1. Will all classes be available to me regardless of where I live (in Ithaca, domestic, international)?
Both students and faculty will have the option to elect to participate in fall classes online. As a result, some classes will be held in person and some exclusively online, but even in-person classes will have an online component. When the revised course roster is published, it will indicate the “modality” of a course. Online courses are courses in which all students and instructors will interact virtually. In-person courses will meet in person on campus but will provide remote access into the classroom for students who are off-campus or are in Ithaca but in quarantine/isolation or who have elected online study for the term.
2. I am an international student. What should I keep in mind as I choose online or in-person instruction?
Given recent guidelines from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding online courses, upper-class students who plan to arrive in Ithaca or study off campus from a location in the U.S. will need to enroll in at least one in-person or hybrid course. We expect the academic schedule and 1L sections will be released in the next few weeks. Our hybrid format will include sufficient options for all law students to comply with immigration requirements. Should you opt to take all fall term courses remotely you will need to remain in or return to your home country. The university strongly opposed this ruling and is actively working with our elected representatives in Washington, D.C., and with our peers and professional associations to change ICE’s stance, so please stay tuned for updates. Students should consult with Global Cornell for further developments and FAQs.
3. Will classes be recorded?
Yes. Keep in mind that the availability of recordings does not replace the attendance requirement. If you run into technical problems you can complete the class recording request form on the registrar’s website to access the recordings. Additionally, class recordings will be available on Canvas. If you need to access recordings because you missed class due to illness, personal issues, or other extenuating circumstances, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. Is the J.D. Tech program in New York City still happening?
Yes. Instruction will be online only for the fall semester. If you are an international student, please review the FAQs for Cornell’s International Community and make an appointment to discuss your circumstances with someone in the Dean of Students Office by contacting email@example.com.
5. Given that all classes are being recorded, will I be able to take classes that conflict with each other?
No. The ABA, one of the law school’s accreditors, does not permit students to register for classes that occur at the same time.
6. Will we know our class schedule before electing to enroll in-person and online?
Students will elect whether to enroll in-person or online on July 15. As delineated in the above question, this is an individualized decision. The course schedule is expected to be finalized shortly. The Registrar’s office has worked tirelessly to ensure that as many courses as possible can be offered in-person at the law school given the need to follow building density and social distancing guidelines. Registration will follow shortly after the schedule is released. Students will know the modality of the course offering before selecting courses for the Fall. They will also be able to use bid points, as usual, to preference courses.
7. Is there a chance I may move back to Ithaca AND have all online classes? Who decides what classes are offered in what format?
Yes, this is possible. You will know, prior to registering for courses, whether a class will be offered online, in person, or hybrid format. With the exception of international law students, you have the option to elect to take all of your classes online while living in Ithaca. However, for public health reasons you will be expected to register your presence in Ithaca and local address with the university even if you are taking all of your courses online so that you are included in the university’s testing program, receive communications tailored to Ithaca residents, and can be given access to campus facilities (provided you complete all required elements of the re-entry checklist). The Law School faculty reserve the right to determine the appropriate modality of a course.
8. If I return to Ithaca but enroll only in online/remote classes, will I have access to campus facilities?
Yes, as long as the university is aware that you are in Ithaca, you have completed items on the re-entry checklist, and you agree to the new student behavioral compact (which includes new behavioral requirements related to wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, participating in the university’s testing, and public health restrictions on social activities).
9. Will I be able to choose each day if I want to attend my classes in person or online?
The way students participate in courses (in-person versus online) will depend on the modality of the course, which will be indicated in the revised course roster. Classes will be taught either all online, in-person (with remote access for students residing outside of Ithaca or in quarantine), or a hybrid approach of online and in-person as determined by the instructor. Unless the student has previously elected all online instruction or is in quarantine/isolation, students will be expected to participate in a way that is consistent with the modality of the course in which they enrolled. For example, if a student elects in-person instruction and a course is offered in-person, that student will be expected to attend class in the Law School building. If a student elects in-person instruction and a course is offered in a hybrid format, the student will attend the class either online or in-person as directed by the professor. Regardless of their elected mode of instruction or the modality of a course, students who are unable to class on a given day are expected to notify their professors as they would under any circumstances.
10. In light of social distancing, what are the benefits (if any) of returning to Ithaca this fall for law school versus taking classes online at another location?
