The Path Forward for the Law School

Fall 2020

August 19, 2020 update regarding the COVID-19 Code of Conduct: Read it here.

July 31, 2020 update regarding the fall from President Rowe: Read it here.

William & Mary will be different this fall. With circumstances changing rapidly, we aim to ensure our students have the best possible learning experience they can, under the circumstances we are given. In partnership with the major medical centers in the Virginia system, we are making phased decisions for a rapidly evolving public health context, based on the best information we have today. Here are the adaptations we are making to facilitate a safe, high-quality learning and working experience.

William & Mary Law School is preparing for a modified in-person semester in fall 2020, consistent with Virginia’s public health guidelines (pdf) for higher education. As we return to campus, our governing themes are flexibility, safety, wellness, equity, collaboration, innovation, and service. A hallmark of the fall semester will be engaging the creativity of the Law School community to develop pragmatic solutions to deliver our educational program under pandemic conditions.

Health & Safety

William & Mary has developed specific guidance for mitigating risks and promoting the health and safety of each member of the community. Each member of the community will be responsible for familiarizing themselves with and adhering to William & Mary’s safety guidelines and protocols, including:

  • Quarantine: Domestic students will be expected to self-quarantine for 8 days prior to arrival; international students will be expected to self-quarantine for 14 days prior to arrival. Traveling to Williamsburg does not require a student to “reset” the quarantine clock upon arrival, as long as they quarantined for the appropriate time and practiced transmission prevention during travel.
  • Testing: A testing program is under development that will require all students to be tested for COVID-19 prior to arrival, using a self-administered test that will be mailed to them by the university (more guidance here). This testing program is intended for all students, on-campus, off-campus, undergraduates and graduates. Employees will be allowed to take advantage of optional (at the employee's choice) testing services partially subsidized by the university. The university will conduct prevalence testing (based on a random sample) on a periodic basis.
  • Prevention education: COVID-19 prevention will be included as part of Law Week (new student orientation) emphasizing a community-wide commitment to engaging in behaviors that promote health and mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.
  • PPE: Wearing of face coverings is mandatory in all public or communal spaces including classrooms. All students, faculty, and staff will receive wellness kits.
  • Symptom tracking: A symptom-tracking app will be provided to all students, faculty and staff, allowing for a daily prompt for symptom assessment.
  • Disinfecting protocols: Cleaning of personal office spaces will be the responsibility of the individual faculty or staff member using materials provided by the university. Custodial staff will focus on more frequent cleaning of public spaces. Students will be responsible for cleaning class desk space before and after use, with materials provided in each instructional space. Hand sanitizer stations will be placed across the Law School in high traffic areas to facilitate proper hygiene.
  • Physical distancing: All classrooms will be reconfigured to reduce seating capacity and provide at least eight feet between each student and from the instructor. Non-instructional spaces are being converted to support instruction with adequate physical distancing.
Compliance with all university health and safety protocols is mandatory and is a condition to having access to the Law School building. Persons not complying with the face-covering requirement, social distancing protocols, or room capacity limitations will be denied access or asked to leave the building. Please refer to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct for a full description of expected behaviors and consequences for non-compliance.

Affirmation of the Healthy Together Community Commitment is required for anyone who will be living, learning, and working on campus this fall. If any of these safety guidelines and protocols change, we will be sure to update the community.

The Academic Program

The fall 2020 semester begins a week early and classes conclude before Thanksgiving. We will have no Fall Break. The semester will proceed as follows:

Aug. 12: Law Week begins for 1L students & new LL.M. students
Aug. 17: Classes begin for all students
Nov. 20: Classes end
Nov. 30: Remote exams begin
Dec. 11: Remote exams end
Jan. 4: Grades due by 9 a.m. (hard deadline)

The Law School’s goal is to prioritize safety while offering as much in-person instruction as possible. Courses that can be accommodated by available facilities in light of physical distancing requirements will be delivered in person or in a blended format that combines in-person (either the entire group at once or half at a time) and remote instruction. However, due to space constraints and safety considerations, many courses will be offered only remotely. The course schedule will be constructed in a way to allow students time to transition from one course to the next and to facilitate proper physical distancing.

