BYU Law School is a special community, with shared values, principles, and mission. We strive to learn the laws of men in the light of the laws of God. We also strive to remember and uplift all in our community, particularly those in the “last wagon,” who may have trials we cannot see and a view that does not match our own. The ways in which we treat each other reflect these values and this commitment to community. During these unprecedented times, we must rely on each other and work together to create a welcoming and comfortable physical environment that promotes health and safety for our entire law school community.
We understand that some members of our community will choose to remain isolated because of individual situations that make the risks of daily presence in the building unacceptably high. We also understand that other members of our community are anxious to return to the building and resume in person interactions. We are committed to making our physical spaces–classrooms, offices, and study environments–as safe as reasonably possible. However, our efforts to mitigate the health and safety risks to our community depends on the cooperation and engagement of all our students, staff, and faculty to help create a culture of care and wellness for all.
As a student at BYU Law School, I agree:
- To self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and not enter the building while I experience any symptoms. I also agree to get tested for COVID-19 if I experience symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 and follow health care professionals’ advice on self-isolation until I receive results from that testing.
Report any positive testing results to BYU using the form on their website. In addition, I will also report any positive result to Dean Bryan Hamblin and coordinate with my professors regarding my coursework and attendance.
To maintain physical distance of six feet or more from others while on campus whenever possible.
To wear a face mask when inside the Law School building and outside on BYU campus if I am within six feet of others.
To employ good hygiene practices, including hand-washing, using hand sanitizer, and using disinfectant wipes in classrooms in my seating area.
To sit only in seats designated as available in classrooms and other settings in the Law School and to follow the Classroom Protocols.
To follow the Events Policy regarding the maximum number of attendees in any room used for Law School speakers and the maximum number of attendees for all law school co-curricular and club meetings.
To refrain from bringing guests, including family members, to the Law School unless granted an exception by Dean Bryan Hamblin.
I understand that violations of this agreement may be referred to the COVID-19 Oversight Committee for further investigation and that persistent lack of cooperation in these community expectations may result in sanctions including, but not limited to, loss of building privileges, a letter addressing my character and fitness to practice law being placed in my academic record, and suspension from the Law School.
Did you know studies have shown that online learning can be as effective as in-person learning and, when done effectively, can even result in increased student learning compared to the learning accomplished in a traditional lecture-based course? While online learning in law school is not what many of us anticipated one year ago, there is no reason you can’t be successful and have a great learning experience this year if you have good habits in place to optimize your learning.
- Schedule your Work Days
- Create a Dedicated Learning Space
- Be on Time
- Dress and Act the Part
- Be Focused
- Engage During Class Time
- Meet with your Professors and Teaching Assistants Outside of Class
- Form Study Groups and Stay in Touch with Classmates
- Learn the Teach & Know the “Netiquette”
- Invest in High-quality Internet and the Right Equipment
Choose a start time and a stop time each day and build in reasonable breaks, then stick to your schedule just as you would if you were an attorney working from home right now. With 168 hours in a week, you can devote 50 hours to your schoolwork, spend 8 hours a night sleeping, and still have 62 hours a week for everything else. The key is to clearly delineate work time and make sure that when you are “on the clock” you are actually working. One simple idea is to think of your time in billable hours. If what you are doing could be “billed” to the law school as schoolwork, it is work time; everything else—surfing the internet, checking social media, or taking lengthy breaks—is not.
No matter how big or small your living quarters, set aside a place specifically designated for schoolwork that limits noise and distractions. With some creativity and a small investment, you can create dedicated “office” that will help you be more efficient when working and gives your brain a clear signal when you are done for the day. Equip your office space with everything you need and remember to make it pleasant. For those limited in space, Google “minimalist offices” for inspiration on creating an office in even the smallest of places. A small nook in your home and a quick trip to IKEA can equip you for success for the next year to come.
Just as you wouldn’t show up a few minutes late to a court hearing with a judge whether in-person or on Zoom, don’t show up late to meeting with your professor and classmates, including scheduled class time. As one business writer in Forbes wrote, “Five minutes early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable.” Get in the habit of being 5 minutes early to each virtual class and remember that it takes a few minutes to log-on so plan ahead for that.
