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The Inner Circle / Fall 2017



>> President and Dean Tom McHenry
>> Admissions Update
>> Vermont Law School Board of Trustees Elects Officers
>> New Member Lindi Von Mutius JD'08


The Ninth President and Dean: Thomas McHenry

On October 13, 2017, Vermont Law School installed Thomas McHenry as the ninth president and dean of the school. He began his term as president and dean in July, succeeding Marc B. Mihaly. Formerly a partner with Gibson Dunn in Los Angeles, Calif., Tom brings 30 years of environmental and administrative law practice to VLS. Below is an excerpt of the text of President and Dean Tom McHenry's speech delivered during the installation ceremony on the South Royalton Green.

Tom McHenry

Why I Came to VLS

What excited me most about coming to Vermont Law School was the opportunity to participate in the training of the next generation of environmental law and policy students. I first learned about this position in November of last year, and not a day has gone by since that I have not thought with excitement and anticipation about this job. While I have greatly enjoyed 30 years of law partnership with numerous interesting clients, large and small, a substantial pro bono practice and regular teaching responsibilities, I wanted to totally devote my energies to new tasks, and I wanted to be fully occupied. My friends were correct to warn me: “Be careful what you wish for.”

Challenges in Legal Education

Law schools have been challenged since 2010 by changes in enrollment and the legal marketplace. These external factors have had an impact on Vermont Law School. Here at the school, we have responded appropriately by tightening our belts where necessary, and exploring and developing new programs and initiatives, including an expanded master’s program and online learning. This could not have been accomplished without the cooperation and support of our dedicated staff and faculty. Their commitment fuels our strong sense of community, a hallmark of this institution. As an independent and private institution, one that can and should be able to respond nimbly to these changes, we should welcome the challenge of doing our jobs more efficiently and more effectively.

Student Debt

Many of our students are taking on substantial debt to obtain a legal education, and upon graduation find this debt limits their career plans and life choices. At the same time, law schools, along with other colleges and universities, are constrained by increased discounting of tuition, without regard to need, in order to attract and enroll the best students.

We need to make progress in this regard. I am pleased that we recently received a commitment of nearly $500,000 to support scholarships for students with financial need who are seeking a VLS education. We need to do more, and I look forward to doing so.

Going Forward

Going forward, I want to share three overarching goals: being Vermont’s Law School, increasing and enhancing our environmental focus, and developing new and innovative programs.

VLS as Vermont’s Law School

We already do much for Vermont. I would like us to do more.

  • About 10 percent of our students are from Vermont and about 20 percent make their homes here. They “fall in love with, or in, Vermont.”
  • 1,300 alumni live and work in the state—in government agencies, law firms, businesses and nonprofits.
  • We will continue our close working relationship with the Vermont Bar and Judiciary.
  • We hold two of five seats on the Vermont Supreme Court.
  • Our South Royalton Legal Clinic and Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic provide much-need legal services.
  • And there remain serious legal service needs for those with low and middle incomes.
  • We are developing the next generation of Vermont attorneys.
  • For a small school, VLS’s economic impact on the state is great. And we are an important contributor to the economy of central Vermont.
  • Our future plans to enhance campus include construction of student housing.

VLS and the Environment

We will continue our leadership in environmental law and policy.

  • We offer the largest and best environmental law program in the country.
  • We offer more environmental courses, and have more environmental faculty members, than any other law school in the country.
  • Our faculty practice and teach. They are litigators, scholars and researchers.
  • Our graduates work in government agencies, nonprofits and law firms. They credit Vermont Law School’s experiential approach for their success in finding meaningful work.
  • We will expand our climate initiatives.
  • And we will expand our programs, nationally and internationally.

Other Programs—Restorative Justice and International

We will grow additional programs.

  • Justice Reform: We hope to soon report that we have received acquiescence from the ABA for a new degree program in restorative justice.
  • Internationally: I am committed to strengthening and enhancing global relationships.

VLS Going Forward

We will take pride in educating our students, in the words of Tom Debevoise, “beyond their presumed abilities.”

We will continue to take great satisfaction as educators in the engagement and advancement of our students — and in their professional success as they transform themselves into law and policy experts and join their intellects and ambitions to the service of the world.

That is the function of an educational institution. That is especially the function of a school devoted to the teaching of law and policy, and is especially satisfying for one as mission-driven as Vermont Law School.

I welcome the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, and ask your guidance and support as we imagine, and create, the Vermont Law School of the future. A future that is committed to the best possible legal education for all VLS students, and dedicated to the promotion of environmental quality and social justice.

I hope and trust that you will join with me, with the faculty, staff, students and alumni of VLS, to realize a more just and sustainable world. That commitment to community is one of many reasons I am so proud to be the ninth president and dean of Vermont Law School.

Thank you!

