Planning Virtual Events

The Office of Student Services is here to assist in making your next virtual event a success! This guide will lead you through the various steps you will take in organizing your event, with the goal of making your project stress-free. Please review the guide at your convenience, and don’t hesitate to contact [email protected] if you have any questions.


All Spring 2021 events will be virtual until further notice. In an effort to ensure the safety of our entire community, before planning an event, please review the Law School's COVID-19 event policy. Please note, guidance might change as the semester progresses. It is imperative that you check this website regularly to receive updated information.

The traditional lunch hour 12:10 to 1:10 p.m. is back. Event organizations should keep this in mind when scheduling and consider making use of the 4:50 to 6:50 p.m. time slot in addition to the lunchtime slot.

In an effort to avoid conflicting programs, please check the following calendars well in advances of the event:

After reviewing the aforementioned calendar, once your organization has selected an event for its program, please add the date to the Student Organization Calendar and include as much as information as possible (e.g., target audience, names of speakers, upload event posters, contact email of the event organizer, etc.)

Extend an invitation to the individuals you would like to speak via email or mail. If the person is a head of state, head of government, cabinet minister, high government official or leader, or is considered high profile or controversial, please let Jeff Bagares ([email protected]) know as soon as possible but not less than 10 business days before the event. So we can plan to avoid virtual interruptions.

Student organizations and journals that are planning a career or professional events should coordinate with the relevant office within the Law School:

Private Sector: If your student organization is planning to host a program on any of the following topics please send the date, names of law firm(s) and speakers) to Sonovia Harmon ([email protected] ) in the Office of Career Services. Please note, the Office of Career Services schedules annual meetings in the late summer/early fall with student groups that actively plan career-related programming.

  • Recruiting/Job Search/On-Campus Interviewing
  • Interviewing and Networking skills
  • Professional Development and On-the-Job Issues
  • On-Campus Networking Receptions
  • Resumes for Private Sector Jobs


Public Interest: Please notify Diana Pedi ([email protected] ) of SJI as far in advance as possible and coordinate with her for any of the events listed below:

  • Public Interest/Public Service at Columbia
  •  Pro Bono
  • Post-Graduate Fellowships
  • Summer Internships and Legal Careers in Public Interest, Government and International Human Rights 
  • Alumni in Public Interest or Government
  • LRAP
  • Resumes for Public Sector Jobs


Judicial Clerkships and Members of the Judiciary: If your student organization is planning to host a program featuring a judge or discussing judicial clerkships, you should first reach out to George Kusserow ([email protected] ) of the Office of Judicial Clerkships. Please send George as many details as possible regarding your event.


Alumni: If you are inviting Columbia Law School alumni to participate in an event, please work with Katrina Sullivan ([email protected] ), Associate Director of Alumni Relations in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations as well as Jeff Bagares ([email protected]).

• If you would like to invite alumni to your event as attendees, but require access to the alumni database, you should contact Katrina and Jeff with a copy of the invitation you would like to distribute. Please provide as much prior notice as possible, but no less than four weeks’ notice.

• If you would like to invite alumni to your event, as either speakers or attendees, and have independently obtained contact information, you may contact those alumni directly but should provide Katrina Sullivan with the names of the alumni you plan to contact and the reason for the contact.

NOTE: The Development Office has requested at least 4 weeks’ notice prior to the date that you would like your invitations (or “save the date” notices) distributed. Keep in mind that for events whose success depends on robust alumni attendance you should plan on having your invitations distributed at least two months before the date of your event.


Externships, Moot Court, and Legal Writing: If your event will involve Externships, Moot Court, or Legal Writing, please reach out to Sarah Shin, Assistant Director of Externships, Legal Writing, and Moot Court Programs as far in advance as possible, but not less than 2 weeks before the event so that your organization can coordinate with her.