It is important to note that all of the courses on the schedule for each of the entering first-year J.D. students will be remote.  Further, roughly three-quarters of the upper-level curriculum will be offered in a remote format, with the remainder being offered in-person or in a blended format. This means that depending on a student’s course selection, it is possible that a student will end up with a schedule consisting entirely of remote-taught courses.

To accommodate individual student circumstances and health concerns, all students will have the ability to opt out of in-person instruction entirely and take all of their preferred courses remotely. First-year J.D. students who choose this option will be enrolled in synchronous remote courses. Other students may enroll in synchronous remote courses or be a remote participant in a course that is being offered fully or partly in person. Remote participants in an in-person course will, at a minimum, view recordings of the course, although some in-person courses will offer more interaction for remote participants. For every student, meaningful interaction with faculty outside of class will be facilitated through remote technology.

To facilitate the course registration process, the following is an explanation of the mode-of-instruction codes that accompany each course:

  • FS: Face-to-face, synchronous instruction. Students opting for remote-only instruction this fall may (with the exception of National Security Law, Section 1983 Litigation, and Business Torts) register for these courses and participate remotely, which may be synchronous or asynchronous, depending on the instructor.
  • RSOF: Remote, synchronous, off campus. These courses will be offered remotely through Zoom for all students enrolled in them.
  • MIX: A blended format, in which there are some students who are participating in-person, and others who are participating remotely. The remote participation for these courses will be synchronous.

In the event of a resurgence of the virus and a return to lockdown conditions that prevailed this past spring, all courses would have to revert to being completely remote (see Contingency Plans below).

Faculty members will be supported in delivering their courses in the selected format, including training, the provision of teaching assistants where necessary, and the acquisition of necessary (not merely desirable) technology, subject to university approval. All technology requests should be discussed with the Vice Dean and the Associate Dean for Research & Faculty Development as soon as possible so that those requests can be considered.

Building Access & Use

The building will be open during the following hours:
M-Th 8am-8pm
Fri 8am-5pm
Sat 12pm – 5pm
Sun 12pm – 8pm

During these hours, access will be restricted to members of the William & Mary community. All persons entering the building will have to use their university ID to gain entry. Outside visitors, such as delivery workers or clients of one of the Law School clinics, are required to comply with physical distancing requirements and observe university-mandated protective measures, including the wearing of face coverings. Outside visitors will need to be accompanied in the building by a member of the community or have an appointment; the person with whom they have an appointment must come and meet the person at the main entrance.

Faculty, students, and staff are expected to maintain physical distancing in all spaces and comply with the university’s face covering policy. There will be signs indicating doors to use to enter and exit the building and our larger classrooms, and there will be directional markers in hallways indicating recommended traffic patterns. Additionally, the maximum occupancy permitted on the elevator in the building will be one person.

Students who are participating in a remote class are encouraged to do so from their residence. When that is not possible (e.g., a remote class immediately before or after an in-person class), students may participate from an available space in the library or in an outdoor space on the law school grounds, provided they comply with physical distancing requirements and other applicable health and safety protocols.

Communal spaces will be posted with strictly limited capacities to support social distancing. The hanging file folders in the hallway for students will be removed, furniture in the lobby will be repositioned to facilitate physical distancing, and there will be no table activities in the lobby. Congregating in communal spaces must be avoided and studying activity must be limited to available spaces in the library. Kitchen items used by multiple people such as microwaves, coffee machines, and refrigerators must not be used and, where possible, will be removed or labeled for non-use. There will generally be no place for students to eat in the building this fall, although students may eat outside on the Law School grounds, including the patio, while complying with safety and health protocols. Because Zime café will not be operating in the fall, none of the associated and adjacent indoor seating areas will be available for use. The nearby communal refrigerator and microwaves will not be available for use by anyone in the fall, nor will any water distribution fountains be available for use. The vending machines will be operational, with disinfecting wipes positioned nearby to wipe down after use.

