International Law -- Fall 2003

Mr. Froomkin Rm. 382, Tel. 284-4285
Class meets  T, Th, 6:30pm-7:55, Rm. 110

There are two required books for the course: 

Carter Trimble & Bradley, International Law (4th ed. 2003).  PLEASE NOTE: the 3rd edition is OUT OF DATE -- don't use it.
Carter, Trimble & Bradley, 2003- 2004 Document Supplement

How to contact me.

I urge you to contact me if you have questions, comments, or suggestions about the class. I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to come and see me early in the semester if you think you need help understanding something. If you are doing the reading but still feel lost or confused, don't wait until the last three weeks of class. I can help. But not at the last minute.

You can call me at 284-4285. Most days, I am in and out of the office. If you get my voice mail, leave a number and state when is the best time to call back.

You can come by my office, Rm. 382, any time, but since I'm in and out erratically, I advise you to call ahead and make an appointment.  I sometimes get busy and may have to ask you to come back later. My office hours are [to be announced] for walk-in. I'm sure to be free then, so if you are able to come then, please do; other times can be reserved by appointment (e-mail for appointment, or call if you can't email). 

Probably the easiest way to contact me is to send me e-mail at froomkin@law.miami.edu. Include a telephone number if you prefer a more human response.

Class Policies

Classes will a mix of question and answer and lectures. You should feel free to interrupt to ask a question by raising your hand at any time. If time is very pressing, I may have to ask you to wait until after class. Please do not take it personally.

Attendance.  I will take formal attendance in this class. Excessive absence will detract from your class participation credit and may even make it negative. If you are
consistently absent I will contact the Dean of Students office and ask them to drop you from the class.  Safe harbor: if you skip two or fewer classes I guarantee you will not suffer any deduction from class participation credit, so there's no need to even bother with excuses for the rare and inevitable absence.

Lateness.  There has been an epidemic of lateness since I stopped wearing a suit to class.  In retaliation, I will count latenesses.  Two lateness will equal an unexcused absence.   I deeply regret the need to do this.

Taping. No classes may be taped without my specific permission, which will not be given for reasons other than verified medical emergencies, or to students with particular disabilities.  Tapes make me nervous.
 

Grading.

Disabilities. This class, like most law school classes, is heavily oriented toward reading a large quantity of difficult material in a small amount of time. If you are aware that you have a learning disability, or if you just think that it takes you twice as long to learn things by reading as other people, please talk to the Disabilities Issues Coordinator, Assistant Dean Marnie Lennon who can tell you about resources here that you may find valuable. All discussions will be totally confidential. Any student who believe (s)he suffers from acute "stage fright" and underperforms in public should see me early in the semester to see if we can work out special arrangements in which you e-mail some answers rather than giving them orally.

Electronic Mailing List. I will operate an electronic mailing list for this class. Any message sent to the list will be transmitted to me, and to all other members of the list, as will replies. I hope this will provide a convenient way for you to share questions and answers about the course. Participation in the list is like class participation: providing good answers to your colleagues' questions is another way to rack up class participation credit. You are required to join this mailing list and to at least skim messages on it.

How to subscribe to the mailing list

From the computer at which you wish to receive mail, click here [that's mail to rllirald@law.miami.edu with a subject line that says "Join intl03" if you are reading this offline] which will allow you to send a message asking to be subscribed.  After you have done this you will be able to send mail to the list at intl03@law.miami.edu.

Please try to think of the list as an extension of class: anything relating to the substance or procedure of the class is welcome, but irrelevant things are not. The usual rules of civility apply to email just as they would to class. And, I give class participation credit for thoughtful, relevant, pithy, participation on the list, just as I do for similar contributions in class.

Answers to frequently asked questions:

How long should I be spending on homework each week?

A long time. This stuff is not easy. Whizzing through cases might mean that you are a legal eagle; odds are, it means you have completely missed the point.

Should I buy a commercial outline or hornbook?

You do not need one. Indeed, some of the them are positively dangerous as they contain errors and misinformation or outdated information. Beware. 

Will this be on the exam?

