Welcome and welcome back to Cornell Law School for the 2020-2021 academic year! This is, and will be, an academic year unlike any other in Cornell Law School’s history. For the first time, we will begin the academic year with some students studying remotely from your homes around the country and the world, others of you in Ithaca but still completing your coursework online and, yet others inside the halls of Myron Taylor Hall but studying and learning in a physically distant way. In spite of this unusual turn of events due to the global pandemic and the resulting public health protocols necessary for everyone’s safety, I know you will handle this situation with grit and grace, and will live up to A.D. White’s words as you learn to become “lawyers in the best sense.” 

As we prepare for this new and unprecedented academic term, I wanted to reach out with some new requirements and reminders. Thanks in advance for thoroughly reviewing this longer than usual beginning of semester message, which I encourage you to bookmark for ready reference.


General Public Health and Safety. Announcements and directives regarding public health will come from the University. Please bookmark and regularly reference the University’s COVID-19 and Reactivation Planning Updates. You also should closely review and bookmark the Law School’s COVID-19 Plans for Re-Opening

Re-entry Checklist. You must complete the University’s re-entry checklist in order to enroll and to access campus facilities, including the Law School buildings. If you have not begun or completed the checklist, please take a few minutes to do so now. The checklist items you must complete are determined by where you are living this semester and not the instruction modality you have selected. For example, any student living in the Ithaca area, whether taking classes online or in-person, will need to participate in the COVID-19 testing regimen. Returning students will not receive pre-registration results and new students (1Ls, LLMs, and transfers) will not receive the ID card needed to access the building until the re-entry checklist is complete. 

Instruction Modality. We do not have a systematic way to confirm your election of online or in-person instruction at this time, but are working on an efficient way to share that information with all students. Thanks in advance for your understanding that we are not able to process multiple individual emails or phone calls requesting confirmation.

Necessary equipment and supplies. As required by state and campus guidelines, all students must wear a face covering when inside campus buildings and must have a face covering with you at all times while on campus. You will need to keep your Cornell ID with you at all times and we encourage you to keep your magnetic Cornell Law School nametag with you, too, as the building will be limited to the Cornell Law School community. To effectively participate in law school classes and complete assignments, all law students are required to have a laptop. You will also need headphones if you are participating in online courses in the building. Additionally, having your own printer is strongly recommended. Learn more about computer and other IT requirements here. If you need financial assistance to secure these items, please contact the Law School’s Financial Aid Office


Building Access. We are entrusting and empowering each member of the Law School community who accesses the building to comply with the guidelines noted on signage regarding required physical distancing, traffic patterns, sanitation of the spaces we each use and touch, and keeping furniture where it has been carefully placed for your safety and health. De-densifying the building as much as possible is an important public health measure. To that end, activity in the building will look very different than we’re all used to. Please plan to study at home. You may also study and socialize in one of the covered outdoor spaces at the Law School, such as the tent that will be in the Purcell Courtyard. Doing so will create capacity for your classmates and colleagues who need to be present for class. We understand that some of you who have elected in-person instruction may not have sufficient travel time to go home between your in-person classes and those offered online. A limited number of study spaces will be available throughout the building for both online classes and quiet study. The Law Library will provide details about reserving study space soon.   

Academic Considerations. If the current public health emergency impacts your ability to fulfill your academic obligations in any way, reach out to the Dean of Students Office (JDs) or the Graduate Legal Studies Office (LLMs) for guidance and support, including possible academic considerations such as revised exam schedules or a late S/U election. These matters are highly individualized and determinations are made on a case by case basis due to the nature of the circumstances beyond a student’s control.  

Disability Accommodations. All accommodation requests are processed by the University’s Office of Student Disability Services and must be approved by the Law School’s faculty Administrative Committee. To protect student anonymity and privacy, the Law School’s rules prohibit approaching faculty directly for accommodations, unless approved by the committee to do so. You should start with the Student Disability Services Office, which will provide guidance.

First Assignments. Your first class assignments and information about required texts or other course materials are posted to the Canvas page for each of your courses. 1L section assignments will be released later today.   

Attendance. The Law School requires regular and punctual attendance. As a reminder, upperclass students are permitted to attend asynchronously if your course is offered outside of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in your local time zone. 1L students are expected to attend all courses synchronously, at the time they are offered, regardless of your location. As noted in the Student Handbook, students who miss 3 classes for any reason are required to notify the Dean of Students Office (JDs) or the Graduate Legal Studies Office (LLMs).   

Notes about Zoom Attendance.Please rename yourself on Zoom to include your preferred pronouns. Please also plan to participate with your camera on. The Law School seeks to balance equity and engagement in online courses. We understand that some students participating in online instruction may face myriad challenges that make having their cameras on difficult. We also are mindful of the feedback from students and faculty this spring that engagement declined in online classrooms where large numbers of students were not on camera. Engagement with your faculty and classmates is enhanced when you can see and hear one another. Unless your professor indicates otherwise in their course syllabus, please plan to have your cameras on for full attendance and participation. If doing so poses a specific equity concern, please speak with the faculty member or the Dean of Students Office.   

Name Pronunciation. We want to be respectful by pronouncing your name correctly. Please help us do so by recording your name pronunciation. Recordings will be uploaded to the Law School Directory (netid login required) available on the Registrar’s website.  

Tuition Insurance.We want you to be aware of the Cornell Elective Tuition Refund Plan. As a Cornell Law School student, you have the option to enroll. This plan permits you to be reimbursed 85% of tuition paid if you need to leave school for a covered illness or accident. The deadline to enroll is September 2, 2020 for the fall 2020 semester. 

New Student Services Collaboration. The ongoing public health crisis presents an opportunity to more closely coordinate among the various offices in the Law School that counsel students to help you achieve your academic and job-placement goals. Earlier this summer, Dean P announced to faculty and staff, and I am pleased to announce to you a new Student Services Initiative to coordinate JD student advising functions across the Law School’s student-facing departments, whether in the context of academic advising, career services, public service, or clerkships. I, along with my colleagues, Deans DeRosa, Akyea, and Peck are committed to marshaling the resources of the Dean of Students, Career Services, Public Service, and Judicial Engagement Offices, respectively, to facilitate a more unified approach that will allow us to better serve you, and provide a more seamless, efficient student support experience. The Graduate Legal Studies Office will continue offering coordinated academic and career advising for LLM and students.

Although our student services team, along with most law school staff, will be working remotely, we remain available to you by phone or videoconference. Do not hesitate to call or email us with questions. We look forward to working with you this year and navigating this situation together as a professional school community.   

Stay safe and be well, 


Markeisha J. Miner, JD

Dean of Students

Cornell Law School