Student FAQs Related to COVID-19

Check here for answers to some frequently asked questions related to the University's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Q: Will the Law School graduation ceremony be held in May?
A: Law School graduation will be held virtually on May 20 at 1 p.m. EDT, following university commencement via broadcast at 11 a.m. EDT, when degrees will be conferred. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the 47th vice president of the United States, will deliver remarks during the Law School’s ceremony. Professor Bert Huang, an expert on torts, civil procedure, and courts and the legal process, will receive the 2020 Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching, awarded by the graduating class. The ceremony will premiere on Columbia Law School’s YouTube channel at 1:00 p.m. EDT.

Q: Will the Law School hold an in-person graduation ceremony at a later date?
A: No decision has been made about postponing the graduation ceremony or about any alternative plans. A communication will be sent to students when a substantive update is available.

Q: Should I order a cap and gown? What if I already ordered one?
A: Graduating students do not need to order caps and gowns. If you placed an order, please reach out to [email protected] to initiate the process for a refund. Please anticipate delays, as while they are responding to order cancellation requests, the bookstore is closed until further notice. Students who want to purchase a cap and gown as a keepsake can do so when the bookstore is operating fully.

Q: When will the NY bar exam be administered and what are the registration dates?
A: The NY Board of Legal Examiners has postponed the July bar examination. It will now be administered on September 9-10, 2020. Applications open on May 5 at 12:00 AM and now close on May 15 at 11:59 PM. First-time exam takers who have graduated from NY law schools will be prioritized. These are the only students who can apply in this time period and includes the CLS Class of 2020. Priority will not be given on the basis of the time at which students apply during this period. For more information please visit the NY BOLE website.

Q: The New York State Board of Law Examiners is no longer administering the bar exam in July.  Can I take it in another jurisdiction?
A: Students can apply to sit for a bar exam in another UBE jurisdiction and earn a portable score that will qualify them to seek admission in all the UBE jurisdictions. Please check the minimum passing scores for each state offering the UBE exam. In addition, each bar admission agency will have their own process and timeline for accepting transfer UBE portable scores.  

Q: Are there any additional requirements I should be aware of if I take the bar exam in another state?
A: You should contact the bar admission agency in the jurisdiction to which you seek admission for specific information.

Q: Will credits earned via virtual instruction during the Spring 2020 semester count towards the minimum in-person credit requirement needed to take the New York bar exam? Does this apply to both J.D. and LL.M. students? 
A: The Law School has obtained a waiver of strict compliance to allow the distance learning requirement for credits earned during the Spring 2020 semester to be temporarily suspended. J.D. and LL.M. candidates will be able to sit for the New York bar exam, provided they present their degree and fulfill other requirements of the Court. 

Q: I am graduating in May and was set to complete my New York State skills competency or 50-hour pro bono requirement this term. Will I still be able to take the bar if I am unable to fulfill these requirements before graduating?
A: On April 21, the NY Court of Appeals issued a waiver of the skills competency and 50-hour pro bono requirements for Spring 2020 graduates. Graduating J.D. and LL.M. candidates who have not completed these requirements will be allowed to sit for the bar and be eligible for admittance to the bar. Please see the specific waiver here.

Q: I completed my pro bono hours. Do I need to report my hours and, if yes, how? Can I still have the affidavit form notarized in the Law School? Do I need to reach out to the supervising lawyer to complete the last page of the affidavit form, or will the SJI office coordinate it?
A: At this time, the Law School is unable to provide notary services, and we will not be able to do so until campus returns to normal operations. We are awaiting guidance from the court regarding submission of an affidavit for which it is impossible to get physical notarization. 

Q: I am taking the bar exam in a state other than New York. How will I know if I need to obtain a waiver for virtual instruction/pro bono/etc.? If I do need a waiver, how do I go about obtaining one? Will the Law School provide support to petition other jurisdictions, if necessary?
A: Each state and jurisdiction has different requirements that determine eligibility to sit for the bar exam. At this time, the Law School does not plan to seek a programmatic waiver in any jurisdiction but New York. Students planning to take the bar in a jurisdiction other than New York should be in touch with the appropriate bodies governing those exams. Please contact [email protected] with requests for documentation to support individual petitions and waivers.