Even though court proceedings are being held virtually right now, attorneys are still expected to appear in professional dress with an appropriate background. Studies show that dress has a direct correlation to behavior. When you wear pajamas, you are less likely to act as a professional than if you are in a buttoned shirt. In fact, the act of getting ready for the day releases neurotransmitters, which increase feelings of motivation and optimism. Plan a routine of getting ready for school each day including putting on the type of clothes you would wear to the law school. Additionally, make sure that your background (real or virtual) is professional. Do a test run with your camera to see what others will see when you appear on screen, and when you appear on camera act as you would in class; for example, don’t tune in while lounging on your couch or running on your treadmill.
Make a commitment to show respect to yourself, your support system, your classmates, your professors, and your future clients by being focused during class-time. Multi-tasking is not only impolite but also decreases your performance on every task you are doing at the time. Even if you think you can give your full attention to class while playing the latest version of Candy Crush, science says you can’t. Turn off your notifications, put away your phone, and remember that one day instead of a professor you will have a client on the other side of the desk, and both deserve your complete attention.
Our faculty at BYU Law School have spent the last several months studying best practices in online learning, which includes frequent student engagement. No professor wants to ask a question only to receive radio silence. Engage, engage, engage. Active learning requires your brain to be active. Even if you aren’t called on or asked to volunteer, jot down the answer you would have given. One of the most critical skills an attorney can have is the ability to engage at high-levels for long periods of time (for example, an 8-hour jury trial day or revising a 300-page contract), so get in the habit now of being engaged from start to finish during class.
Even though there will not be in-person faculty or TA meetings, don’t neglect one of the most valuable resources you have in law school: one-on-one time with your professor and TA to ask questions, engage in discussion, and form relationships. Virtual meetings are not the same as in-person meetings, but they can be just as effective. Make it a goal to meet with each of your professors during their office hours at least once during the semester and take advantage of the services your TA offers. Making the effort to reach out will result in increased learning and relationships that you will benefit from in ways that you cannot predict now from letters of recommendation to phone calls to former partners at your dream law firm.
Some of the most important connections you will make in your legal career are formed during law school. There is no end to the technology available to facilitate interaction. Form a study group and get creative with your study habits from discussion boards to instant messages to recorded videos you send to each other with hypos, questions, responses, and words of encouragement. Working with your classmates will improve your learning, provide much-needed emotional support both ways, and build your network with hundreds of future attorneys. From one day forming a law firm together to receiving client referrals from each other, don’t forget about the brilliant people who may no longer be sitting in a carrel next to you, but are just a phone call or text away.
Before classes begin, make sure that any technology your professor requires is working. Download all programs or apps beforehand so you have the most up-to-date versions and play around with them to make sure you know how to navigate them. There are hundreds of YouTube videos that show things like how to operate Zoom, navigate Canvas, or post to a Slack discussion thread. Pay attention to a professor’s “netiquette” (internet protocols) and meet or exceed them. Online learning studies have shown that having your video turned on results in you being more likely to interact and less likely to multitask, so plan on having your video on even if your professor does not require it.
Having the right tools that work well each day is critical, so take the time and money to set yourself up for success. See the “Back-to-School Equipment Checklist for Online Learners” for more details.
Finally, remember to be patient with yourself and others. We are all experiencing an unprecedented opportunity in higher education for growth through challenge; work to be excited and grateful for the opportunity to learn in ways you never have experienced before. It’s going to be an exciting year!
A successful online classroom experience requires the right tools. As you prepare for the school year, make sure you have the following:
- A Functional Computer
You will need a computer you can rely on without fear of technical or functional issues. The latest and most expensive model is not necessary, but your computer should be able to work at a reasonably quick speed. See the law school’s website for specific recommendations.
- High-speed, Reliable Internet
Investing in reliable high-speed internet is a necessity for online learning so you can access classes and course materials.If possible, use a hardwired internet connection (plugged into your modem or router), which providers greater speed than a wifi connection does. If you are using wifi and are living with multiple people who require internet access or have slow or intermittent service, consider upgrading your internet or purchasing a wifi booster. Check your connection instantly and compare with Zoom’s recommended bandwidth requirements.
- A Headset & Microphone
A headset and microphone will increase sound quality for both you and your online classmates. Additionally, for those who are planning on streaming courses while in the law school building, a headset and microphone will be critical to avoid audio feedback and disruption issues for yourself and for everyone sitting around you. Specifically, if you choose to stream from the library, headsets are required. A basic set can be purchased for $10-40; if possible, consider upgrading to a set with noise-cancelling headphones as this may be one of your most frequently used tools this year.
