The United States and other countries are facing an unprecedented global pandemic. Some countries have opened up (or at least partially), while the United States unfortunately continues to have high daily new cases and deaths. Despite this, fall is here and school has begun again, this time during the pandemic. So how are law schools handling the current crisis? What should you do if you are uncomfortable with what your school has decided or you are at a heightened risk for serious infection? In order to give you some clarity in these uncertain times, I have answered some “questions” that you may be asking regarding law school and the pandemic. Hopefully these answers will shed some light and help you through this difficult time!
The Current Health Crisis
As I am sure you have heard numerous times, there is currently a serious global pandemic. Specifically, this illness is a serious coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19. Since I am not a medical professional or a scientist, I am not going to try to explain the complexity of the ongoing health crisis. However, I will say that COVID-19 is very easily spread and should be taken seriously. For more detailed information, please check the CDC website and your state’s resources on COVID-19.
What Impact is COVID-19 having on Law School?
When COVID-19 first hit the United States, the Winter/Spring semester of law school was in full session. Many law schools decided to do virtual learning and take-home exams to combat the serious disease. However, many schools anticipated this to be a temporary situation, without a full platform or long-term plan for extended virtual learning or without considering the long-term effects on how it would impact their students and faculty. Each law school has made a decision that they purport is best for their students and staff which is based on the data that is relevant to the school and how COVID-19 has affected the area around them. Some schools are continuing with virtual learning. Others are doing smaller class sizes or hybrid learning. Some are completely open. It is best to check with your law school to see what the official plan is so that you can plan accordingly!
I am about to start law school/I am in my first year, should I be worried about what COVID-19 will do to my education?
Starting law school during a global pandemic is something that I could have never dreamed of happening. Starting law school in general is stressful enough, let alone with a deadly disease disrupting people’s plans and creating a period of uncertainty, confusion, and anxiety. Since it is such an unprecedented time, it is hard to speculate on the lasting impact on law school and your education. However, it is important to know that things will be different than normal. You may have classes that are not being taught in person. You may still only have one grade (the final exam), but it is not being taken in the traditional manner. Additionally, there is the added stress and anxiety of the pandemic itself. Some students (law students and otherwise) are opting to take a gap year or delay their enrollment. Others are planning to go to law school as they originally scheduled. Ultimately, you will want to decide what is best for you, your health, and your situation. Even if you decide to put off going to law school, you still can pursue your dreams and go back when you feel safer. If you decide to start law school as planned, you can still be successful!
Help! I have medical conditions that put me at risk for contracting COVID-19, what should I do?
Your health should always come first. You should not have to put yourself at additional risk to continue your education if it could lead to serious illness or death due to your underlying medical conditions. If your law school plans on offering classes in person, talk with your school’s student affairs or disability office and they will likely be able to assist you and make sure you have reasonable accommodations.
Me or a family member has contracted COVID-19, what should I do about school?
I am so sorry to hear about that, and I wish you and your family a quick recovery! Like I said in the last answer, your health (and that of your family’s) comes first. Reach out to your professors and let them know what is going on. Also talk with your school’s student affairs or disability office to keep them updated on the situation. They will likely understand and try to work with you to make sure you do not get behind. Or they may advise you to go on medical leave for a semester if the situation deems it necessary.
Will I be able to get a job following graduation?
Many people are concerned about the implications of COVID-19 on their job prospects following graduation. Unfortunately, it is hard to tell what specifically is going to happen to the job market since we do not know how long this pandemic will take to be resolved. However, that does not mean that firms aren’t hiring or that you will be unable to find a job. There are some firms who have initiated a hiring freeze or are taking on less summer associates. However, many courts and firms have been working virtually and cases continue to progress, despite the pandemic. Talk with your school’s career services department or find a career counselor to talk about what changes they have noticed with the law firms in your area and how to make yourself more marketable. You can still land your dream job and reach your goals!
I can’t focus on law school, there is a global pandemic! What should I do?
This is a very stressful time in your life, despite the pandemic. Many people, including myself, have lost loved ones, had their plans thrown off track, or have felt hopeless or depressed during this terrible time. It is important to care for your mental health and listen to what your body is telling you. If you need to take a break and do something fun or relaxing, then do it. If you need to take an extra long nap, do it! However, if the pandemic or your mental health is seriously interfering with your education, you should seek professional help and consider taking some time off from school. Ultimately, these are uncertain and unprecedented times, and it is okay if things are not going the way you planned. This pandemic will not last forever and we will all get through it. In the meantime, please stay safe and stay healthy!
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