June 15, 2020
To all prospective students and applicants,
I am thrilled about your interest in the rewarding law school journey that Southwestern Law School provides.
As you’re looking ahead to the fall 2020 semester, you probably have some questions about how the current COVID-19 pandemic may affect your law school experience. I’m writing to assure you that your law school experience will be off to a rich and rigorous start, while we continue to safeguard our community’s wellbeing. You will find details later in this letter.
Before turning to the questions that many of you are understandably asking in light of the pandemic, I want to take a moment to reinforce the importance of this particular time in our nation and in Los Angeles. You are starting on the path to becoming a lawyer at a critical time. Technology has made the reality of horrific injustices so vivid that multiple state supreme courts, including the California Supreme Court, have for the first time publicly acknowledged institutional racism and called for reform. This period can become a critical turning point in our nation’s history of race-based inequality. The need for change is so deeply felt by so many, and the necessity of reforming law enforcement institutions and other aspects of our legal system is so apparent, that the search for solutions calls for aggressively challenging established assumptions. You are beginning law school at a particularly distressing time but also a time that needs champions of justice and agents of law reform. For some additional thoughts, please see my letter to the Southwestern community.
Southwestern’s Smooth Operations During the Pandemic. As a backdrop to your questions about how the pandemic may affect your first semester, I’d like to share a few words of pride about our faculty and current students. In mid-March, we transitioned to fully online classes, with about one-third of the semester remaining. Our faculty, many of whom already had substantial experience with distance learning, were remarkably quick to step up, get trained, and launch their online classes. Our students transitioned to online classes, office hours, and events with phenomenal adaptability and resilience. They forged ahead to a successful completion of their spring semester classes and then shifted to a wide range of exciting summer externships (over 200!), with positions ranging from the World Bank to public interest and governmental organizations to Viacom and other entertainment companies as well as a multitude of law firms.
We’re Excited for Our June and August Start Dates! Today we are welcoming the first cohort of our class of 2020! Our 2-year J.D. students are starting the SCALE program, and this SCALE entering class is our largest ever! Given the current uncertainties with “stay at home” orders, Period One classes for SCALE students will be online (as is the Summer Session for our continuing students, which is now well underway and going smoothly).
We very much look forward to welcoming the rest of our incoming class of 2020 on August 12th. Many of you have asked whether classes in the fall semester will be on campus or online. In light of the uncertainties that understandably exist about the duration of “stay at home” orders in Los Angeles and evolving public health requirements, we cannot at this point predict with certainty whether and to what extent we will be able to hold classes at Southwestern. We are actively exploring the extent to which we will be able to safely make the campus available to those of you who would prefer to study on campus. Our hope is that, at some point in the fall semester, our campus with its multitude of amenities will be open and at least some on-campus classes will be possible.
We know it’s very important for our incoming students to start planning for the start of the fall semester. So we wanted to let you know that any incoming 1L student with a COVID-related concern about attending classes on campus will have the option for remote class attendance and participation during the fall 2020 semester. However, even if classes are held remotely for the entire fall semester, if health considerations allow us to do so, we do intend to make on-campus study space available to incoming students subject to safety protocols. We also want you to be aware that we do plan to administer fall semester 1L final exams on campus in December.
I want to assure you that we are thoroughly equipped for whatever the fall brings – whether fully on campus (which at this time does not seem feasible given the current health orders), fully online, or a combination of the two. Even before the recent transition to online teaching, Southwestern had extensive experience and capabilities for online teaching and community building. The past several months have further fortified our nimbleness to maximize student learning and success regardless of the setting.
Tuition Freeze. Southwestern proudly differentiates itself with an authentic student-centered approach. Hopefully, you’ve discovered this independently when interacting with our faculty, staff, graduates, and current students. Our community values guide every decision Southwestern makes as an institution. Our Board of Trustees, composed primarily of Southwestern graduates, recently voted to freeze tuition at the current levels for the coming year---an unprecedented action in Southwestern’s modern history. This decision reflects Southwestern’s appreciation that the COVID-19 crisis has brought increased challenges and future uncertainties to our students and the Board wanted current and entering students to know of their concern and support. For you, this means that for the 2020-21 academic year, tuition and fees will be essentially discounted and remain at the levels of the 2019-20 academic year.
My Concluding Thoughts. Southwestern does not rest on its rich history; we draw on it. Current students and graduates as well as members of the faculty and staff regularly help Southwestern become better and stronger. I want to reinforce your instincts, your sense that you want to come to law school, because I strongly believe this training will stand you so well in such a wide range of professional roles. Because we are one of the most racially diverse law schools in the country and because we focus on each student’s goals, Southwestern well prepares you to fulfill your professional aspirations and to do so in ways that will strengthen our social fabric and honor our constitutional values.
I so look forward to welcoming the entering class of 2020. Let us know if there’s any information that you need or if there’s something we can do to help you prepare for your law school journey. Contact our Admissions Office (email@example.com), and they’ll make sure to connect you to the right person or office.
Dean Susan Prager