Q: I plan to take the NY bar exam in September. Do I still need to complete the Handwriting Sample form?
A: The Board of Law Examiners (BOLE) will be waiving this requirement for applicants sitting for the September exam administration (September 9-10). Handwriting Forms that were completed during our fall NYS bar information session or through Zoom appointments will be sent to the BOLE when our office certifies the Certificate of Attendance Forms in early July. If they should need a sample from a particular applicant, they will request it at a later date. 

Q: I am an LL.M. student. Do I still need to complete the Certificate of Attendance form for the New York State Bar now that the July exam has been postponed?
A: If you will be applying to sit for the NYS bar when it is next offered, you will still be required to complete this form. Registration Services has moved the deadline to submit these forms in hard copy to June 30, 2020.

Q: Can I use a digital signature on my New York State Certificate of Attendance form?
A: No. The New York Board of Law Examiners requires the form to be signed with an original signature.

Q: I am graduating in May and was set to complete my Columbia experiential learning requirement this term. Will I be able to graduate?
A: The Law School will do all it can to facilitate completion of the experiential learning requirement prior to graduation. Students whose experiential learning plans have been disrupted due to the effects of COVID-19 should contact Susan Kraham for guidance. 

Q: I am graduating in May and was set to complete my 40-hour Columbia pro bono requirement this term. Will I be able to graduate?
A: The Law School will do all it can to facilitate completion of the 40-hour pro bono requirement prior to graduation. Students whose pro bono service plans have been disrupted due to the effects of COVID-19 should contact the Pro Bono program for guidance. Waivers of the Columbia Law pro bono requirement may be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Rules Committee.

Q: I am graduating in May and recently completed my pro bono hours. Do I need to report my hours and, if yes, how? 
A: J.D. students should log on to LawNet and submit an Exit Questionnaire (under My Services, select “Pro Bono Status” under SJI and click “Fill Out Exit Questionnaire.”) to report your hours in fulfillment of the CLS Pro Bono Requirement. After submission, you will receive a prompt to send a Supervisor’s Report to your supervisor. You may also request a Supervisor’s Report by clicking on the “Action” button next to the relevant placement and selecting “Request Supervisor’s Report.”
LL.M students are not subject to the Columbia pro bono requirement and do not need to submit any forms on LawNet.

Q: Will all classes continue to be held virtually for the rest of the term?
A: Yes, all classes will be held remotely through the end of the Spring term. Please see emails from your individual instructors to learn how they plan to conduct their classes.

Q: I may need to travel at some point and may need to miss live virtual classes. Will I be penalized if I need to watch recordings rather than join live sessions?
A: Please check with the professors of the classes you believe you will miss for further guidance. 

Q: I have accommodations for a disability. How will virtual instruction affect my ability to participate in class?
A: Please work with Jennifer Braden in Student Services regarding any accommodations. We are committed to ensuring that students who require accommodations are able to successfully participate in online classes.

Q: I don't have access to my casebooks. What do I do?
A: West Academic is offering complimentary eBook access to students from schools that have moved temporarily to online instruction. Please see the Library's COVID-19 FAQs for more information. Note that this access only applies to required course material published by West Academic, mainly casebooks.

Q: Will my professors still be holding office hours?
A: Yes, faculty have been holding remote office hours via Zoom or telephone and will continue to do so. Please consult your professors or reach out to them or their teaching assistants for more information.

Q: I am in a clinic, externship, simulation, or other experiential course. How will I participate remotely?
A: Instructors of clinics and other experiential classes have been working diligently to replicate, to the greatest extent possible, the in-person classroom experience. Please consult your instructor for further guidance. 

Q: Can I still meet with my academic advisor?
A: Academic advisors remain on-call and available for consultations via phone, email, or video chat.

Q: Will final exams be administered online?
A: Yes. All exams will be administered remotely. Students should assume that they will be able to take their exams from wherever they are located on the days that they are currently scheduled.

Q: I will be in my home country for the exam period. Will my exam be administered at NY time or my local time? What if I am on a flight home during a scheduled exam time?
A: Registration Services will continue to facilitate the exam rescheduling process as it has in the past. Once the plans for exams have been finalized, students who will be affected due to their location will be told how to work with the Registrar for further guidance.