Faculty and staff may enter and use the building at any time so long as health and safety protocols are followed. Students may only access the building during the indicated operating hours.

1.     Student Activities & Services

The Law School building will be open and available for use by students during the aforementioned hours. However, all contact with any administrative services provided to students by the Law School will be virtual to protect students and staff. All students entering the building will have to comply with physical distancing requirements, observe university-mandated protective measures, including the wearing of face coverings, and be responsible for sanitizing their spaces after use. The Law School will provide hand sanitizer and wipes for students to wipe down areas they occupy and use.

Per university policy regarding activities of recognized student organizations (RSOs), use of traditional classroom spaces will not be available for reservation/use by RSOs for the Fall 2020 semester. Requests for exceptions to this policy — which will only be granted for large rooms where students can be appropriately distanced and the risk of transmission can be minimized — should be directed to the Dean’s Office. RSOs may hold no in-person events or activities before August 31; thereafter, all business meetings of the RSO (member-only) must be virtual, and RSOs may hold only one in-person event (open to the William & Mary community) and two in-person activities (open to members only) per 30-day period.

Because of physical distancing standards, certain rooms may not be available for use by students or use of such rooms will be subject to strict capacity limitations. None of the study rooms in the library will be available for student activities.

All offices used by one of the journals at the Law School will be restricted to a capacity limit of one student. Students working for a journal may only use journal offices for the following specific tasks: (1) Exchanging work materials with Journal staff (i.e. dropping off edits) and (2) Accessing reference materials not available digitally (i.e. copies of journals, Bluebook or job documentation).  Access to journal editing software, such as Word Perfect, will be provided on designated computers located in the basement of the Law Library. Usage of the computer labs will be subject to the Law Library’s usage guidelines. Because the Law Review and Bill of Rights Journal offices have dedicated staff persons present in them, the students using those offices must restrict themselves to a designated location within the office and wear a face covering.

The Moot Court Team and SBA meeting rooms may only be used by one student at a time. For all of the aforementioned spaces, students may only use them during the limited Fall 2020 operating hours of the Law School building; no after-hours access will be permitted.

2.     Events

Because use of the Law School building is restricted to students, faculty, and staff, all visiting speakers for the fall will appear virtually. Any in-person attendance at events will be limited by the reduced capacities of spaces available, which are determined by CDC, VDH or the Governor’s guidance, and will be limited to members of the William & Mary community. Events should have a remote component to accommodate participants who either cannot participate due to capacity limits or who are attending the Law School remotely. Where possible, events and other traditional campus gatherings are being canceled or shifted to the spring semester. When feasible, there may be the ability to use an outdoor setting to support Law School events, although outdoor gatherings will still require appropriate physical distancing and protective measures.

Any person hosting an in-person or virtual event must complete the event registration form available through MyLaw. Virtual events should be held on the Zoom platform that William & Mary has provided.

3.     The Wolf Law Library

The Wolf Law Library will operate on a limited schedule as follows (subject to available staffing and including the availability of student workers):

M-Th 8am-8pm
Fri 8am-5pm
Sat 12pm – 5pm
Sun 12pm – 8pm

The following services and offices of the library will be open and available to William & Mary users (not to members of the public) during this period:

  • Circulation desk
  • Reference services (a combination of reference desk services for limited hours and reference available through online chat, email, and Zoom appointments)
  • Collections for browsing
  • Printers/Computers available
  • Space open for research and study
  • Full Interlibrary Loan

However, all study rooms will be closed. Staff will be in the library if their core job functions require in-person activities, but there will be flexible remote working arrangements in line with the needs of the staff. The maximum capacity of the library during the fall will be 150 people to ensure appropriate physical distancing; visitors may be denied access if the maximum capacity limit has been met. Excess chairs and seating beyond the limited capacity will be removed from public areas of the library. All library users are required to comply with physical distancing requirements and observe university-mandated protective measures, including the wearing of face coverings. Additionally, the library will provide hand sanitizer and wipes for users to wipe down areas they occupy. 