Anything we discuss in class, on the e-mail mailing list (so long as it's relevant to the class, of course), or that appears in the assigned portions of the casebook, the supplement, or any additional photocopied readings that I assign is fair game for the exam, unless I specifically say otherwise. Please note that you are not expected to be responsible for material from the Pike & Fischer handouts unless we discuss it in class or on the mailing list.

What can I do to get a better grade on the exam?

The number one most common error on law school exams is a failure to read the question carefully. Students tend to prepare by subject, e.g. "the Erie doctrine". When they see a question with the word "Erie" in it, they take it as a cue to write down everything they remember about the Erie doctrine and the Erie line of cases regardless of its relevance to the question. This is rarely a good move, if only because you waste time you could have spent writing something relevant, and it's usually a particularly BAD move on an open-book exam, where the premium is on analysis and application, not rote memory. Read the question. Try to figure out what the point of it is. Stick to the point in your answer. My questions are rarely as simple as "tell me everything you remember about the Erie doctrine". And I do not give partial credit for correct but irrelevant information. (I do sometimes give partial credit for correct but misplaced analysis of a complex problem caused by a "wrong turn" at an earlier stage of the analysis, but that's a different scenario.) Having said all that, you should of course make full use of relevant cases, citing them by name. Cases are important. But so are other things.

The number two most common error on law school exams consists of misunderstanding the nature of legal writing. Good legal writing is clear, precise, and well-organized. It is written in plain, simple english, with as few long words as possible. (Yes, many judges do not write well.) There is no point in trying to be clever or funny. At all costs avoid using fancy words if you are not absolutely certain what they mean. You are being graded on substance, not style. Resist the temptation to use slang ("Get real!" and "Strike three!" are unfortunate examples from past exams). Resist the temptation to use legal or latin terms if a simple english word will do. Don't quote rules at length (they are being given to you as part of the exam). But do be sure to cite rules and cases where relevant, and to explain the relevance.

A related, and also frequent, error on law school exams is a failure to be sufficiently specific. Legal writing is a form of technical writing. It thrives on precision and often on detail. I suggest that you always avoid the passive voice because it allows you to neglect to specify the identity of the actor in your sentence. It's far better to use a boring writing style "Subject, verb, predicate" over and over again than to be confusing or to leave out something important.

A third, surprisingly frequent, error is forgetting the point of view you are supposed to take in answering a question. Some questions ask you to be the judge; others ask you to be the advocate for a party; still others may require that you step back from the fray and adopt a policy perspective. There are differences between these roles. For example, a judge is quite likely to be concerned about judicial economy. A litigant is only going to urge a course of action that furthers judicial economy if it furthers her interests; otherwise, a litigant is going to try to explain to the court why a particular outcome is just even though it is not the most efficient. On the other hand, just because you are a litigant does not mean that you ignore authority contrary to your position. The best arguments are those that take full account of the strongest possible argument on the other side and demolish it; the worst arguments are those that sound like the author never heard of the other side ... and if there is authority for the other side, the author of the weak argument may be facing Rule 11 sanctions. If a question asks for an argument, make one; if it asks for both sides, make two arguments and be sure you label which is which.

My grades have been disappointing. What can I do to improve?

The first thing to do is to make an appointment with the professors who gave you the disappointing grades in order to discuss the exam. Although your professor cannot change the grade, you should find out what went wrong so that you can avoid making similar mistakes in the future.

I also strongly recommend Richard Michael Fischl & Jeremy R. Paul, Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams (1999).  It's great!

I never did much writing in college, where I can I get writing help now?

If you have reason to believe that you need additional help, feel free to talk to me. Also, you should watch for announcements about the U.M. Writing Center. Note, however, that the kind of help you are likely to be offered from me will probably mean extra work for you, such as writing additional practice essays.

What can I do to help me become a better lawyer?

One of the best things you can do is become well-informed about the world around you. Subscribe to a national newspaper such as the New York Times. The Times is by far the best newspaper available here when it comes to international issues, although the Washington Post might be provide better coverage of US politics. For folks focused on international law, I strongly suggest the daily Financial Times (discounted academic subscriptions are available at $6.50/month) and especially a weekly magazine called The Economist.  Despite their names, they have a great deal abou international law and politics.  Think of the Economist as Time magazine for smart people.

Last modified: Aug 11, 2003.