Law Schools Adopt Pass-Fail Grades as They Move Online Amid COVID-19

Karen Sloan:

Several top law schools this week have announced switching to pass/fail grading for the spring semester, now that courses and exams are being delivered online amid the coronavirus pandemic. And many law school administrators have told students they are weighing changes to grading procedures and plan to announce such decisions in the coming days.

Thus far, Stanford Law School; Harvard Law School; the University of Michigan Law School; the University of California, Berkeley School of Law; and Cornell Law School have said they have adopted what is effectively a pass/fail system—the names vary by campus—or are giving students the option to have their grades issued as a pass or fail for the current semester. All American Bar Association-accredited law schools are now holding classes online, or will soon begin online classes.

The move to pass/fail grading is a dramatic shift for law schools, where grades play a large role in employment opportunities and co-curricular activities such as eligibility for law review, especially for first-year students. Mandatory curves are staples of law school grading systems and many students pay close attention to their class rank—which is determined by grade-point averages.