Josh Blackman (South Texas), The Empty Threat of 2Ls and 3Ls Transferring To Receive In-Person Instruction:
Students would be foolish to transfer to another school in the middle of a pandemic when there is no guarantee in-person instruction will continue anywhere.
Many law schools may decide to bring 1Ls on campus, but hold 2L and 3L classes online. The thinking here is at once compassionate, but also pragmatic. The first-year of law school is a surreal experience. The pressure of classes forms something of a crucible: students are forced to acclimate to a brand new environment in a short period of time. By the time students get to the second year, they have developed a certain familiarity with the process, and are able to deal with classes more efficiently–even though they do not prepare as well for class. I see a world of difference between Property I students (in the second semester) and Property II students (in the third semester). If law schools have to make tough choices about who to admit on campus, objectively, 1Ls should be given priority.
There is also a pragmatic dimension to this choice. Incoming 1Ls, who feel they will be shortchanged by online instruction, may not enroll. Maybe they will decide to defer a year. Or maybe they'll pick a law school that promises in-person instruction. Rural campuses over urban campuses may be more desirable. These promises should be taken with some caution. Shut-down orders may come in October, requiring everyone to go back online. And the experience in class may soon become intolerable. But, incoming 1Ls demand in-person instruction. And law schools, dependent on tuition, will be pressured to oblige.
But what about 2Ls and 3Ls? Do they need the same in-person experience? The old adage may have some truth: 1L scares you to death; 2L works you to death; and 3L bores you to death. But 2Ls and 3Ls will be quite upset if their classes move entirely online. What can they do? Some will demand tuition refunds. This option is not viable. A school's costs stay roughly the same, whether operations are inside our outside the building. You can only save so much money by turning off the lights and lowering the air conditioner.
For sure, some students will threaten to transfer to another law school. Let me voice some skepticism for that option. ...
I understand the frustration from students. I get it. They did not sign up for a correspondence course, while paying full-freight tuition. For those already in this mess, where possible, they should push through to graduation. For incoming 1Ls, read with caution any promise for in-person classes. I think ultimately, most law schools will be in the same boat.
For complete TaxProf Blog coverage of the coronavirus, see here.