Law in the Time of COVID Inspires Students to Think About the Next Pandemic

A headshot photo of Professor Margaret Raymond
Margaret Raymond

How often do law students take a class where the law they are researching is just a year or two old and the ink is barely dry on critical court cases?

The Fall 2022 offering Law in the Time of COVID captured a historic, disruptive moment in the development of the law. Students dug into legislation that limited public health mandates and studied cases that challenged them, including Norwegian Cruise Line’s attempt to confront the Florida prohibition on vaccine mandates and Tyson Foods’ effort to require vaccines for its employees in Tennessee.

Warren P. Knowles Chair (and former Dean) Margaret Raymond said she decided to craft Law in the Time of COVID because “I wanted to teach something students would be genuinely interested in.”

The seminar, which satisfies University of Wisconsin Law School’s upper-level writing requirement, is a stark reminder of how so many areas of life were touched by the pandemic, including education, housing, insurance and labor.

Each week, students could speak from both reading and experience about how they were affected in fundamental ways, from public health orders to altered election processes.

Raymond invited guest speakers from these areas into her lectures, showing the importance of the course’s focus on the world of working lawyers.

“We not only looked at how this pandemic played out, but I pushed students to focus on how they would advise clients to be ready for the next one,” she said. “The students benefited from hearing lawyers speak about how they analyzed the issues before them in real time as the pandemic unfolded.”

Professor Margaret Raymond speaks to a class while sitting in front of a chalkboard, several of the students are wearing medical masks as they type on laptops and phones.
Professor Margaret Raymond leads Law in the Time of COVID, which spurred weekly conversations about how major areas of life were affected by the pandemic.

Jodi Chung, a third-year Law student, said Law in the Time of COVID has been one of her favorite classes.

“Professor Raymond not only gave us ‘on-the-books’ knowledge of avenues pertinent to a nationwide pandemic, but she also provided opportunities to ask questions of leading experts in an intimate classroom setting, a real hands-on learning experience,” she said.

Chung, who wrote her paper on remote work guidance and obligations, said the course challenged her to think about her role as a future legal advocate.

“I have experienced frustration with the way that some legal mechanisms seem to fail in times of national emergency, but I have also experienced immense inspiration and drive to learn more about what needs to be addressed in the instance of an unprecedented situation,” she said. “I have thought about ‘Law in Action’ in a unique way.”

By Jennie Broecker