Online learning. Cancelled commencements. The uncertainty of summer job security. Pass/fail classes. And the potential of a cancelled or postponed July 2020 bar examination.
These have become normal conversation topics among law students during what might feel like the longest month of our lives. If you did not know what Zoom Video was a few weeks ago, you surely do now.
Let’s start this post on a high note with a fun fact.
Investors across the country mistook Zoom Video for Zoom Technologies, pouring thousands of dollars into a company they believed was providing online learning services for students. The Securities and Exchange Commission caught this, after Zoom Technologies said nothing, and temporarily suspended trade of the company until April 9. In short, if you’re having a bad day, at least your company’s stock didn’t go through the roof—and now you’re facing a potential SEC investigation.
The Law Student Division Council comes to you today in hopes of relieving some of the nerves you are feeling. There are over 110,000 law students across the country, many of whom feel as though their world has been turned upside down in recent weeks.
Outlined below are four points the Council views as top priority:
- Summer jobs
- Grading policies
- Bar exam preparation
- And arguably most important, mental health.
We’ve compiled this tips in a shorter form in this PDF. Please feel free to share this out in your network or among your law school classmates.
Summer jobs: Stay in touch!
If you are fortunate enough to have summer employment or post-graduation employment lined up, do not hesitate to reach out to your employer and inquire about the status of your job. This can be done with a formal communication or a simple text to a future co-worker.
As some firms and entities are cancelling summer programs due to health concerns and uncertainty of when employees will be allowed to work from the office again, it is completely understandable to check in. If someone has hired you, they value your work and want you to feel at ease with the employer’s plans for the coming months.
The Pass/Fail Paradigm
Concerning new grading policies, several schools have yet to decide if students will only receive pass/fail grades for the Spring 2020 semester. Some schools have adopted policies allowing students to decide, after letter grades come out, if the student wants to keep the letter grade or receive a “pass” instead. Many schools are undecided and need input from law students like you as to what the best solution is.
While the Law Student Division Council does not take a position on this issue because it wants grading policies to be a decision made by each school and driven by student input, it has begun compiling a list of what schools are choosing to do. The list can be found here.
Be sure to check back periodically as the list is updated by SBA Presidents and ABA Representatives.
The Bar Exam and admissions to practice
If you are (hopefully) preparing to take the July 2020 bar exam, keep up the hard work and preparation, as the National Conference of Bar Examiners announced on March 26 that it will not make a decision on whether or not to administer the July exam until around May 5. This means that in the next few weeks, individual jurisdictions will decide if they will be feel comfortable enough to hold the July exam as scheduled.
Once these decisions are made by the states, NCBE will determine if it will hold the exam in July. If so few jurisdictions decide to go forward with a July exam, the NCBE will likely cancel it and allow jurisdictions to reschedule their tests for a later fall date prior to the February 2021 exam. There is also a possibility that enough states will continue with their July exam plans to justify holding the test, while some states will choose to cancel the July exam and reschedule it.
We will know more as states begin announcing decisions and be able to determine the likelihood of a July exam prior to the NCBE’s official announcement. A complete article outlining the timeline can be found here. Also, consult this article to learn about alternatives being considered if the July bar exam is cancelled.
The American Bar Association’s Board of Governors on April 7 approved a resolution urging states to adopt emergency rules authorizing limited practice with lawyer supervision for recent law school graduates if the July bar exam is cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
BARBRI was the first major bar prep company to announce that students who have already paid for courses will be able to access their course when needed, whether that be for a July bar exam or a later scheduled exam. The company also assured students that if they end up not needing the prep course—if, for example, they are admitted to practice by diploma privilege—the company will issue these students a full refund. If you are using another bar prep provider, keep watching their websites for updates or contact a representative.
Staying strong through it all
Now, if you feel no stress or worries at all after reading that, you are greatly envied. This is one of the most trying times law schools and law students have faced, and it seems as though the more answers students are given, the more questions we have.
There are several resources to ensure that your mental health is not compromised during this time. Reaching out to classmates and colleagues outside of online learning will help to give you a sense of normalcy and avoid becoming entirely socially isolated. Many schools are offering counseling and mental health related services through online platforms. Take advantage of these resources.
Also, if there is something you think your school can implement or improve regarding these programs, contact administrators and voice your suggestions. Daily or weekly updates from the dean’s desk and virtual “coffee Friday” meetings that are normally held in-person can be moved to online platforms with a little creativity. If programming you would like to see is not happening, it has likely been overlooked—and, in this case, if you don’t see something, say something.
To the third-year students whose commencement ceremonies have been cancelled—please know how much your hard work and accomplishments are recognized and appreciated by the American Bar Association. The ABA will be addressing cancelled commencements in the coming weeks with special messages to uplift you during this disappointing time.
Sooner than later, we will all be happily practicing law, and this period of chaos and fear will be nothing but a couple of pages in our mental scrapbooks. Remember, the legal profession sometimes involves a series of unpredictable results, unprecedented events, and problem solving. When the time comes for us to enter the legal field, we will have had plenty of practice in all three areas and come out of this pandemic more ready than ever to serve those most in need and produce results in the most trying situations.
And stay up to date on all the latest news with our Coronavirus Resources Page for Law Students.