Pitt Law Attendance Policy

It is the current policy of the Dean’s Office not to excuse absences under the limited circumstances set forth below unless the student seeks the excused absence at least one week prior to its occurrence, whenever it is possible to do so.  The Dean’s Office will only excuse absences which students seek after the fact in circumstances where it was effectively impossible for them to have communicated with the Dean’s Office in advance.

The American Bar Association Standards for Approval of Law Schools requires the Law School to maintain a policy for mandatory class attendance in regularly scheduled classroom sessions.  This sets forth the Law School’s policy respecting attendance, effective January 1, 2022.

Students are expected and required to attend all regularly scheduled Law School classes in which they are enrolled. 

Attendance means in-person presence in classes which are taught on an in-person basis or synchronous virtual presence in classes which are taught on a synchronous remote basis.  In any context, attendance includes being prepared to participate constructively in the class as directed by the faculty member(s) leading the class.

Any student who fails to attend at least eighty percent of regularly scheduled classes for any course (i.e., fails to comply with “the 80% rule”) shall be certified out of the course by the Office of the Dean.

The 80% rule is applied based on the number of class meetings and not the number of credit hours for a course.  For example:

Course Meetings (per week) Allowed Absences (per term)
3 7
2 5
1 2

A faculty member may impose greater class attendance requirements for a particular course, including greater requirements as to the percentage of class meetings that students must attend in order to receive academic credit for the course; greater requirements as to students’ punctuality and presence; and/or greater requirements as to students’ levels of preparation and participation in the class.  That faculty member may specify any or all of those requirements as the basis for possible certification out of that course by the Office of the Dean.

A student who is certified out of a course will receive a “U” (“unsatisfactory”) for the course. 

Students are responsible for maintaining their own records of attendance and will receive no notice or warning regarding their number of absences.

If a student is certified out of a class for a violation of this policy, the Office of the Dean will send a letter to the student’s Law School email account notifying the student that they have been certified out of the class. The notice will be deemed to have been received by the student upon delivery of the email.

The University of Pittsburgh Student Code of Conduct and Guidelines on Academic Integrity apply to this policy, as do the School of Law’s Standards of Academic Integrity.

The Office of the Dean may excuse absences, so that they do not count against the student’s attendance record, in the following cases:

  1. For reasons that the Office of Dean determines to be compelling, taking all relevant circumstances into account.
  2. To accommodate student participation in law school related educational activity.
  3. To comply with federal or state antidiscrimination law, other applicable law, and University of Pittsburgh policies.

By way of illustration and not limitation, examples of cases falling within the scope of categories (a) and (b) above include the following:

  1. Medical emergencies; military service; and births and deaths in the family.
  2. Participation in a student competition or conference organized by students.

Faculty Driven Process

Faculty will manage attendance and take note of when students fall below the 80% attendance mark. The policy respecting how faculty maintain these records have been left to the faculty member to decide. So long as the method used is transparent (i.e. disclosed to the students in the syllabus) and reliable, then this is sufficient. Below are some methods that faculty members are likely to be using.

Roll Call

Attendance may be recorded through a Roll Call managed on the Canvas Learning Management System. The Roll Call is extremely easy to use. The faculty member will open the feature and then, for each individual class, call out names and record who is present. Canvas will keep a record of how many classes each student attended. It will then be easy for any student to see if they have missed more than the minimum of 20% of classes permitted by reviewing their record on Canvas. This method can be used for in person classes as easily as it can be for remote classes.

Sign in Sheets

Faculty are free not to use Canvas and instead take attendance manually through a sign in sheet. The Dean’s Office will be providing sign in sheets to any who request them. The process of determining which students fall below the 80% threshold will be left to the faculty member to calculate. This means that the only method by which students will know if they are near the 80% threshold will be through communicating directly with the faculty member teaching the relevant course.


Many faculty members will be using TopHat to TopHat works by generating a four digit code at the start of every class when the faculty member logs into it (via Canvas, with which it integrates) and selects “take attendance.” Students then “sign in” by inputting their code into the application. TopHat calculates attendance, and a faculty member and each individual student will know attendance levels of every student on a continuous basis throughout the semester. The 24/7 Pitt IT Help Desk is always available to answer questions on Pitt supported software such as Canvas and TopHat.

*Any attempt to circumvent the attendance policy (for example giving out codes to non-attending students in TopHat) will be regarded as a violation of the Pitt Law Standards of Academic Integrity on the part of all students participating in the circumvention.