Q: What is the difference between Examplify and Electronic Bluebook?
A: Examplify is a software you must download to your computer that is typically used for proctored, in-class exams. It blocks access to your hard drive and the internet when taking an exam. Electronic Bluebook is a web-based application that is typically used for take home exams. It does not block access to your hard drive and the internet while taking an exam. Both of these systems are being used to administer remote exams. The Registrar’s office will send further guidance on using them closer to the exam period.

Q: When can I take my self-scheduled Electronic Bluebook Exam?
A: Self-scheduled Electronic Bluebook exams will be available from 12:00am to 11:59pm any day of the exam period (May 4-14) unless otherwise indicated on the exam schedule.

Q: Can I use electronic materials for my open book Examplify exam?
A: Only hard copy materials can be used, just like an in-person, proctored exam. Students are on their honor that they are not using another device (tablet, phone, etc.) to access materials during an Examplify exam.

Q: How will honors be calculated for the 2019-2020 academic year given the shift to Credit/Fail grading for the spring semester? In order to be considered for honors, do I still need to have been enrolled in at least 15 credits of letter grade classes?
A: All Spring 2020 academic offerings will be graded on a Credit/Fail basis. Because of this change, honors (which typically require 15 credits worth of letter grade classes) will be calculated using the following criteria for the 2019-2020 academic year.

  1. Maintaining full-time Law School residency for the entire 2019-2020 academic year.
  2. Earning at least 15 Law School credits in the year, regardless of grading method.
  3. Achieving a fall Law School GPA of 3.778 or above to qualify for Kent Honors and 3.41 or above for Stone Honors.

This will be the only method for calculating honors for the 2019-2020 academic year. The alternative pathway, based on the preponderance of “A”-range grades for Kent Honors, will be suspended.

We believe this method best balances fairness, generosity, and consistency with past practice. Reducing the threshold GPA required for Kent honors by 0.022 points on a one-time basis avoids what would otherwise be a reduction in the number of students receiving Kent honors relative to past averages.

Please refer to the CLS eligibility guidelines for additional information regarding study abroad, joint degrees, and grades of Incomplete—none of which have been altered as a result of the modifications for 2019-2020 described above.

Q: How will Law School transcripts be annotated to indicate the School-wide shift to Credit/Fail grading for the spring 2020 semester?
A: We have requested that the Provost grant permission to have the following language added to Law School transcripts:

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mandatory Pass/Fail or Credit/Fail grading was in effect for all students for the spring 2020 semester.”

The Provost’s permission is required because this represents a slight departure from the language used by the rest of the University, as the Law School uses “credit” rather than “pass” to denote a passing grade for courses that have a two-category (pass or fail) grading structure.

Q: I am registered for supervised research this semester for a letter grade. Does this count as a course for purposes of the Credit/Fail system?
A: Although this type of work is not conducted in a classroom setting, it does count as a course and is included within the scope of School-wide Credit/Fail grading.

Q: Due to the law school’s closure, I no longer have access to the library’s resources to write my writing credit paper. Will the Law School consider waivers of writing requirements (JD or LLM) as a matter of course, or will the deadline for final submission be extended?
A: Students will have access to library resources during the period of virtual instruction, albeit in a more limited form than is typical. The changes to the spring grading system do not include a waiver of writing requirements or paper deadlines. As for exceptions, the Law School has long-standing rules for requesting extensions and will apply those rules in the ordinary manner.

Q: Is Legal Practice Workshop also Credit/Fail, or is High Pass also possible?
A: The Legal Practice Workshop will be graded on a Credit/Fail basis along with every other course for spring 2020 and will not include the category of High Pass.

Q: I am registered for two semesters of supervised research, for a letter grade. My instructor gave me a grade of “YC” for the fall, pending spring completion of my paper, at which time I would receive a letter grade applied to all of my supervised research credits for the year. Will my work now be assigned a letter grade for my work during the fall and graded CR/F for the spring, or will both semesters be either CR/F or letter grade?
A: Instructors will be asked to assign a letter grade to your performance, but it will be applied only to the fall portion of the supervised research. Your transcript will bear a CR/F designation for the spring.

