Message to First Year Common Law Students re Fall 2020 Semester

Dear incoming 1L students:

We are so excited to welcome you to the uOttawa Common Law Section. I remember exactly where I was when I received my acceptance to law school three decades ago. The time in between acceptance and starting law school is one of excitement, anticipation and preparation. For you, the COVID-19 pandemic brings many added elements, including uncertainty. We are working hard to welcome members of the class of 2023 and we hope that this note will address some of the questions that you might have.

Online & Distance Learning: Fall 2020 Semester

First, I want to update you on our plans for the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have all been affected by this unprecedented public health crisis. For most of us, we have never experienced anything like it. At the law school, staff and faculty have rallied together to support our students. We will be with you as you embark on this new and exciting journey into the legal profession.

I wish to emphasize this: our top priority is the health and safety of our students, professors, and staff. 

The Government of Ontario has announced a framework for reopening the province, but not a timetable, to ensure that public health considerations remain top of mind. The Premier and many others have said that large public gatherings will be restricted for the foreseeable future. As a result, we are planning for the next academic year with a recognition that it is unlikely that our students will be allowed to return to the classroom in September.

We have therefore decided that the Fall 2020 semester at the Common Law Section will be available via distance and online learning. Even in the event that some or all courses are allowed to return to in-person format in the classroom, students will have the option of completing their Fall 2020 courses via distance and online learning. This applies to all years of study in the Common Law Section. Students who are enrolled in joint programs will need to follow guidelines that apply in other faculties or universities for courses outside the Common Law Section.

I wish to emphasize a second point: our Faculty is committed to delivering high-quality legal education that prioritizes the student experience. We also understand the importance of community. We will not waver from this commitment and we are already hard at work preparing for the Fall. We will be developing opportunities for students to come together at a distance and also, if permitted, in person. However, there will be no requirement for any student to be physically present at the law school in Ottawa for the Fall 2020 semester. It is too early to make decisions regarding our January and Winter 2021 terms.

You can find out more details about our plans for online learning by reading our FAQs.

Plans for 1L Orientation

Each year, our 1L Orientation is a unique and special opportunity to get to know your classmates and professors. Even though large events will not be possible this September, we are hard at work making plans for new and innovative ways to introduce you to law school and each other. 

Our Orientation Directors for this year are Professor Kyle Kirkup and Professor Anne Levesque. We encourage you to follow both Professor Kirkup and Professor Levesque on Twitter (@kylekirkup and @anneslevesque).

Orientation will commence in the summer and be ongoing throughout the Fall. Plans are afoot to coordinate a digital mentorship initiative, to match incoming students with upper-year JD students who will be able to give you candid advice about adjusting to law school life.

We recognize that there is something special and irreplaceable about gathering together as a group. That’s why our annual welcome reception on the front lawn of the Supreme Court of Canada has become such a cherished annual tradition. Once public health authorities give the green light for large events, it will be a priority for us to organize an event to celebrate and welcome the incoming class.

Next Steps and Timelines

Over the weeks and months to come, here are some key dates to keep in mind:  

  • Wednesday, May 27: Common Law Student Centre sends email with information about course registration to all students
  • Thursday, June 18 at 10:00 AM: Course registration opens for all Common Law students
  • July: Welcome from small group professors
  • August: First online Orientation activities begin

Please follow @uocommonlaw and check the Orientation web page regularly for updates on the Orientation program. Resources and information will be posted throughout the summer to help you prepare to commence law school in September. 

If you have any questions, you can contact Assistant Dean Rachel Leck at Rachel.Leck@uottawa.ca. Students in the English Program can also contact Professor Jamie Liew, 1L Director, at Jamie.Liew@uottawa.ca.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Common Law community virtually and in person!

Dean Adam Dodek

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