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 PLEASE NOTE: the 3rd edition is OUT OF DATE -- don't use it.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Include a telephone number if you prefer a more human response.
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.
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.
Exam. Grades will be based primarily on a three-hour open book final exam. This should minimize, and perhaps eliminate, exam conflicts.
In the event it does not, please do not contact me to discuss exam conflicts
as this undermines the blind grading system. Contact the Dean
of Students office for all exam conflict issues.
Class participation. Extraordinarily good class participation
stars") will raise your final grade by one level (e.g. from a B+ to an
A); good class participation ("one star") will raise your grade by one
level if you are close to the line between two grades; very poor class
participation will lower your grade by one level if you are close to
line between two grades ("minus one star" -- this almost never
outrageously bad class participation (i.e. disruptive or offensive
will lower your grade one level. [Thankfully, this is extraordinarily
rare.] In general, you will find it to your advantage to
and not to your advantage to pretend to be prepared when I call on you.
will find it highly costly to disrupt class by talking or acting in a manner
that disturbs your neighbors (my pet peeve). Very poor attendance may contribute
to a diagnosis of very poor class participation. At some fairly extreme
point, if you cut too many classes I will contact the Dean of Students'
office to suggest you have withdrawn yourself from the class. [I have done
Mechanics of Grading. Consistent with the law school's rules,
I grade all exams "blind" -- I see only the blind grading number, not your
name. I do not curve grades in this class; the chips fall where they
may: in theory there could be all A's, or none, although reality tends
to fall between these extremes. After I turn in the exam grades to
the Registrar's office, the Registrar's office produces a list of names
and blind grading numbers so I can factor in class participation.
However, I ask my secretary not to show me this list, and instead I am
given a list of blind grading numbers sorted by the class participation
grades (one star or two stars) I have already given to my secretary.
I then compute the final grade. I make it a point to not know the
names that go with an exam until after the final grade has been turned
into the Registrar's office. Once grades are turned into the Registrar's
office, the law school's rules prohibit me from changing a grade for ANY
reason other than clerical error. These are rare.
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 email@example.com 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
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
Answers to frequently asked questions:
How long should I be spending on homework each
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
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
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
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
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.