Student organizations and journals have multiple options for advertising and publicizing their events. Student organizations and journals can use:

  • Law Calendar - The Law School advertises events via the Law Calendar (LawCal). LawCal events are included in a daily email to students, appear on the Law School's monitor in JG Lobby, and will appear on the University Calendar. To add events on LawCal, please complete this FORM. Any updates or changes to your original description should be emailed to [email protected].
  • Google Group / Front Email - The Law School  has created a Google Group for each organization to publicize its events and otherwise post announcements of activities to students who are subscribed to your organization. Group membership is limited to Law School students only. When created, Google Groups are populated with all current Law students. Thereafter, all entering students will be made members of the groups of all student organizations. At any time, a student has the individual option to unsubscribe from any or all of the groups of which they are members. 
  • Organization Website - You should also consider how best to utilized your organization's website both to publicize events in advance and to use your "web presence" to keep interested people abreast of your organization's activities in general.
  • The Office of Communications, Marketing, and Public Affairs promotes many Law School events, including on lobby monitor signs and social media, and occasionally covers them for the website. If you are interested in reaching out to the office for assistance or if you think your organization's event would make a good story, please email [email protected] at least two (2) weeks in advance to discuss.

Remember never to share your event links publicly. Student organizations and journals can set up registration links for zoom events and send your event link directly to attendees.

When planning an event, please use this guide for meeting and webinar best practices resources. The Office of Communications, Marketing, and Public Affairs has also prepared the following as guidance:

All current law school students have been upgraded to a Zoom Pro account and can to host zoom meetings with up to 300 attendees, hold meetings longer than 40 minutes, and schedule an unlimited number of meetings.  If you would like a webinar format for your event, please email [email protected] the following information:

  • Whether it is a zoom meeting with one person present or a webinar panelists.
  • Number of attendees expected.
  • Registration y/n.
  • Is it part of CLS student group.
  • If IT will train you, will you be able to run the session on your own.
  • Title.
  • Description.
  • Date / Time.
  • Co-host email addresses. (UNI only)
  • Panelist email addresses.

The University will not sign any in-person events contracts for Spring 2021. 

There are different ways to request that the Law School pay a vendor on your organization's behalf. In order for the Law School to pay a vendor directly, the vendor MUST be approved and in the University's vendor system.

If you would like to find out if a vendor is included in the university system, please email [email protected]. For a vendor to be added, you should email the following information to [email protected].  

  • Nature of Business (what type of services).
  • Company Name.
  • Address.
  • Contact Person.
  • Email Address of the contact person.
  • Telephone Number of the contact person.
  • A completed & manual signed W9 Form.

Please note that before engaging a new vendor for your event, you should inform them of the University's billing procedures and time constraints in payment.

See the attached approved vendors list. If a vendor is not on the list, please email [email protected] to check the university system.


Student organizations and journals can use a letter of credit for supplies and food to be delivered to their members with valid business purposes. Only a student organization Treasurer can request a LOC from Student Services. To request a LOC, you MUST email your request to [email protected] on Monday and Thursday only and complete the following steps:

1. Confirm that the vendor you have chosen still accepts letters of credits and is willing to deliver goods and items.

2. Confirm that you have sufficient funds in your organization’s account to cover the LOC.

3. Send an email to [email protected] with the following information to obtain a letter of credi.:

a. Vendor Name;

b. Date and Time of the event;

c. Name of the event;

d. # of attendees (if less than 10, you MUST add the name of the attendees);

e. A copy of your proof of event;

f. Amount (estimated);

Student Services will email you a completed and signed LOC. The Business Office will not process payment for an unsigned LOC. Tips may be added to the LOC at the time you send it to the vendor, but the tip amount cannot exceed 10-15%. Please see the list of Columbia Law School’s preferred vendors.

Student Services has access to a limited use credit card, which we refer to as the P-Card. The card may be used to purchase the following only not exceeding $2500 and with a valid business purpose only:

  • supplies for your organization’s use (Amazon, Staples, etc.);
  • virtual conference registration; and
  • and promotional items from an approved vendor only
  • NO food, alcohol, or all types of gift cards

If you would like to purchase an item using the P-Card or have questions about whether the P-Card can be used for a given purchase, please email student [email protected]

Please be aware that it may take several weeks to process a reimbursement request. The Law School cannot guarantee that it will issue a reimbursement before a student is required to pay for a charge that appears on their credit card statement. The Law School will not reimburse students for any finance charges incurred on a personal credit card. Before a member of your organization pays for any out-of pocket expenses, explore with Student Services whether it is the only payment method available.