Career Services

During the fall 2020 term, and as described in detail below, OCS will deliver all of its services virtually. These services include, but are not limited to, individual career advising, OCS Express office hours, OCS programs, and recruiting events.

1.     Individual Career Advising

OCS will conduct all individual career advising virtually via videoconference or telephone. OCS will not conduct any in-person advising during the fall term. All students will continue to schedule individual career advising appointments using Symplicity.

  • Individual career advising for 1Ls will begin the week of September 21, 2020.
  • Mandatory 2L advising and cover letter reviews began on July 6, 2020, with a goal of conducting individual career advising sessions with every 2L no later than September 18, 2020.
  • OCS will provide ongoing individual career advising for 3Ls and alumni throughout the fall term. Mandatory 3L advising will occur during the spring 2021 term as part of the OCS graduation audit process.
  • Individual career advising for LLMs will begin the week of September 28, 2020.

2.     OCS Express

In lieu of the daily OCS Express Lobby table, which OCS advisors normally staff during the lunch hour, OCS advisors will schedule between 8 and 10 combined hours of virtual “drop-in” availability per week. The virtual drop-in hours will be comprised of (1) hours devoted to answering quick questions modeled after OCS Express and (2) hours devoted to “themed” drop-ins focused on particular career- and professional development-related topics. OCS will post the drop-in hours schedule on the homepage of the OCS TWEN course shortly before the start of the fall term.

3.     OCS Programs

OCS will deliver all its career- and professional development-related programming in a virtual format. Some programs will be delivered synchronously (and recorded for future viewing) and others will be delivered asynchronously (sometimes supplemented by live, synchronous presentations). For the fall term, OCS will emphasize delivery of “essential” programming to 1Ls, 2Ls, 3Ls, and LLMs. Examples of essential programs include programs on drafting resumes and cover letters, conducting an effective job search, and mastering job search resources.

Time and resources permitting, OCS will include additional programming as well. OCS has recorded most of the Citizen Lawyer 2.0 summer professional development webinars and saved these recordings on TWEN so that students can view them throughout the year.

The 1L interview skills workshops and the annual 1L-alumni mock interview program typically occur during the last week of January. These programs are mandatory and delivered as part of the 1L Lawyering Skills curriculum. OCS may move these workshops and the mock interview program to either (i) mid-December immediately following fall exams or (ii) early January immediately prior to the start of the spring 2021 term. More information about the dates for these workshops and the mock interview program will follow once the fall term has begun.

4.     Recruiting Events

The majority of our on- and off-campus interview programs will now begin to occur in late January 2021, though we will also accommodate the needs of employers that wish to recruit our students prior to January 2021. We are planning for all the initial screening interviews for our on- and off-campus interview programs to take place virtually. Some interview programs in which our students participate, such as the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair and the Southeastern Minority Job Fair (SEMJF) will take place virtually in October.

5.     Tuesday Email and Employer/Alumni Outreach

OCS will continue to produce and distribute its weekly “Tuesday Email” newsletters to all students. The Tuesday Email contains information regarding OCS career- and professional development-related programs, updates regarding employer hiring timelines, dates for our on- and off-campus interview programs, and a list of “hot” jobs. OCS will also continue to expand and update the online career and professional development resources it maintains for students and recent alumni on its TWEN courses.

OCS will continue to engage in extensive employer and alumni outreach throughout the fall term. We will also work closely with individual students, student organizations, and the Office of Advancement to help connect students with alumni.