-President and Dean Tom McHenry, October 13, 2017, Vermont Law School Presidential Installation Ceremony


An Admissions Update

from John Miller, Vice President
Enrollment Management and Marketing and Communications

Admissions UpdateThis year was a successful admissions year, and we wanted our Leaders' Circle members to be among the first to know. Our JD class of 161 students had stronger credentials and was nearly 20 percent larger compared to last year. Students came to VLS from 34 states, seven countries, and represented over 100 undergraduate institutions. Our on-campus Master's class was 45 percent larger than last year's, and our on-campus LLM class was slightly smaller. Our online enrollments continue to remain strong. VLS has a steadfast commitment to enrolling students from diverse backgrounds and maintains a 21 percent diversity rate, making us one of the most diverse educational institutions in Vermont. As we enter the fall months, the admissions office starts all over again, dispersing across the nation to recruit future Swans. We thank you for your support since your contributions help VLS remain competitive with merit and need-based aid to deserving students.

Vermont Law School Board of Trustees Elects Officers

The Board of Trustees at Vermont Law School elected new officers on October 14, 2017.

Colleen Connor JD'86

Colleen Connor JD'85Colleen Connor JD’85 was elected chair of the VLS Board of Trustees.

Colleen graduated from Michigan State University in 1982 with a BA in Political Science and received her JD in 1985 from Vermont Law School. She worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Manhattan, then went on to private practice in New Jersey. In 1993, Colleen joined GE holding various roles in the environmental, health and safety areas. She is currently the Leader of Environment, Health and Safety for GE’s Power business with global responsibilities.

Colleen was on the VLS Alumni Council in the early 1990s. She served as an Alumni Trustee from 2004-2010, and was elected to the Board of Trustees in 2010. Since that time she has served the school in a variety of roles, including Chair of the Board’s Budget and Finance Committee and as Chair of the Risk Analysis and Compliance Committee. She also served on Facilities & Planning, Investment, and Governance committees.

In addition to her board service, Colleen has served as a reunion volunteer, has been a mentor to students, hired VLS interns and graduates, and hosted alumni events in her home. She is a member of the Leaders’ Circle, President’s Society, and the Douglas Meredith Legacy Society. Colleen is married to Brian P. Kelahan who oversees post high school planning, recruitment, and alumni affairs at Common Ground High School in New Haven, Conn. They reside in Fairfield, Conn., and have three grown sons.

Constance Neary JD'89

Constance NearyAccepting the position of vice chair, Constance Neary JD’89 is the vice president for risk management at United Educators, a risk management and liability insurance firm serving over 1,500 educational institutions. In this role, she oversees research examining liability claims trends and practices used to successfully manage risk in the educational setting. United Educators is a risk management and liability insurance firm serving over 1,500 educational institutions. Constance works with a diverse staff of 31 subject matter experts, learning designers and technologists, and consultants to deliver publications, webinars and workshops, online courses, and consulting services to meet the needs of UE members committed to reducing risk.

Constance joined the VLS board in 2015, joining on the development, facilities, audit and budget committees, and most recently chaired the Audit, Risk Analysis, and Compliance Committee. She is a member of the Leaders’ Circle and has served as a reunion volunteer.

 Constance presents regularly on liability and risk management topics to associations and insurance industry groups serving all segments of education. In 2011, she was the recipient of Risk and Insurance’s “risk innovator of the year” award and has participated on various committees of the National Association of College and University Attorneys and the editorial board of the Journal of College and University Law. Prior to joining UE, Neary practiced law at Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, D.C. Constance and her husband Richard P. Schlegel live in Chevy Chase, Md., and much of their free time enjoying their five children (three sons and two daughters) and two grandchildren.

Anne Ostby MSL'88

Re-elected as Vermont Law School’s Board secretary is Anne "Annie" Debevoise Ostby MSL’88. Annie is in private practice in Montana where she has also worked on access to justice issues. She served as an administrative Law Judge for the Office of Commissioner of Insurance for the State of Wisconsin. As the daughter of former Dean Thomas Debevoise, who served as Vermont Law School’s president from 1974 to 1982, and Ann T. Debevoise, Trustee emeritus, Annie has deep connections and a powerful commitment to the school. Annie first joined the Vermont Law School Board of Trustees in 2012. She is chair of the Nominating Committee and serves on the Governance and Tenure committees. Annie received her JD from the University of Wisconsin Law School, and holds a BA from Yale University. She and her husband Andy Ostby own and operate a ranch in Montana, and have a son and a daughter.

 Kevin R. Mendik JD'87/MSEL'86

Kevin MendikElected to the position of treasurer is Kevin R. Mendik JD'87/MSEL'86. Kevin works for the Northeast Region of the U.S. National Park Service. Since 1990, he has been involved in NEPA and internal environmental compliance for restorations of historic landscapes and structures within National Park units. His work also includes Wild and Scenic River designations, hydro licensing proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission affecting park units, and adjacent land protection for the Appalachian Trail. Prior to joining the National Park Service, Kevin worked on wetlands regulation for the Town of Lexington, Mass., as conservation administrator. He has a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science from Boston University. 

Kevin joined the Board of Trustees for Vermont Law School Board in 2008. During his tenure, he has chaired the Facilities Committee and sat on the Nominating Committee. He is also a long term member of the VLS Environmental Law Center Advisory Board. His support for VLS has remained consistent since his graduation.

