Inner Circle #1 fall 2014

The Inner Circle / Fall 2014


Read Admissions Update
Read Your Contributions at Work
Read Member Profile: Brent Bohan JD'10
Read A Look Back


VLS Today

Dean Marc Mihaly

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your generosity and commitment to Vermont Law School. Whether you are a longtime contributor or a new donor, you make a difference in the level of service and programs we are able to offer VLS students. Your contributions fortify the efforts of our administration, faculty and staff, and we want you to know that you are a valued member of the VLS community.

Vermont Law School has weathered some tough times the last few years, as have all law schools and higher education in general. But what sets us apart—and has since our founding—is our entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to face challenges with innovative ideas that speak to our mission.

n 2015, you will see VLS offer new, mission-driven opportunities in the education market—opportunities not only for traditional law students but also for undergraduate students and working professionals. Among these are our innovative LegalTech Hacktivist Boot Camp, a hands-on program open to tech-savvy students, including undergrads, and New Frontiers in Environmental Law and Policy, tailored specifically to undergraduates—the next generation of environmental advocates. Both programs launch in summer 2015.

Other revenue-generating initiatives are in the works: We have partnered with the Environmental Law Institute to offer a week-long training for utility executives in Washington, D.C., in spring 2015. And VLS faculty members are currently designing professional development training programs in legal writing and in environmental law and policy for non-lawyers.

These programs are uniquely “VLS” and are made possible with your generous support. My sincerest thanks and appreciation as we look to the future and continue our commitment to developing leaders who use the power of the law to make a difference in our global community.

Warm regards,

Marc Mihaly signature white

Marc B. Mihaly, President and Dean


Admissions Update

By John Miller, Assistant Dean of Admissions

Curtis House Admissions Inner Circle Fall 2014It’s an exciting time for admissions and marketing at Vermont Law School. Like most law schools, VLS has felt the impact of a steep national decline in law school applications and enrollment. But–unlike most law schools—VLS’s independence, small size, and innovative culture has allowed us to be nimble and make swift strategic investments to ensure a secure financial future.

In 2014, our team introduced a new marketing and communications strategy, internally dubbed “Back to Mission” for its sharp focus on the core educational and cultural values that make up Vermont Law School’s unique identity. This brand reinvigoration seeks to promote VLS through its mission and work, while also better aligning our public image to reflect our primary generational and demographic audience.

This effort included several technology enhancements, including a new website and a customer relations management system (CRM) to track marketing and enrollment data. In admissions, we also hired additional counselors to increase the level of contact with students who inquire and visit VLS, and reassessed our financial aid awarding strategies.

As we focused in on our mission and identity, we felt it was more important than ever that our financial aid include a diverse and equitable mix of merit, need, and opportunistic aid. This year, we introduced the Cheryl Hanna Mission Scholarships, awarded to our most ambitious and mission-driven students, combining scholarship aid with a stipend for an unpaid public service internship. This strategy has paid off with clear, positive results.

Our 2014 entering class was larger, more selective, and better qualified. They are an enthusiastic mix of individuals from over 35 different states and more than 100 undergraduate institutions. For 2015 we plan to expand upon the high yielding strategies and make additional investments in marketing to increase VLS brand visibility.

We have contracted with a digital media consultant to assist us to develop a robust digital advertising plan. We are leveraging the different core brands of VLS—environmental, international, public interest, general practice and business—to help attract and inspire more prospective students. We are also investing in our graduate programs and producing content that showcases the many opportunities and careers available to our masters-only students.

As we have seen, the road ahead is not without its obstacles. The source of our momentum is the passion and dedication to service reflected in our alumni and campus community. Our mission and values differentiate us, and that is critical in this market.


Putting Your Contributions to Work

By Mary Welz, Vice President for Institutional Advancement

Mary Welz DLC

This is the first edition of the “Inner Circle,” a newsletter for people like you who make a commitment to give at the Leaders’ Circle level and above. We have prepared it with the premise that as a major supporter/“investor”, you deserve to be in the know about what is happening here at Vermont Law School and how your gifts are being put to good and immediate use.