Employee Work Arrangements

For employees of the Law School, which includes faculty and staff, the mode of work for the fall is determined based on three considerations: (1) employee health and safety, (2) the need to meet the mission of the Law School, and (3) desired and warranted employee accommodations. The university has identified the following potential core on-campus functions relevant to the Law School: teaching, research, student services, facility service and maintenance, technology support, and mail services for critical business. Additional functions that will require some on-campus presence is the delivery of some library services and serving the public through the clinical program. Some functions may blend in-person and remote modes of work based on the university’s needs and public health conditions. All supervisors must ensure that they communicate regularly with members of their team who are working remotely to ensure that they are fully engaged in performing their respective work tasks.

1.     Faculty

Members of the faculty will largely have a blended work plan, being in the building when necessary to deliver courses and engage in research. Office hours will be held virtually. Faculty that serve members of the public through the Law School’s clinics will deliver these services on campus when necessary, ensuring that they and their clients observe all applicable health and safety protocols. Clinic space will be adjusted to enable physical distancing. Clinical faculty will meet with their clients in the Clinics conference room or in a classroom such as the north-wing seminar rooms, as necessary to maintain proper physical distancing. These rooms should be reserved by the Clinic office administrator through the Law School’s room reservation system.

Any faculty member who is working entirely remotely must complete a teleworking agreement, which is available via Banner (instructions to access the form here).

All faculty meetings and committee meetings will be conducted virtually.

2.     Staff

Classroom technology support personnel will perform work on campus, complying with health and safety protocols when interacting with faculty, staff, or students in the course of responding to requests for assistance. Facility service and maintenance personnel perform essential on-campus functions and thus it is expected that they will be performing their work in and around the building.

IT personnel will have a blended work plan, largely being present in the building to support faculty, staff, and students, with some remote work permitted depending on user demand. Similarly, the Law School’s Office Manager will work on a blended basis, performing building support functions in person while performing most other administrative functions remotely when possible.

Student & Academic Services personnel will work on a blended basis, performing most functions remotely but coming into the building to perform several core on-campus functions — including responding to character & fitness inquiries, physical file retrieval, mail retrieval, and notarization services — on a rotating and on-demand basis.

Office of Admissions personnel will work on a blended basis. The office will not conduct on-campus visits or tours and will not schedule in-person meetings. All recruiting events will be conducted virtually. No more than two members of the admissions staff will be present in the office during the work week to perform necessary on campus tasks. Staff must adhere to physical distancing and other health and safety protocols at all times. To the extent remote work becomes necessary for admissions staff, the Enrollment Services Manager and the Applications Coordinator would need to be provided portable computers for remote use.

The Faculty and Academic Support Center (FASC) personnel will follow a blended work plan. Members of the team will work in the building on a rotating basis, ensuring that there is at least one member of the team present each day of the work week. Personnel who are not in the building will complete work remotely, coming into the building on an as-needed basis, driven by the nature of assigned tasks. Access to the FASC suite will be limited to FASC personnel, with other staff being permitted to enter on an as-needed basis to complete tasks. Only two people may be in the FASC suite at any given time; when more than one person is in the suite, each person must wear a face covering and maintain physical distancing requirements. Work requests should be submitted to the FASC team electronically, when possible. All hard copy documents that will require bulk copying should be placed in the FASC mailbox located in the Law School mailroom. A member of the FASC team will confirm via email when the work has been completed and delivered to the faculty member’s mailbox. Documents will not be delivered to faculty offices during this time. Printing will be limited to desktop printing in individual office spaces or formal requests submitted to the FASC. If necessary, faculty may send print jobs to the FASC printer, and FASC personnel will place the printout on the bench outside the FASC suite door. Access to high capacity printers in rooms 206, 255, and 237 will be restricted until further notice.

Journal support staff will follow a blended work plan. In-person work will be task driven, rather than time based. Only one member of staff may work in the Law Review office or the Bill of Rights Journal office at a time. Only one student user will be able to access these offices while a staff member is present.