Q: I conducted supervised research in the fall for a Credit/Fail grade. I would now like a letter grade. May I change my grading option at this time?
A. No. Neither the grading method, nor the distribution of fall versus spring points of credit previously elected for supervised research can be changed at this time.

Q: I registered for 1 point of supervised research for a letter grade in the fall and for 2 points in the spring. May I now switch the points to 2 for the fall and 1 for the spring?
A. No. Neither the grading method, nor the distribution of fall versus spring points of credit previously elected for supervised research can be changed at this time.

Q: I am a student in a workshop that has weekly graded assignments and weekly graded participation. I have 8 weeks of pre-virtual instruction grades. Will an exception be granted where students had already done a lot of graded work? 
A: The Credit/Fail policy is School-wide and only Credit or Fail will appear on transcripts. Faculty may, at their discretion, choose to write letters of recommendation or support students by other means.

Q: I am taking a course at another school in Columbia University. The rules state that I can only apply the credits to my JD if I have a grade of C or better. Will I be able to apply the Credit/Fail credits to my JD?
A. Yes. If you receive Credit for the course, your JD credit will also be satisfied.

Q: Will the Law Library or other Columbia libraries remain open?
A: Starting Monday, March 16, all on-campus library locations are closed until further notice. The Libraries Alerts page will remain updated to reflect changes across all library locations. No visitors, including researchers with previously scheduled appointments, will be permitted to enter any library location. Due to current constraints of library resources and closure of partner institutions, the libraries cannot fulfill requests for Interlibrary Loan, Borrow Direct, and materials held off site at ReCAP until further notice. Starting Monday, March 16, please do not return library materials until further notice. This includes mailing items to campus. If your materials are due, please renew using My Account in CLIO. No fines will be charged for overdue or recalled items until further notice. If you encounter full book bins on campus, please do not leave items on top or around the bins.

Q: Will research librarians be available?
A: The Law Library is currently working on options to offer virtual reference to students. Please check the Law Library website for updates about this service.

Q: Will I be allowed to remain in Columbia housing through the end of the semester?
A: Law Students currently residing in University apartments will be able to stay in their homes and lease terms will continue to be honored. Common areas (including lounges and gyms) will be closed and visitors will be prohibited.

In order to be as flexible as possible, cancellation fees will be waived for students who wish to leave their apartments before their lease is up. And rent will be prorated based on your move out-date. 

Please see these FAQs for more detailed information about departures and other relevant information regarding Columbia Residential buildings. Please contact [email protected] or [email protected] with any questions or concerns. 

Q: What if I need to break my lease? Will it impact my ability to obtain housing next year? 
A: Students who leave housing early this semester and apply again for fall 2020 will be given priority.  

Q: What if I require assistance moving out?
A: Please see these FAQs for more detailed information about departures and other relevant information regarding Columbia Residential buildings. Please contact [email protected] or [email protected] with any questions or concerns.

Q: What if I have a babysitter that needs to enter my CU apartment?
A: If you are in this situation please email the Columbia Law Emergency Response Team (CLERT).

Q: What support is available for students with increased financial burdens due to the campus closing?
A: Students with unanticipated financial needs due to COVID-19-related effects should visit the Law School’s Financial Wellness page for further information and to apply for temporary emergency funding. 

Q: Will dining halls remain open?
A: John Jay (Morningside) remains open for grab-and-go dining. 

Lenfest Cafe has closed. Many local restaurants have shifted to take-out and delivery-only models.

Another option for those facing food insecurity is the Columbia Food Pantry.

Q: I was unable to retrieve items that I need from my locker before the Law School buildings were locked down. How can I retrieve these items?
A: If you are in the city, please reach out to Louis Santiago to arrange a mutually agreeable time for you to retrieve your items from your locker. We will update this space when more guidance is available for those not in NYC.

Q: I understand all in-person events have been suspended. Will virtual programs, conferences, workshops, etc. continue at the Law School?
A: Administrative offices and other event planners are working on robust virtual programming to allow us all to stay connected and students to stay informed. Keep an eye on LawCal and regular newsletters for information about virtual events and how to participate in them. 

