I write to you with information that is complicated and concerning, as well as hopeful. There is no question that the last several years have been rife with negative news about the state of American legal education and the legal job market. That concern continues for Vermont Law School and all 202 American law schools as enrollment declines and LSAT test takers decline. But the VLS class of '15 matriculated last fall with 171 candidates, significantly beating our own enrollment target. However, we are planning for smaller JD enrollment for the coming year by cutting our budget, reducing our size, and focusing on the core programs and the core values that make VLS unique. As Dean Mihaly notes in his letter, our beautiful campus is "alive with change" and I want to share more information about that change with you.
Because we are an independent law school, we have the ability to be more flexible and more responsive to the needs of the legal education market. VLS remains the national recognized leader in environmental law, continues our tradition of innovation by emphasizing our strengths, and fosters a culture of creativity based on marketplace necessities. We are doing many things to help stay ahead of the curve, and to push the boundaries of legal education and innovation:
- VLS is launching a second master's degree in the fall of 2013 in energy regulation and law.
- Our distance learning (DL) program just awarded its first MELP and LLM degrees, and the DL program is oversubscribed for the coming year.
- VLS has launched a full 87-credit, two-year Accelerated JD program.
- Our new Center for Legal Innovation will transform how law is practiced and how lawyers are trained based on new advances in technology.
The success of VLS as an organization is our success as well. It is grounded in the support and dedication of our alumni; we are the foundation that allows VLS to consider and respond to change. The directors of the Vermont Law School Alumni Association are continuing to work with VLS on a career mentoring program for recent graduates. The school's new online directory will help alumni connect or reconnect with each other and support each other in job searches and networking; I encourage you to sign on to vlsConnect and explore what it can offer. And the alumni office continues to plan social and networking events around the country for our six regional groups—and new groups are in the works.
From the members of our founding classes to this year's admitted students, those of us who choose Vermont Law School are unique, iconoclastic, and committed to making a difference. I hope you will reach out to me and the other VLSAA board members, your classmates and each other, and the faculty, staff, and administration at VLS, in order to accomplish that purpose.
Karis L. North ’95, President
Vermont Law School Alumni Association
(Reproduced from Loquitur (Summer 2013))