Students are expected to submit Expense Reports within 120 days from the trip end date for Travel Expenses or the date a business expense is incurred for Business Expenses. If the Report is submitted after 120 days, you must provide justification comments to describe the circumstances leading to the late submission. If the circumstances described would not have prevented the student from submitting within the required timeframe, expenses submitted after 120 days may be considered taxable income

  • A student organization representative can purchase food for its members, to be delivered to ita members’ apartments, with a valid business purpose only (proof of the event, email announcement, etc.). If you will spend more than $750.00, please email Jeff Bagares for approval.
  •  A student organization representative can purchase organization supplies and materials with a valid business purpose as long as Columbia Law School, the Columbia University Logo or the Columbia Lion is not included. If you will spend more than $750.00, please email Jeff Bagares for approval.

Please note, only one person can be reimbursed for multiple purchases made in connection with each event (e.g., if food is delivered to multiple members' homes the business office will reimburse one person for all of the purchases). If you are planning to get reimbursed, you MUST email the copies of the following to [email protected].

● Name of Student Organization.

● Copy of the itemized receipt.

● Copy of the credit card statement that reflects the charges.

● Copy of the proof of the event / valid business purpose.

● Number of Attendees (if less than 10, you MUST include the names of the attendees).

The Law School will no longer reimburse students for purchasing any other gift cards due to potential tax implications. A student organization or journal will have the opportunity to purchase Grubhub gift cards for five separate events this Spring 2021semester. You must adhere to the following policies for purchasing Grubhub gift cards:

  • Each Grubhub gift card is limited to increments of up to $15 only. There is no limit on the number of recipients so please budget accordingly.
  • For each event, you must submit proof of the event and the names of the Grubhub gift card recipients with their UNIs using THIS FORM within 3 business days after the event. The university requires a list of gift card recipients and UNI for tax purposes. 
  • Gift cards will be distributed 2-3 days after the information submitted to the form.
  • This policy is effective January 25, 2021.
  • Allocated student organization funds can still be used for other non-gift card purchases.
  • If your event is giving out Grubhub gift cards to your attendees, you MUST include the language below and reflect the proof of the event. Student Services will not purchase the Grubhub Gift Cards if the language below is not included in your proof of the event:

“Per IRS regulations, gift cards are taxable to the recipient and must be reported as income to the IRS. In addition, because the IRS considers them to be cash equivalents, there is no de minimas value (see 2018 IRS Publication 15-B De minimis (Minimal Benefit). All cash and cash equivalents must be reported on a tax return. If one individual receives $600 or more in non-payroll payments in a calendar year (ie. gift cards, honorarium, prizes, etc.), Columbia University is required to report those payments to the federal government on either a Form1099 or Form 1042s.”

We know many of you have expressed concerns about members of your organizations experiencing food insecurity. We encourage you to direct your membership to the following resources: Financial Wellness website, University's Food Pantry or contact [email protected] directly.

Per IRS Regulations, gift cards are taxable to the recipient and must be reported as income to the IRS. In addition, because the IRS considers them to be cash equivalents (see 2013 IRS Publication 15-B page 8), there is no de minimis value. All cash and cash equivalents must be reported on a tax return.

If an approved vendor would like to send your group an invoice and receive payment after the event, please have the following information:

  • An invoice to Columbia Law School, Attention to your Student Organizations, describing goods or services to be provided, and an itemized list.
  • A proof of the event (e.g., a flyer or email announcements).
  • An invoice, which must contain the company logo, address, date, invoice number, and the specific amount of total purchase. 
  • NO food, alcohol, or gift cards.

Please note that Columbia University is a tax-exempt organization. Sales tax should never be included in the amount to be paid. You can obtain a tax-exempt form by requesting it to [email protected]

If you have a speaker or workshop facilitator invited to your virtual event, you will need a completed speaker agreement and an invoice. Please make sure that the speaker or facilitator is in the University System.

