NY State Court of Appeals grants NYU Law request for distance learning waiver, students maintain bar eligibility

The New York State Court of Appeals has granted NYU Law’s request for a waiver of strict compliance with the state bar’s limitations on distance learning for all students enrolled at NYU Law in the Spring 2020 semester. 

The waiver clears the way for students who are now taking their classes via remote learning to qualify for the New York bar exam after graduation, despite state bar entrance requirements that ordinarily limit distance education for JD students and prohibit distance education for LLM students. “The Court’s order… acknowledges the necessity of NYU Law’s transition to remotely taught, synchronous classes in the Spring 2020 semester, and permits all NYU Law students engaged in these classes, in both the JD and LLM programs, to sit for the New York bar examination if they are otherwise bar-eligible,” Dean Trevor Morrison said in an email to students.

In a March 17 petition to the court, Morrison explained the Law School’s recent switch to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NYU Law move came amid emergency declarations at the federal, state, and local levels; a New York City ban on gatherings of more than 50 people; and widespread calls from public health authorities for social distancing measures. 

The petition outlined the ways in which faculty members are using Zoom, a remote conferencing tool, to maintain a robust classroom experience in which students and teachers can engage in real-time discussions, student attendance and engagement are tracked, and experiential learning is simulated. Morrison explained the logistical details behind the move to distance learning: faculty members have received training in how to use the software, and will continue to receive training as necessary, while IT staff are providing technical support to faculty and students. Students were already equipped with appropriate laptops, he added. 

“The decision by the Court of Appeals lifts a huge burden from the shoulders of our students, and promotes public health and safety, by allowing students to continue their studies while following the state’s recommendations on social distancing,” said Professor of Law Erin Murphy, in an email. Murphy praised what she called a “seamless transition” to remote learning for her Criminal Law course for 1L students.

Maria Kim ‘20 said in an email that she was relieved to hear of the Court of Appeals’s order. She added: “I was also happy for my classmates who are caretakers or are in financial need to not have to deal with the bar eligibility on top of everything else they have to deal with.”

Posted March 20, 2020