How the Coronavirus Pandemic is Affecting Legal Education and Recent Graduates
As a result of COVID-19, law schools rushed to prepare contingency plans to cope with the pandemic and implement new policies to ease the transition. Law schools moved classes online, canceled campus activities and events, and closed their libraries and other facilities. Many law schools have allowed their students to take classes on a pass or fail basis this term. Meanwhile, videoconferencing has become part of the norm to bring students together in group study sessions as they struggle to complete their studies before summer break.
Moving forward, COVID-19 may cause law schools to rethink basic elements of legal education, like student orientation, large lectures, public clinics, study-abroad programs and campus housing, or even being more flexible with continued virtual lectures. With the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, even into the fall semester, law schools will likely need to accommodate the needs of their students and their vulnerable populations.
Due to Stay-in-Place orders across the country, law firm employees are working from home to avoid physical contact. As a result, student across the country are finding their summer internships withdrawn and associate positions for recent graduates rescinded because there simply is no support to bring them to the firm if all the partners and other staff are working from home.
For graduating law students, the July bar exam poses yet another challenging question. For one, it is uncertain whether states will even hold, or be able to hold, the July bar exam and what happens to 2020 law school graduates if there is not a July bar exam. For its part, the ABA recently issued a resolution calling for states to adopt emergency rules authorizing supervised limited practice for recent graduates, along with a bar pass requirement of no later than December 2021. For more information, visit the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar at ambar.org/legaled. We have also included links in this Legal Beagle for articles on the bar exam, and will share more in future editions.
Moving forward, keep in mind that the pandemic and the likely recession are likely to amplify trends toward remote work, contract hiring and automation to reduce costs and in-person interactions. These changes to the practice of law will certainly come with some positives and some negatives. With financial analysts anticipating an economic downturn comparable to the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009, the legal job market will be impacted just as other industries. Law students should expect the pandemic and economic downturn to affect their education and future career prospects, and should start preparing now. However, the generation of lawyers that weathers this storm, particularly those working in the Health Law industry, will have the opportunity to safeguard and strengthen the rule of law and may have the opportunity to make important and beneficial changes the practice of law.