This will most certainly be a unique academic year at Cornell Law. We are confident that students will be able to receive a high-quality legal education as well as a meaningful opportunity to build community and engage with peers, understanding the necessary limitations the world faces in light of the pandemic. Smaller group engagement and physical distancing can be maintained while providing the opportunity for students to connect. Returning to Ithaca in the fall will allow in-person but socially distanced interaction with peers, with professors teaching in-person while in class, and the opportunity for some small gatherings under the planned tent in the Law School courtyard.
11. Will the course drop, withdraw, and grade option change deadlines be the last day of classes, as they were last semester?
As is the case with peer institutions across the country, the Law School will reinstate its standard grading and enrollment policies for fall 2020. Students will be able to see the modality and grading options for each course when they enroll so that they can choose courses that are best suited for their needs and circumstances.
12. When will pre-enrollment occur?
The fall 2020 course schedule is being revised based on the complex interplay of faculty preferences for instructional modality and new course scheduling and classroom assignments. Our goal is to finish revising the fall schedule by the end of July, with pre-enrollment to follow soon thereafter. 1L students are automatically assigned to sections. We will keep you updated. Please keep in mind that students will be required to register their intended address/residence, and to confirm online or in-person enrollment for the fall to be eligible to pre-enroll.
13. How will classrooms be modified to ensure social distancing?
Classrooms and other academic use spaces will be de-densified according to NYS and Tompkins County Health Department guidelines. In classrooms, students will have assigned seats that are 6’ apart, and to every extent possible, faculty will remain further than 6’ from the first row of students. Both instructors and students will be required to wear face coverings in class.
14. What spaces on campus will be available to me for quiet study?
Students may have limited access to study space in the Gould Reading Room and in the carrels on the ground floor. Seating capacity will be restricted, with six-foot physical distancing maintained. Additionally, the Cornell libraries are planning a phased reopening of their spaces. See the Cornell Law Library’s FAQs and the Cornell University Libraries Return to Campus FAQs for additional and regularly updated information. The Law School continues to explore the availability of other study spaces throughout the building as well, though to de-densify the building as much as possible, students should plan to study outside the Law School when their courses conclude for the day.
15. Will I be able to access books or other study materials from the Law Library?
Library services and books will remain available through processes to be published by the Law Library. See the Cornell Law Library’s FAQs.
16. Will my transcript reflect whether my class was in-person or online?
No – transcripts only indicate the course numbers and titles, course credits, and grade earned.
17. Will faculty be available to meet with me in person even though they are predominantly working remotely?
Law School faculty will hold office hours and other one-on-one student meetings online rather than in person.
18. Will law classes begin as previously scheduled and announced?
The Law School plans to commence fall classes as scheduled on Tuesday, August 25. Instruction will then run uninterrupted without a fall break until Thanksgiving. All classes will be held online during the week of September 7 while the Law School building is used for Cornell alumni to take the New York State Bar Exam. A revised academic calendar will be posted to the Law School website.
19. How will fall exams work?
All fall semester exams will be held online after Thanksgiving. The law school is working with outside vendors to pursue electronic proctoring of online exams to promote exam integrity.
20. Will the spring term start on time?
The Law School will adjust its spring term to comply with the University guidelines. Following a longer-than-usual winter break, the Law School’s spring semester will begin on Monday, February 8, 2021, and conclude on Friday, May 7. Due to the later start date, and to meet ABA requirements for minimum class meetings, there will not be a Spring Break. Convocation will be held on Saturday, May 22, 2021. Our plan at this point is to have a full residential spring semester, though we might have to adjust our planning depending on pandemic conditions at the time.
21. What about the bar exam? If I elect online instruction or if my courses are offered in a hybrid format, will I be eligible to sit for the bar exam?
he American Bar Association has indicated its willingness to be flexible with its accreditation requirements due to extraordinary circumstances beyond schools’ and students’ control, such as the ongoing pandemic. The New York Bar Examiners limit the number of credits students may earn via “distance learning” if they plan to apply those credits towards their eligibility to sit for the New York Bar Examination. For LL.M. students and 1Ls, the restrictions are particularly stringent. On March 19, 2020, the Law School sought a waiver from the New York Bar “distance learning” restrictions from the New York Court of Appeals on behalf of both J.D. students and LL.M. students. On March 20, 2020, the New York Court of Appeals granted both waivers and has automatically extended the waivers through the end of the fall 2020 term. View the New York Court of Appeals Waiver for Online Instruction.