If your organization would like to give an honorarium to a non-Columbia affiliate, we will need an honorarium letter and an event flyer, agenda, or email invitation. Honoraria are taxable income to the original recipient and reportable to the IRS. The maximum limit for an honorarium is $250.00 only. 

Under exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to request a check for an approved vendor as advance payment for goods or services, or in payment to individuals who are non-Columbia University personnel. A check request is usually required under one of the following circumstances:

  • If a vendor requires pre-payment and will not invoice for payment.
  • If reimbursement of payments by individuals not affiliated with the University is required.

Check request should NOT be used for:

  • Compensation for University employees.
  • Travel expenses or advance.
  • Purchases properly processed through the Purchasing Office or that require purchase orders (e.g., equipment, supplies, entertainment, website creation, DJs or bands, performing artists, etc.) as well as an invoice.
  • Personal service vendors (consultants).

Under the exceptional circumstances listed above, Student Services can submit a check request to the Business Office but must do so at least five (5) weeks before you will need the check.



The University has a strict policy in compliance with IRS guidelines when it comes to issuing payments for contributions or donations; not all entities can receive this type of payments. We strongly encourage you to always check with us in advance, before offering this type of payment to other entities in the future. This way we can confirm that Columbia University and the IRS does allow contributions/donations to them. You can do this by submitting a vendor request to [email protected] along with their contact information, W-9 Form, and essentially their 501(c)(3) certificate. 


If you have a speaker or workshop facilitator invited to your virtual event, you will need a completed speaker agreement and an invoice. Please make sure that the speaker or facilitator is in the University System.

If you have invited a performer to your event, you will need a completed performance agreement and an invoice. Please make sure that the performer is in the University System.


If the vendor will only be providing photography or cinematography with no editing or production, no PO is needed.  Instead, please complete this FORM and have the vendor sign it.  Then please send it to [email protected] for signature, similar to how you would submit a Speakers or Writers Agreement, and along with a Certificate of Insurance if it will take place on campus.  The signed form (& COI if applicable) must be included with the invoice when submitting for payment.


If editing or production will also be provided along with photography or cinematography, that still requires a PO, following the same procedure as in the past for those services.


Our Information Technology at Columbia Law School (Law IT) works closely with any member of the Law School community who requests software or hardware that is specialized (ADA-related) or accessible. Law IT maintains responsibilty for:

  • Searching for software and hardware that meets the needs of the individual.
  • Meeting with vendors to evaluate whether software and hardware meets the accessibility needs of students, faculty, and staff.
  • Installing and configuring specialized or general software or hardware for accessibility.
  • Supporting specialized or general software or hardware by working with the respective vendor.

Law IT suggests reviewing Columbia Health's complete policies and procedures for Disability Services. If you would like to know more, please reach out to Jennifer Braden at [email protected].

The Columbia Event Management team was hard at work devising new and exciting Virtual Event Solutions. Whether you're looking to host a virtual conference or a hybrid event based in one of our on-campus venues, their team is prepared to produce, record, and customize the entire experience.  

Their team of event professionals can provide:

  • Presenter training 
  • Connectivity troubleshooting
  • Production managers for live-streamed events and meetings
  • Custom virtual sets
  • Filming and post-production
  • Creation of video content

Included is a video link to further illustrate their virtual event options. Please email Leslie Roberts ([email protected]) if you have any questions or if you would like to set-up a time to discuss a specific event.

  • Does this gift card limitation apply to our outside sponsors? or can outside sponsors send gift cards to our members?

          The card limit does not apply to your outside sponsors. Outside sponsors can send Grubhub gift cards directly to students but IRS language must be included in your proof of the event so students must be aware of the tax implications.

  • Could more active groups request a variance? 

          Yes, please email Dean Yadira Ramos-Herbert at [email protected] and copy Student Organizations at [email protected].

  • How about moot courts and mentorships?

          It will not be counted towards your group.

Effective immediately and through the Spring 2021 term, all travel including over Winter and Spring recess is subject to the Spring 2021 COVID-19 Travel Restrictions listed here.