With a focus on the health and wellbeing of the law school community, the School of Law was able to navigate the coronavirus pandemic while ensuring its students received a high-quality legal education despite living in a world of unknowns.
“I am so grateful to everyone in our community,” Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said. “Our students made the transition to virtual instruction and our faculty joined them in that transition. Our administrative team has done everything from training people on new technology to processing emergency fund applications, our staff worked tirelessly to keep operations seamless, and our alums and legal community offered support, financial assistance and words of wisdom as we all navigated these uncharted waters.”
After the University System of Georgia institutions suspended in-person instruction in March 2020, the School of Law’s IT department assisted faculty as classrooms moved into the virtual world. For the 2020 academic year, UGA moved to a hybrid model using a combination of in-person and online classes to ensure appropriate social distancing measures were in place.
While the year was different from those in the past, the law school community worked together not only to ensure the safety of each other, but to create new ways to come together – through classes held outdoors, online events and gatherings, as well as some social activities held on North Campus.
As a result of the efforts of the UGA community, in May the university was able to relax restrictions just in time for the School of Law’s Commencement ceremony. (In the image above, Class of 2021 graduate Amelia Welch Ortiz is pictured with her husband Will Ortiz, who is a 2020 alumnus. They proudly represent the two graduating classes that experienced significant disruption to their legal education due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Dennis McDaniel.)
“While these have been hard times, the School of Law truly united to show that we are all in this together,” Rutledge said. “Our commitment to a culture of shared responsibility has allowed us to look forward as we move toward more normal times for the 2021–22 academic year.”
Students participate in the school’s Luncheon on the Grass gatherings, which allowed individuals to gather for socially distanced picnic lunches on North Campus.
Dean Bo Rutledge speaks to Katie McMahon (J.D.’11) via the platform Airmeet during the law school’s virtual Alumni/Alumnae Week. McMahon received the Young Alumni/Alumnae of Excellence Award during a virtual ceremony.
Associate Dean and Martin Chair Andrea Dennis teaching a class.
Third-year student Devin Mashman (third row, far right), a member of the Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation Clinic, virtually argued before the Georgia Supreme Court. Many traditional law school events and activities – academic and social – moved to the online world to maintain the health and safety of all individuals.
Jim Henneberger, the law school’s director of information technology, worked with other members of his IT team – Chris Boston, Brad Grove, Leslie Grove, Victor Lawrence and Kui Wang – to move the law school to an online learning platform at the onset of the pandemic.
Associate Professor Christian Turner taught a class outside during the fall semester. Oftentimes, members of the law school community took advantage of nice weather and moved classes and small gatherings outdoors.
Christine Scartz (J.D.’94), the director of the Jane W. Wilson Family Justice Clinic, taught a socially distanced class in Dean Rusk Hall. The law school’s experiential learning programs worked throughout the pandemic, hosting webinars and assisting clients who found themselves in need during the turbulent times.