2020–2021 Academic Calendar and Other Updates

A message from Gillian Lester, Dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law regarding the upcoming academic year.

Dear Members of the Columbia Law School Community,

Yesterday, Interim Provost Katznelson released a revised university instructional calendar for the 2020-2021 academic year. Now that the parameters have been finalized, we can, in turn, share with you the Law School’s calendar for the upcoming year. This message also contains additional information regarding ongoing contingency planning efforts, including hybrid instruction, New York Bar examination eligibility, and campus operations.

Law School Academic Calendar

The Law School’s 2020–2021 Academic Calendar has been revised to conform with the university’s framework and is subject to change as circumstances warrant. Here are some highlights for the fall 2020 semester. The full-year calendar is available on the Law School website.

  • Beginning the Semester:
    • September 2–4: Orientation for incoming J.D. and LL.M. students
    • September 7: No classes—Labor Day
    • September 8–11: Legal Methods I (for 1Ls)  / Introduction to American Law (for LL.M.s)
    • September 14: First day of full-semester classes for upper-year and LL.M. students
    • September 15: First day of full-semester classes for 1Ls
  • Mid-Semester Holidays:
    • November 3: No classes—Election Day
    • November 26-27: No classes—Thanksgiving Holiday
  • End-of-Semester and Exams:
    • December 11: Classes end 
    • December 14–23: Final exams 

Instructional Format

President Bollinger indicated that the university will announce campus policy regarding fall teaching modality on or around July 1. In the meantime, the Law School continues to build out a plan to enable teaching in three formats in the event that the campus policy authorizes a resumption of in-person instruction:

  • In-person classes where most, if not all, students are physically present in a classroom big enough to accommodate safe physical distancing.
  • Hybrid classes where at least one-third of students are physically present in a classroom on a rotating basis, with the remaining students attending virtually.
  • Online classes where both the instructor and students attend virtually.  

The format of a particular class would depend on several factors, such as class size, meeting time, availability of classroom space large enough to accommodate physical distancing, and other considerations. While our goal is to facilitate as much in-person instruction as is safe, physical distancing requirements and the need to significantly reduce density on campus will mean that all students should anticipate some online instruction. Furthermore, we recognize that for classes offered in person, a way for students to participate remotely will need to be made available. Our hope is to announce, to the best of our ability, the planned instructional modality of each class—in-person, hybrid, or fully online—prior to releasing the fall course schedule.

New York Bar Exam Eligibility

On June 4, the New York Court of Appeals extended its waiver on the restrictions that limit distance learning through the fall 2020 semester, and restrictions on LL.M. students taking classes during summer 2021. Assuming all other requirements are met, J.D. and LL.M. students will be eligible to take the New York Bar examination.

Campus Operations

Even while some laboratory research activities have resumed on campus, Law School faculty and staff continue to work and conduct business remotely. Once permitted to do so, on-campus operations are expected to resume in phases in order to limit density in our buildings. More information on the campus reopening plan, including for the Law School community, will be shared later this summer.

I continue to be grateful for the ongoing efforts of our three planning committees, which have taken up this massive set of challenges with ingenuity and assiduity, and to our entire community for your resilience and flexibility.


Gillian Lester
Dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law