Laws, Morals, and Professional Responsibility” on every Tuesday evening.
The morning class was the introduction to American law. Even in a short time it covered a wide variety of areas: court system, civil/criminal procedure, evidence, constitution, contract, trademark, product liability and torts. Through learning these topics I was required to read many cases. At the first glance I thought the study method was the same as what I had done in UTokyo School of Law, but in fact it was totally different. In Japanese law school we tend to focus on abstract rules shown in cases and to put them into the single consistent principle. By contrast in U.S. law school students are supposed to concentrate on what happened in each case in order to obtain skill in analyzing concrete facts. Even though both legal educations accept case method, the object of them are different, or in the opposite. This was a big discovery for me.
Also in this introductory class, field trips were held: New Haven Correctional Center, Attorney’s office District of CT and Richard C. Lee United State Courthouse. Moreover I had an invaluable experience. Judge Guido Calbrasi invited us to his beautiful office and gave a special lecture. Needless to say, he is a former Dean of Yale law school and a founder of the field of law and economics. I really enjoyed discussing how should judges evaluate evidences and economic assessments. That developed my idea that economic theories require to be “legally interpreted” in their application to judicial matters.
In the written/oral communication class I practiced English in legal context. For example case brief, contract review, irac (which is the traditional format for American bar examination) and court argument. I had a chance to have a presentation about a legal topic as well. I chose “Check-the-box”, that is the classification rules for U.S. federal income tax, attempting to show how unique they are by comparing to Japanese tax system. Although the topic was so specific that some class mates had not studied in this area, I got very warm feed backs form them. Other participants who practice tax law gave me suggestive comments on my research. I will never forget that stimulating moment.
The main subject through professional responsibility class was this: What is a good lawyer? That was the very provocative question and I talked a lot with my class mates. Our teacher assigned “The Lost Lawyer” written by A. Kronman. In that book Kronman illustrated the fall of the ideals of legal profession, or lawyer-statesmen, in America. However, through discussion with class mates from various countries, I thought that his concepts could not directly apply to foreign lawyers. Since, for example, Japanese lawyers had appeared from different historical background from American one. I explained this opinion and submitted it as my final paper.
Besides studying I spent pleasant time with my classmates. Having home party in classmate’s apartment, we had a friendly chat about our dreams for the future. We traveled Boston and NYC together and shared our feelings. Surprisingly one of my friends will visit UTokyo in this August! I believe in our permanent friendship.
I greatly appreciate Friends of UTokyo, Inc. gave this wonderful opportunity in Yale and I definitely recommend those who are interested in studying abroad to join Yale programs.