Chicago-Kent College of Law wraps up summer research program, The COVID-19 Collective

It seems there’s new developments and regulations being put into place every day as the world navigates through the COVID-19 pandemic. While this is concerning to some, it’s putting recent graduates and law students on an even playing field with many profession veterans. 

Take Chicago-Kent College of Law for example. It launched the COVID-19 Collective in June where students and professors were starting off with the same knowledge and background on the subject matter: COVID-19. 

Twenty-four faculty members and 65 students were placed on one of 15 research teams for the summer COVID-19 Collective research project. Each team covered a different legal topic such as privacy implications for contact tracing and potential antibody testing, courts and jury trials, constitutional rights and mandatory lock-down restrictions, corporate governance, and the history of quarantines and epidemics in the United States, including governmental authority to establish quarantines. 

“The COVID-19 Collective was a success,” said Vicki Ryan, Assistant Dean for Career Services. “The students and professors involved learned a lot about the emerging legal issues arising out of the pandemic. They have also worked on developing resources relevant to these issues that can be used not only by the Chicago-Kent community but also by other groups.”

This summer program was specifically designed for students who lost opportunities with internships, associate positions, clerkships, and job offers due to the pandemic. 

“I believe our students will greatly benefit from participating in the Collective because they now have expertise in developing legal areas — expertise that employers will need,” said Anita Krug, Dean of Chicago-Kent Law School.  “I also believe that this expertise makes our students stand out vis-a-vis students from other law schools.”

Students had the option of volunteering to be part of the collective or earning a single pass/fail credit for their work this summer. The research teams presented their final projects in early August.

In the early days of the pandemic, the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic was helping clients navigate the CARES Act, apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and other business concerns. At the end of the summer, students were addressing PPP loan forgiveness and human resources questions such as creating a safe work environment under OSHA standards and how to handle situations involving an immunocompromised employee’s return to work. 

“I am thrilled that we pursued the initiative and that it was so successful,” Krug said.  “Not only did it allow our students to dive deeply into emerging legal issues; it also provided a forum for students to partner with faculty in exploring those issues.”

The only thing we know at this point is that the pandemic is unpredictable. But if there are legal issues that continue to come from COVID-19, both the students and the faculty at Chicago-Kent will be ready to take action. 

“While it will be up to individual professors supervising students in the Collective, we anticipate that the work on some of the research teams will continue into the fall,” Ryan said. “Many of the teams have been working on complicated legal issues related to the pandemic that raised further areas of inquiry. It is also possible that other students, outside of the group of summer participants, will become involved.” 

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