Want to know how law students are handling life amid a pandemic?
The section of online forum Reddit that is dedicated to law schools—r/LawSchool—offers an unfiltered look at what is keeping future lawyers up at night. Hundreds of students are swapping information on their school’s grading policies and offering updates on how their online classes are working. They’re also sharing their concerns over jobs, internships and their ability to concentrate and study during an unprecedented period of upheaval in their lives. Because users are anonymous, their posts tend to be far more candid that what students share on their class list serves and social media.
“Today I just feel like stress crying,” wrote one poster—a sentiment echoed by many others on the site. “The uncertainty of whether my family or I will get sick, the unknown of how remote learning will affect my ability to study, and the lack of decision from my school on what to do about grades (they’re “still deciding”) is giving me anxiety!”
The Law School subreddit, as topical sections of the site are called, has long been an active forum for law students and graduates. It counts more than 98,000 users since debuting in 2009. But it has emerged as a key resource for users during the COVID-10 outbreak, connecting students from different campuses and providing an avenue to swap tips for online classes, share their fears or just vent over the current situation.
Not surprisingly, much of the current discussion on the site has centered on grading policies—which has emerged as a hot-button issue. The site includes a constantly updated list on how individual campuses are grading students this semester, with data provided by law student tipsters. Students also are sharing information on how they are lobbying administrators to adopt their preferred grading method. (Most students are now advocating for mandatory pass/fail grades for the semester, though some want to retain traditional grades and curves.) Students at Harvard Law School, for example, were successful in their push to have mandatory pass/fail grades, a modification from the previous policy announced by the school that would allow them to opt for traditional grades or pass/fail.
Beyond grades, the law school subreddit drives home the fact that law students have a lot on their minds beyond their own health and safety and that of their loves ones. Among the common concerns expressed on the site:
- Will they be able to take the bar exam after graduating?
- Will their summer associate programs take place as planned? Will law firms rescind or defer offers to incoming associates, as they did in 2008?
- Will summer internships be canceled?
- Will the virus disrupt judicial clerkship hiring?
- How will exams be administered online, and will that enable cheating?
- How can they concentrate on their studies while balancing childcare or other caretaker responsibilities?
- How will moving online impact the quality of their legal education?
“I’m speaking with my firm today about staying as an associate after the bar,” wrote one poster, in a message similar to many on the site. “Meeting has been planned since last November and I’m scared shitless that despite that everything seemed nearly sure, the virus has taken away my job prospects.”
But amid all the worry students are expressing on Reddit, they also are sharing advice on effectively attending classes and studying at home or in tiny apartments and words of encouragement to those who are struggling.
“Be kind to yourself!” wrote one poster to another who said preparing for class felt like a “hopeless goal” amid all their stress. “We are in the middle of a pandemic, no one should be expected to operate at full or even half capacity. No one has dealt with something like this before.”
One poster shared an email that a professor sent to their class, telling students that they are “doing their best amidst uncertainty.”
“I would be doing you all a disservice if I didn’t ask: How are you? What do you need? We can’t just pretend everything is fine and get back to the all-consuming business of law school,” reads the professor’s email. “We need to do this together. Many of you are facing the very real problems of unemployment, financial insecurity, or balancing home schooling with law school for the first time.”