Q: Can my student organization continue to have elections and meetings?
A: Yes. However, meetings, elections and other administrative activities should be held virtually.

Q: How do I know if I have been exposed to COVID-19? What is Social Distancing?
A: Please refer the University's Preparedness website and the CDC for the most up-to-date guidance on COVID-19.

Q: Will Columbia insurance cover COVID-19 testing?
A: Aetna Student Health will waive co-insurance for all diagnostic testing related to COVID-19. This policy will cover the test kit for patients who meet CDC guidelines for testing. Aetna will waive the member costs associated with diagnostic testing at any authorized location.

Through existing care management programs, Aetna will proactively reach out to members most at-risk for COVID-19. Care managers will walk members through what they can do to protect themselves, where to get information on the virus, and where to go to get tested if clinically indicated.

Should it occur, hospitalizations will be treated as any other sickness and paid according to the plan design.

Q: Will referral requirements be waived if I can not see an on-campus or in-network physician?
A: Referrals are a complex topic impacted by a number of factors. Thorough guidance can be found in this recent communication from CU Health. 

Q: Can I cancel my health insurance?

  • Students scheduled to graduate in May 2020 may request early termination of their coverage under the Columbia University Student Health Insurance Plan. Continuing students are not eligible to request temporary suspension of insurance coverage.

  • All requests will be considered by the University’s Student Health Insurance Office, but restrictions apply and not all graduating students will be eligible. 

  • To submit a request, please email [email protected]. The Student Health Insurance Office will provide you with a petition form to complete and information on required supporting documentation to submit. The Law School is unfortunately unable to provide letters or other forms of documentation related to requests for early termination of student health insurance.

  • Please note that your coverage is global and covers COVID-19-related services

Q: Will fitness centers remain open?
A: Columbia’s fitness centers (including the gym in Lenfest Hall) are closed until further notice. 

Q: Where can I go if I am anxious or upset and need to talk to someone?
A: The University’s Counseling and Psychological Services Office (CPS) remains open and available to students. While their physical offices are closed, students in need of support should still call 212-854-2878 to arrange an appointment and utilize online resources and tools. If you have an upcoming appointment, CPS will be in touch regarding virtual/phone options. 

CU Health has also compiled resources for managing stress late night and on weekends.

The Mayor’s Office’s ThriveNYC Program also offers resources for supporting mental health while staying at home.

Q: Are CU domestic violence resources still available during the closure?
A: SVR is providing services remotely. Students can utilize their 24/7 helpline at (212)-854-HELP/4357). Virtual/phone options are also available. If you have questions about their services you can call the helpline or call Nina Carrenard from SVR directly at (212)-854-0676. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is another resource that can be reached at 1-800-799-7233, thehotline.org, or by texting LOVEIS to 22422.

Q: I have been financially affected by the ongoing situation to a point where I need help. What can I do?
A: The Law School’s Financial Wellness page provides information on a range of resources. If you have an urgent financial need or are facing food insecurity, please fill out this form and a member of the Student Services team will be in touch to discuss and advise regarding potential next steps.

Q: Can I still meet with my career advisors?
A: Career advisors throughout the Law School remain on-call and available for consultations via phone, email, or video chat.

Q: I plan to apply for clerkships soon. Will the Office of Judicial Clerkships assist in mailing paper applications?
A: The Office of Judicial Clerkships will no longer accept or process paper clerkship applications or faculty letters of recommendation for the remainder of the term, inclusive of the June 2L processing period. Please do not leave applications in the JGH mailbox or on WJW 6th Floor, as staff will be unable to retrieve them. Please see the OJC website for additional information about on-going administrative support (including coordination with Faculty and Faculty Support) or email OJC if you have specific questions.

Q: Am I allowed to travel?
A: The University has extended travel restrictions to cover all domestic and international travel. All travel organized, led, or funded by the Law School, is suspended until further notice. We strongly encourage all students who have planned international travel for personal and other non-Law School purposes to register their plans via the ISOS MyTravel portal

Q: Is there any concern regarding the visa and CPT/OPT status for international students who have returned to their home countries for the rest of the semester?
A: If you leave the U.S. and your visa expires while you are abroad, then you will need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before you can re-enter the U.S. (Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.) If you will be travelling to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands, please read here to see if you can benefit from automatic revalidation.

