Lawyering Skills on the National Stage
Professor Kim D. Chanbonpin Leads Innovative, Nationally
Ranked Legal Writing Program
In Chicago, where some 1.9 million residents are Latino, it makes sense for lawyers to
be able to communicate in Spanish. So John Marshall has created a new “Spanish
for Lawyers” class to teach future lawyers how to speak and write in legal Spanish.
The new course satisfies the law school’s demanding fourth semester legal writing
requirement and trains young lawyers to provide much–needed legal services to the
The class is one of the many innovations coming out of the law school’s top-ranked
Lawyering Skills Program under the leadership of Professor Kim D. Chanbonpin, who
became director of the program last year.
“I inherited a very strong program and have the good fortune to have three past directors
and a past associate director on the faculty with me,” says Chanbonpin. “Each of these
folks has brought their own energy and know-how to the program. I intend to carry on
their tradition and track record of excellence. At the same time, I have some new ideas
that I hope will improve upon the existing curriculum and the learning experience we
provide for our students.”
“I inherited a very strong program
Innovations in Teaching
Chanbonpin points to the scholarship and
teaching methods of fellow Lawyering Skills
faculty member Cynthia Bond as one of
those creative ideas. Bond, who writes about
popular culture and the law, often uses film and
television shows in her classes so that students
can better relate to the material.
“Most first-year law students often are not familiar with cases or statutes, but are regular
consumers of television and movies. These popular media are texts that require the
engagement of the audience or the reader to make meaning. The same is true of legal
texts, except lawyers are the ones who read, interpret, and participate in the meaningmaking
of legal texts like statutes and cases. Professor Bond’s approach makes unfamiliar
legal authorities more accessible,” Chanbonpin says.
She also praised the outstanding efforts of John Marshall’s adjunct faculty, including
Jennifer Ward, who teaches Lawyering Skills IV: Family Law Drafting.
Ward (‘02), a family law practitioner, revamped her drafting course to incorporate the
legislative changes in the 2016 Illinois Dissolution of Marriage Act. The new law has
created a need for family law practitioners to learn new substantive and procedural rules
and to revise court filings.
“Ward’s students are learning cutting-edge information while gaining drafting skills that
will make them ready to practice family law in Illinois upon graduation,” says Chanbonpin.
While these innovative teaching methods help keep John Marshall’s Lawyering Skills
Program a top-ranked program by U.S. News & World Report, Chanbonpin isn’t content
to rest on the program’s laurels. She also sees value in having the Lawyering Skills’ faculty
visible on the local and national stage.
Chanbonpin recently became president of the Legal Writing Institute and is on the
Board of Governors for the Society of American Law Teachers. She also holds
committee positions in the Illinois State Bar Association and the National Asian Pacific
American Bar Association and is a member of the ALWD/LWI Task Force on ABA
“A significant part of the responsibility of a law faculty member is to be engaged in the
community outside of the law school. Being involved in bar associations allows me
to cultivate professional networks, and leadership in organizations like LWI and SALT
encourages me to constantly innovate my teaching methods. Both of these benefit