Members of the senior administration, as well as the Executive Assistant to the Dean, will follow a blended work plan, performing work remotely or in the building as needed to provide oversight and support for Law School operations. Meetings will be held virtually, although in-person meetings among members of this group may occur as long as proper physical distancing and health and safety protocols are followed.

All other Law School employees not previously mentioned who do not work in the law library (see below), will work remotely during Fall 2020, with each department ensuring that mail retrieval is maintained, and that employees are available to come into the building if an on-campus need arises. All employees (including faculty) working entirely remotely must complete a teleworking agreement, which is available via Banner (instructions to access the form here).

All staff meetings will be conducted remotely.

3.     The Law Library

The law library plans to offer blended services in the fall semester, with some core functions being performed by employees in the building and others by employees remotely. The library intends to provide circulation services and staff the circulation desk at all times that the library is open. The library plans a reduction in service desk hours from past semesters and will not be open when employees are not present in the library.

The library plans to staff the circulation desk in rotations. To keep the library staffed will require full-time staff, one part-time staff member, and student assistants to staff the desk in rotations. No more than two staff members will be stationed at the circulation desk at any one period of time. The reference desk will be staffed in-person through one-person rotations but will have more limited hours than in previous years to minimize the use of a small shared workspace. During hours that the library is staffed, only one librarian will be present at a time. However, reference librarians will offer additional enhanced support in the form of reference chat, reference email, and Zoom reference by appointment for students and others. Librarians will do additional research and instructional work remotely, as well as provide service to faculty and staff in a blended format.

Other services like interlibrary loan will be handled through a blended work format. The library’s core collection services functions mostly can be performed remotely but processing of print materials, handling mail deliveries, and handling of collection maintenance must be performed on campus in the library. Staff who must perform core functions on-site will work in scheduled rotations to ensure that there is always someone in the building on weekdays to perform these functions and to minimize the overlap of staff in shared workspaces.

All library staff meetings will be conducted remotely.

Contingency Plans

The prevalence of COVID-19 infections in our local area and in the United States more generally is showing no signs of abating, and, unfortunately, appears to be on the rise. There is simply no way to guarantee that conditions permitting in-person instruction will endure throughout the fall. As a result, it is vital that all members of the law school community — students, faculty, and staff — are prepared for the possibility that the university will have to be closed to in-person operations at any point during the semester. Further, we all have to be prepared for the possibility that members of our community will test positive for the disease.

In the event that a member of the Law School community is diagnosed as having COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health will be responsible for contact tracing and will make determinations regarding appropriate quarantine measures. Each faculty member should work with the administration to develop a plan for continuing a course in which the faculty member teaching the course tests positive for the disease, which may include moving to teach the course remotely if the course was in-person or identifying alternate personnel who can deliver the course.

In the event of a resurgence of the prevalence of the virus, it is possible that the entire university will be required to return to entirely remote operations similar to those implemented during the spring 2020 semester. Because this is a very realistic possibility, all faculty should prepare and offer their respective courses in ways that are capable of being delivered completely online. This means, in part, that all faculty must be actively managing their course to ensure seamless continuity of instruction and access to relevant course materials in the event of a pivot to remote instruction. Faculty and students should have in place the capability to deliver and view remote instruction in their respective residences, meaning that the requisite technology and access to the Internet need to be in hand.

For staff, each unit performing core on-campus functions must have a written plan for remote operation that indicates how each member of that unit will be expected to work and perform their functions remotely. These plans should identify any needed resources or technology that would be required to facilitate remote work. For each core function of each unit, there must be a plan to perform that function remotely without access to the Law School building.


The Law School is taking a phased approach to decision-making and will continue to update the community as more information and details become available via the Law School’s daily Docket Digest.


To view a list of frequently asked questions about the fall semester, please visit the Law School Path Forward FAQ page.