Law Schools

Harvard Law will be online-only for the fall 2020 term

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Harvard Law School will be online for the fall 2020 term because of concerns that testing and monitoring of the novel coronavirus will not be fully available by that point.

“This is not the announcement we’d hoped to make. But our first priority is, and must continue to be, the health and safety of our community, and we cannot reliably conclude at this time that we can safely provide an effective on-campus program this fall,” John Manning, dean of the law school, announced Wednesday.

The pandemic could be eased due to scientific developments in the near future, his writing acknowledges, but students need to know what the fall term will look like so they can make appropriate plans.

Earlier in the pandemic, some deans expressed concerns about continuing online education in the fall, because under the ABA accreditation standards schools can only offer up to one-third of their credits online, 10 of which can be for first-year classes. In response, the council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in May approved a plan to add rule language giving the group more authority for enacting short-term, emergency policies and procedures.

The rule change is slated to go before the ABA’s House of Delegates at the 2020 ABA Annual Meeting in early August.

Also, in February the section published a guidance memo, which stated distance learning could be a good solution for emergency situations where law school facilities are unavailable or something makes it hard for students to get to the campus. But the memo cautioned that schools and students may not have the technology necessary for distance learning, and faculty could be inexperienced with that type of teaching.

Many other Tier 1 law schools are still developing their plans for the fall. At Yale Law School, more details about plans for the fall 2020 term will be announced by early July, according to its website. The University of Chicago Law School expects to announce a decision about its autumn quarter by the end of June.

Stanford Law School plans to have a mix of in-person and online classes for the fall quarter, according to a statement the school made to the ABA Journal. Also, it announced on Wednesday that 2L and 3L classes would start Sept. 14. The start date for first-year and LLM students is still being reviewed. All classes will end before Thanksgiving, and there will be remote finals.

Updated at 2:03 p.m. to include information on other T1 schools.

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