22. What about other state bar exams?
The New York bar has one of the most restrictive policies with regard to distance learning. You can find more information about other jurisdictions’ requirements for the bar exam, including distance learning requirements, at www.ncbex.org, and each jurisdictions’ website. Additionally, the Cornell Law Library is working to help compile information on state bar distance learning requirements. After reviewing these resources, if you learn that your chosen jurisdiction imposes limitations on distance learning, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will work with you, to the best of our ability, to either seek waivers or find alternative means of satisfying other states’ requirements.
23. Do I still need to fulfill the experiential learning requirement?
The experiential learning requirement has not been waived, and JD students still need to accrue six “EL” credits to graduate. Simulation courses, clinics, practicum courses, and externships are all going forward, though likely any courses that would have been in-person will be significantly shifted to online formats. Online experiential courses will help you to build immediately applicable skills, as our profession rapidly adapts to virtual community outreach, client counseling, fact investigation, evidentiary hearings, and policy advocacy. To increase flexibility in the curriculum, this fall we are launching a new course entitled Supervised Experiential Learning that will allow you to gain EL credits while working on a discrete pro bono advocacy project under the supervision of any full-time, in-house faculty member.
24. Will I be able to enroll in clinical courses?
Yes. Law students have done excellent work in the clinic this summer and we look forward to working alongside students in the fall. The need for free legal services and policy advocacy is acute, and Cornell’s clinics and community partners have been in overdrive since the pandemic began. Most of the spring and summer students have been working entirely online from locations around the world. For fall clinic students who are in Ithaca and can safely do so (and wish to do so), there will be occasional in-person work when it is absolutely essential, but this will be the exception. The vast majority of the fall semester clinic work will take place online. The clinics will also continue to host spring Pro Bono Scholars.
25. When can we expect to receive clinic applications and course listing/schedule?
The selection process will take place at the end of July or early August.
26. Will we still be able to select clinics before the hybrid/online class schedules are released?
27. Are clinics also going to be hybrid? Or wholly online?
Some clinics will be wholly online and some will be hybrid with an online option. Thus, most clinics will be available to those students who don't return to campus. It is possible that some clinics will require physical presence, though that will be the exception rather than the rule. If a clinic does require physical presence, the registration course description will reflect that requirement.
28. Will all clinic-based travel require special permission?
Yes. The faculty is working with the administration to identify and get permission for student travel that is absolutely essential for casework. We anticipate that there will be very little clinic-related travel this fall. If you have questions about what travel is likely to take place in a given clinic or practicum course, check with the faculty instructor. Students will not be required to travel if they are not able to do so and they will not be required to disclose personal medical information to faculty. Also, the faculty understand that the ability to travel can change abruptly with changes in personal circumstances. That said, students are expected to disclose to their supervisors in a timely manner whether or not they are able to travel and when circumstances change, to ensure clients and community are not disadvantaged.
29. Can the externship placement site be a nonprofit? Judicial chambers? Corporation? Law firm?
Yes, externships may take place at all of the above, although there are limits on externships with corporations and law firms. Students with questions should consult with the Externship office about the specifics of their individual situation and for advance approval before accepting an externship offer in the private sector.
30. Can I take an externship course remotely?
Yes. Due to the unprecedented nature of the fall semester, the externship course will be available for remote and hybrid-remote placement sites, as long as the placement site supervisor agrees to the arrangement in advance, reviews the remote supervision manual, and signs the remote supervision agreement prior to the start of the externship. The supervisor agreement must include safety precaution guidance that parallels the guidance issued for in-person courses at Cornell Law School.
Externship courses can be taken remotely on a full-time or part-time basis.
31. Will the Pro Bono Scholars Program still be available as an option in spring 2021?
Yes, the Pro Bono Scholars Program is still set to continue in spring 2021. As of now, the NYS Office of Court Administration and the NYS Board of Law Examiners are still planning to offer the NYS Bar Exam in February to Pro Bono Scholars. We will edit this FAQ promptly if and when this guidance changes. The deadline for applying to participate in the Pro Bono Scholars program with the NYS Office of Court Administration is in the first week of October, so please be sure to set up an appointment with Externship Program Director Michaela Azemi by mid-August 2020 to discuss placement site options and the specific requirements of the Pro Bono Scholars course.