We love it when you ask, “What did you do with my money?” In FY14 Vermont Law School raised almost $1.5M dollars in philanthropic support from foundations and from generous individuals like you. 

The bulk of these funds provided support for our diverse academic programs, including the U.S. Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law, the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, and the Institute for Energy and the Environment.

Thanks to your donations, the South Royalton Law Clinic continues to provide free legal support to children, refugees, and veterans – Vermont’s most vulnerable populations. The Environmental Law Clinic has 16 students each fall, spring, and summer sessions who work on real cases, in and outside of Vermont.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars each year are awarded to students who receive your private scholarship dollars channeled through the Fund for VLS, special restricted “term” scholarships, and endowed scholarships. Your gifts also fund VLS’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program, providing debt relief to alumni who need it most.

Your Leaders' Circle commitment makes all of this possible…and so much more. The bottom line is that Vermont Law School is a stronger and more viable institution because of you and your financial investment in our students, programs, faculty, and all that makes VLS special. Thank you.


Member Profile: Brent Bohan JD'10

Brent Bohan Leaders' Circle giving

Vermont Law School’s small size, outdoorsy student body, and national ranking as the number one environmental law school attracted Brent Bohan JD’10, a native of Minnesota, to South Royalton. While at VLS, Brent concentrated on trial advocacy, and worked at the South Royalton Legal Clinic providing pro bono legal services to low-income and underserved populations. After graduation, he opened Bohan Law, a successful private practice focusing on civil litigation, where he quickly earned a reputation as a tough litigator.

Brent continues to work with disenfranchised populations, providing pro bono legal assistance to several organizations in his Washington community: the Housing Justice Project, the King County Bar Association's Family Law Program, and his neighborhood KCBA neighborhood clinic program, family law program, and domestic violence squad. Speaking from his office at Engel Law Group in Seattle, Brent described his motivation: “I believe that access to justice is something that everyone deserves; it shouldn’t be limited to only those who can afford representation.”

In mid-October, Brent reached out to Vermont Law School’s Office of Institutional Advancement He wanted to support the school’s mission at a leadership level. Understanding the importance of annual giving, Brent made a five-year commitment to the Leaders’ Circle, knowing his support would help VLS train lawyers who practice law to make a difference, serve in the public interest and advocate for the underserved. He noted, “I appreciate everything VLS has done for me and I’m happy to give back.” Vermont Law School appreciates our alumni, who, like Brent, provide the support that makes our work possible.


A Look Back

By Patty McIlvaine, Director of Development

VLS back in the daySince opening our doors in 1973, Vermont Law School has attracted individuals who tirelessly devote themselves to its work. They give to ensure that the school has the resources to cultivate a high quality, innovative legal education that meets the challenges of a changing world and an evolving legal landscape. They give to make sure that VLS remains flexible, adaptive, and resilient.

In 2007, a conversation between Trustee Rick Shafer and former staff member Jenn Hayslett sparked a movement that would bring together and formally recognize these supporters—the alumni, parents, and friends who give year after year at the leadership level .The dedication of these individuals inspired VLS to create an important giving society, the Leaders’ Circle.

The Leaders’ Circle recognizes donors who make an annual gift to Vermont Law School at or above the $1,000 level, and have either done so for the last 5 consecutive years, or have pledged forward for 5 years. Over the years, Leaders’ Circle members have contributed up to 70% of the total philanthropic support for the Fund for VLS, providing a strong foundation to Vermont Law School’s annual operating expenses.

Today, the Leaders’ Circle remains strong, and though the economic downturn had an impact on membership in recent years, we know it did not impact the commitment of our community. We are proud to be renewing and adding members every day—members like you, who understand that the work of Vermont Law School is critically important and its graduates make a difference.

We hope you will help bring even more of us together to join the Vermont Law School Leaders’ Circle. The strength of your support, and the growth of our circle, will allow us to thrive as an institution and give the power of the law to a new generation of students.

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About the Inner Circle

The Inner Circle is a quarterly e-publication of the Office for Institutional Advancement at Vermont Law School. Members of the Leaders’ Circle giving society receive this newsletter in the winter, spring, summer and fall, learning about the latest news from the Dean, programs, students, and fellow donors.

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