Q: I applied to study abroad for next year - will study abroad go on as planned? When will I hear back with a decision?  
A: Your applications are being read and processed as usual, with the presumption that fall, spring and full-year programs will continue as planned. However, as the situation is constantly changing due to the global spread of the coronavirus, we are monitoring developments and will keep you posted. We have no way to know at this time when and if international travel restrictions will be lifted, and our priority is your safety.

Like you, our offices are now working remotely and we are still processing your applications. We will not be releasing nomination decisions the first week in April as planned, but are aiming for later in April; we will keep you updated. Many of the deadlines for partner schools have been or will be extended. As always, if you are accepted into a program, you will be given the opportunity to accept or reject the placement. 

If you have further questions, please sign up for office hours on the study abroad website. We will conduct the meetings remotely via Zoom or phone.

Columbia Law School is committed to the financial security of our public interest and public service LRAP participants. At this time, we are continuing to review and process LRAP applications in order to provide eligible benefit payments to LRAP participants. Please review the following LRAP COVID-19 FAQ regarding questions that might arise during this unprecedented time.

As always, you are encouraged to contact the Financial Aid Office ([email protected]) with any questions and concerns regarding LRAP. Since we are working remotely, we ask for your patience and understanding as we reply to your LRAP inquiries.

My loan payments are suspended, so am I required to continue to make my payments?

In most cases, participants currently have been provided LRAP benefits to make their educational loan payments through July 2020. As such, there is an expectation that participants will continue to make their payments, as their circumstances allow. Continuing to make payments during the suspension will ensure that your educational loans will be paid in accordance with your original loan repayment schedule. However, if you are experiencing a financial hardship, please notify the Financial Aid Office ([email protected]) and we will certainly review your situation to provide guidance.

I have been furloughed or laid off from my LRAP eligible position. What should I do?

LRAP has provisions for this situation. Participants are eligible to apply for a deferment from LRAP. Please see the following section regarding Leaves and Deferments from the LRAP description, which can be found online (www.law.columbia.edu/financial-aid/lrap-public-interest-lawyers).

Leaves and Deferments

A participant in the Program may request a leave or deferment of up to two years for specific purposes. Participants must submit a written request to the Financial Aid Office stating reasons for deferment. Those leaving public interest work for private sector employment do not qualify for deferments, and will be required to begin repayment on their LRAP loans. Participants granted a deferment from the Program will not be eligible for benefits during the deferment period. However, interest will not accrue on the LRAP loan during an approved deferment period. If the participant does not return to the Program after two years, the LRAP loans will become payable to the extent not forgiven.

To apply for a deferment, complete and electronically return Page 1 of the LRAP application so we have your updated contact information. Also, please include a brief written statement requesting a deferment and the reason.

How does the federal income tax filing deadline extension affect the processing and disbursement of the second LRAP disbursement that is typically received at the end of July?

We are postponing the requirement to submit a copy of your 2019 federal income tax return before the second LRAP disbursement will be processed. We will be processing all second LRAP disbursements with the expectation that they will be issued towards the end of July 2020. For the upcoming LRAP reapplication cycle, participants will be required to submit a copy of their 2019 federal income tax returns for income verification with their renewal application materials in November 2020. Any necessary adjustments based on the previous year’s income, will be made to the first LRAP disbursement of 2021. Of course, if you are able to complete and file your 2019 federal income tax return prior to the beginning of July, please feel free to submit a copy to Financial Aid Office electronically by June 15. However, you are not required to do so until November.

Q: I am registered for GSF. How will my summer be affected?
A: Please see these comprehensive FAQs specific to GSF.

Please stay tuned for information related to summer internships - whether in public service, human rights, private sector or judiciary. The relevant administrative offices are in contact with employers and will host information sessions to answer students questions and provide updates. Please check Symplicity for event details and Zoom links, and continue to refer to Lawcal and relevant newsletter for important programs and deadlines.

Upcoming Virtual Programs
Several administrative offices will be hosting virtual drop-in programs and info sessions in the coming weeks to help students adjust to the new learning and living environment. Please check Lawcal and your email regularly for more details.

Other Resources

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