- An Extra Monitor or Smart TV
Do not plan on watching your classes on your iPhone and, even if you have a laptop, consider buying an extra monitor for better viewing or streaming your classes to a Smart TV if you have one. Although not an absolute necessity, a large screen can significantly enhance your ability to focus during your online courses. Extra monitors can be purchased for $100 or less or, depending on inventory, BYU IT Surplus has monitors available for purchase or rent.
- Access to a Printer
- Necessary Software
- A Good Workstation
- *A Mask
Students will continue to have access to law school printers during the semester. However, if you prefer printing off materials and will need to do so from home, consider investing in a printer. A basic printer can be purchased for $100 or less.
Download the software you will need for each online course before the first day of class. Make sure your computer and applications are up to date and that each runs smoothly before each class session.
Create a dedicated learning space where you can keep your books, notes, and other items. In an online setting, students may find themselves sitting in one place for hours. Consider investing in a comfortable chair, a sturdy desk, and any storage items needed to help keep your personal workstation organized.
*If you are planning on being in the law school for any of your classes, online or otherwise, you will be required to wear a mask. Stock up on some disposable masks that you can keep in your carrel, in your school bag, or in your car so you always have a back-up option in case you forget your mask from home, and consider purchasing a 5 or 10-pack of washable masks that you can reuse throughout the semester.
- Please see the 2020 Fall Semester Class Attendance Policy below.
- Face Coverings
- Students, staff, and faculty are expected to comply with the university’s face covering policy. Faculty may not waive the university’s face covering requirement.
- Each faculty member will establish policies in his or her course syllabi for enforcing the university’s policy in the classroom. Consequences may include, but are not limited to, requiring students to purchase a disposable face mask at the library circulation desk, lowering a student’s grade, moving class online, and/or cancelling class. Repeated violations may result in a referral to the law school’s COVID-19 Oversight Committee, which may consider a range of consequences including, but not limited to, loss of access to the law school building, involuntary withdrawal from in-person classes, and (as a last resort) recommendation to the Associate Dean for Research and Academic Affairs that the student be suspended or dismissed from the law school.
- Protocols for Classroom Seating
- The law school has designated and marked seating spaces to facilitate the observance of CDC social distancing guidelines.
- The law school will provide seating charts that reflect available seating based on CDC social distancing guidelines. Using these seating charts, faculty are required to establish seating assignments and record in-person attendance to support contact tracing.
- Protocols for Entering Classrooms
- All students should arrive at least 5 minutes early and maintain social distancing while waiting for the room to open.
- If doors are closed, the first students to enter should prop them open for all that follow.
- Students should maintain social distancing while entering and go directly to their seats.
- Using cleaning supplies provided by the law school, students are expected to clean their own seating areas before each class begins.
- Using cleaning supplies provided by the law school, students are expected to clean their own seating areas before each class begins.
- Protocols for Participating in Class
- Faculty and students should use best efforts to maintain social distancing throughout each class period. If a student needs to leave the room for any reason (e.g., to use the restroom, etc.), he or she should seek to minimize disruption and maintain social distancing to the extent possible.
- Students may drink water or beverages in class, but they should seek to minimize the extent to which their face is uncovered when they do. Straws are encouraged. Students should avoid removing their mask in class for any other reasons, including to eat.
- To the extent possible, faculty should make materials available electronically. If physical handouts are necessary, faculty should distribute them in a way that minimizes contact.
- Protocols for Exiting Classrooms
- Faculty should always end class no later than the scheduled time.
- After each class, the faculty member should leave the room first.
- Students should then exit one row at a time, maintaining social distancing and leaving the doors propped for students that follow.
- Protocols for Between Classes
- Students should do their best to maintain social distancing between classes, keeping in mind that gathering in groups increases risk for vulnerable members of our community.
- Students may take off their masks to eat in the law school building, but they should use best efforts to maintain social distancing and to utilize open spaces when they do.
- Students should not stop by faculty members’ offices but should instead take advantage of virtual office hours.
- Protocols for Office Hours, TA, & Student Advisor Meetings
- In keeping with the university’s guidance to minimize face-to-face interaction and in- person meetings, faculty should designate regular virtual office hours for students.
- Any meetings between students and TAs or student advisors should also be virtual.