Kevin has published several books and articles on American golf history and architecture, and has assisted in the restoration of numerous classic American courses. He plays with only vintage hickory shaft golf clubs.

New Member Lindi von Mutius JD'08

Lindi von MutiusOn her Twitter page, Lindi von Mutius describes herself as an “immigrant, bleeding heart pragmatist, Episcopalian, attorney, conservationist” who is “working to make the planet fabulous & equitable for all.” Scroll down through her tweets and you can see that this is a woman who knows how to “walk her talk.”

Born in Essen, Germany, Lindi and her family moved to the United States in 1989—a few months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. They settled in Natick, Massachusetts, where Lindi attended Phillips Exeter Academy for high school. She holds a BA in Environmental Studies and History from Williams College, and an MA in Environmental Management from Harvard University.

While at Harvard, Lindi worked at The Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), a United Nations initiative committed to ensuring the long-term survival of chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and orangutans and their habitats in Africa and Asia. In her work, she researched the gaps in conservation laws for cross-boundary apes, and identified legal solutions therein. Ultimately, she helped draft the successfully ratified Kinshasa Declaration. It was an illuminating experience for Lindi: “I realized, more than ever the power of the law to affect change.” Wanting to have a career where she could make a “positive impact on the world,” Lindi chose to attend law school. As the nation’s preeminent environmental law school, VLS was her first choice.

She recounts her first year being, “a bit of a shock. I was a science geek, and I thought I would get to study environmental law right away, so retraining my brain to think about bending black letter rules of contract and torts law was not easy.” As she recounts, Lindi was very lucky to work in the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic with David Mears, Monica Litzelman, and Pat Parenteau. “They changed my life. In their own ways, they took the time to mentor me, and explain the nuts and bolts of how what I learned in my first year would translate into making me a good environmental lawyer. Also, Pat taught me an important lesson about being on time to court—and I have never been late to court—and David remains one of my most helpful career advisors to this day.”

Lindi graduated from VLS in 2008, but her desire to work in environmental law was eclipsed by a tight employment market. As part of her Semester in Practice, she had learned bankruptcy law at the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, and after law school, found a bankruptcy law position at Flaster/Greenberg and later at Fox Rothschild in New Jersey. “I had a few interesting cases where bankruptcy and environmental law intersected, but as much as I enjoyed that practice, I yearned to get back to environmental work.”

Then her world changed: shortly after her thirtieth birthday, she was diagnosed with Stage III B-cell Lymphoma. Chemotherapy and surgery forced Lindi to take a health sabbatical for seven months and then only work part-time. During that time, she “thought a lot about getting back to environmental policy work.” She mentioned this goal to the retiring head of the German-American Chamber of Commerce in Philadelphia—a liaison office for the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy—who encouraged her to apply to be the GACC’s in house counsel, executive director, and lobbyist. “It was the Swiss army knife of jobs,” Lindi notes, “but it allowed me to work on renewable energy tax credit lobbying, and that seemed like a great way to marry my environmental and business law backgrounds.” After two years, she moved to the GACC’s sister office in D.C., and worked as the director of Legal and Government Affairs, lobbying on the Toxic Substances Control Act, energy efficiency regulations, and trade policy.

While volunteering for an environmental justice group that was working on harbor cleanup in Baltimore, Lindi met a trustee from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). She told the trustee about her desire to get into back into environmental policy work; that simple conversation initiated Lindi’s entry into the EDF where she worked as chief of staff to the executive director. She describes her role as “part referee/part firefighter,” and adds, “My role was to solve problems all across the organization, make sure that my boss had what she needed to be successful, ensure that strategic objectives were being met, and help with the development of a global strategic plan. Nothing prepares you to be a chief of staff than working on complex litigation for four different law firm partners!”

Just recently, Lindi accepted a new position as chief of staff at the Sierra Club. She says that this is “a big, exciting leap, and I can’t wait to work in an organization that I’ve admired since I was a little kid, and saw all over my environmental law textbooks.”

Lindi also serves on the board of directors of Out for Sustainability, which mobilizes the LGBTQ community for environmental and social action.

In the 10 years since she graduated from law school, Lindi’s work at the EDF, and now the Sierra Club, has helped to fulfill her goal of working for organizations that seek to address some of the urgent environmental issues in the world. She credits the skills she learned at Vermont Law School—engaging different stakeholders, learning to communicate effectively and persuasively—as well as her years in a law practice with giving her the tools to work in management.

Lindi is quite clear about why she supports Vermont Law School at the Leaders’ Circle level: “David Mears and the ENRLC—I want to pay forward what they gave me!” She adds, “this sounds cheesy and jargony, but VLS is training a new generation of smart and capable environmental advocates and lawyers. I think we need that more than ever now.”

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Welcome New Members

The Leaders' Circle continues to grow!

The following people have joined or renewed their membership in the Leaders' Circle since the summer of 2017:

  • Christopher Smith '14

See all Leaders' Circle members