Law schools move exams online, citing fresh virus fears

After being pushed out by pandemic, women struggle to get back to work
REUTERS/Emily Elconin
  • Campus closures at Cornell, New York University and George Washington came amid finals
  • Law school deans cite rising cases

(Reuters) - At least three law schools abruptly moved their final exams online this week after their universities announced new campus closures tied to COVID-19.

Cornell University on Tuesday shut down its Ithaca campus after reporting nearly 500 COVID-19 cases last week, halfway through the law school’s nine-day finals period. New York University and George Washington University each followed suit Wednesday, citing the fast spread of COVID-19.

All three universities require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to be on campus, but each has reported a rise in the Omicron variant among their recorded cases. Preliminary data suggests Omicron may be particularly contagious while less likely to cause severe illness, though much remains unknown as the variant continues its spread.

George Washington’s law school was already grappling with what it said was a cyberattack on Dec. 10 that disabled the online platform housing class materials such as notes and previous exams. The school opted to move ahead with in-person exams this week, only to reverse course Wednesday at the direction of university leaders.

Under the university’s earlier policy, George Washington law students had the option to take Thursday’s finals either on campus or remotely. But all five of the exams scheduled for Friday will be remote, according to a law school spokeswoman. Friday is the last day of the school’s final exam period.

New York University School of Law canceled all in-person finals as of Wednesday morning and informed students that remaining exams would be administered remotely.

“We take these measures in order to protect our community’s health and safety, yet we understand that disruptions during examinations can be incredibly stressful,” a Wednesday morning email to law students from the dean’s office said.

Cornell Law Dean Jens David Ohlin informed students Tuesday afternoon that all final exams would immediately shift online but noted that the school has previous experience in quickly moving to a remote format due to earlier pandemic disruptions.

“While a last-minute change like this is challenging during an already stressful time, please know that the Law School is doing everything it can to support students and faculty impacted by this transition,” Ohlin wrote.

Read more:

Cyberattack during finals upends law students' study plans

New law student enrollment jumps 12%, risking job market glut

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at