Coronavirus Forces Law Schools Online

As coronavirus wreaks havoc around the world, US law schools are adjusting to keep students safe.

Law schools, including the likes of Cornell Law, Columbia Law, and Harvard Law, have all shifted learning online to reduce in-person interaction.

But how exactly are law schools shifting online? Stephanie Francis Ward, of the ABA Journal, recently spoke to experts on how law schools are making the shift.


At Berkeley Law, which cancelled in-person classes last week, students have been meeting virtually with plans to continue online learning through March 29, when spring break ends.

Berkeley Law students continued their courses online using Zoom Video Communications, which offers students video and audio conferencing.

“I’m stunned at how well things went. This isn’t an ideal form of education, and it’s a transition for all of us. There’s also a lot of anxiety around this shift. I’m getting lots of emails about people who are anxious,” Erwin Chemerinsky, the law school’s dean, tells the ABA Journal.

The shift online is a test for many law schools on how well students can learn virtually and at-home.

“I was not expecting it to go well. But this morning, it actually felt kind of personal. We all popped in, and had the video up so we could see each other. Honestly, it kind of felt like we were in class. We still got to do the normal cold-calling system,” Brad Larson, a first-year law student at Columbia Law School, tells the ABA Journal.


Under the ABA’s Standard 306: Distance Education, law schools are only allowed to grant up to one-third of credit hours through online learning.

The ABA sent out a memo in February outlining that in emergency situations, law schools can seek variances of Standard 306.

“The memo makes it pretty clear that they can take reasonable steps to deal with the emergency without an emergency variance,” Barry Currier, managing director of accreditation and legal education for the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, tells the ABA Journal.

Sources: ABA Journal, American Bar Association

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.