Inner Circle Winter campus 2015

The Inner Circle / Winter 2015

VLS Today

Marc Mihaly Leaders CircleDear Friends,

A new year is always a wonderful opportunity to reflect, to think about where we’ve come from and where we’re headed. In my last note to you, I shared with you some of the ways that Vermont Law School is addressing the challenges facing legal education and thinking about the future. Last year, we refocused our marketing and admissions strategies, added new academic opportunities for undergraduates, professionals, and distance learners, and strengthened our fundraising efforts.

I’m happy to report that we have made great progress, and our sharpened focus on our core work and mission is paying off. This year’s admissions cycle is already showing promise, with quality applicants and strong attendance at undergraduate fairs and on-campus visitor days. The Leaders’ Circle has grown, and hundreds of alumni, parents, and friends supported VLS in our year-end campaign. We are more than halfway to our ambitious $700,000 annual fund goal.

Looking back, there is something else that stands out to me and bears recognition: the incredible work of our Board of Trustees. In the past few years, the Board worked tirelessly to ensure the success and security of Vermont Law School. They applied their every resource to thinking creatively, strategically, and carefully about our future. Their talent and tenacity has been invaluable, as VLS has faced some of the toughest times for law schools in many years.

This fall, some of our board members completed their terms and moved on to new challenges. Each of these individuals made enormous contributions to our law school, and their years of service and support were integral. From the success of our most recent campaign to the construction of the Center for Legal Services, these board members brought their voice, their skills, and their vision to make VLS stronger. Ed Mattes, Perez Ehrich, Fran Yates, Randy Hertz, Michele Gatto, and Mary Wilson, we thank you.

In this transition, I am thrilled to announce that Trustee Chris Dutton has agreed to take on the important role of Chairman of the Board. Chris has served on the Board since 2006, and brings vast leadership experience from his work at the helm of Green Mountain Power and Vermont Electric Power Company, and as chair of both Vermont Telecommunications Authority and Fletcher Allen Healthcare’s Board of Trustees.

Longtime board member and President and CEO of Hampshire Real Estate Companies, Jimmy Hanson ’83, has accepted the position of Vice Chair, and leads the Board’s Strategic Planning Committee. Rick Shafer ’77, Founder and President of Green Lake Associates, and ten year veteran of the Board, has agreed to take on the role of Board Secretary and chair the Development Committee.

Colleen Connor ’85, EHS Manager and Counsel at General Electric, will step into the critical position of Board Treasurer and will chair the Budget and Finance Committee. Colleen has served on the Board since joining as an Alumni Trustee in 2005. Together, these members have decades of experience working on behalf of Vermont Law School, and are proven leaders and innovators. We welcome them to their new roles and thank them for their leadership.

Finally, I’d like to introduce and welcome our newest board member, Rick Matasar. Rick is the former dean of New York Law School, and currently serves New York University as its Vice President for University Enterprise Initiatives. At New York Law School, he was recognized as a thought-leader who sought to reform the traditional legal education model to work better for today’s students, economy and legal market. I am excited to work with Rick and know that his experience and expertise will bring much to the table for Vermont Law School.

It’s clear that we have work to do in the year ahead, but I know that our Board, our faculty, staff, and community are up for the challenge: we are Vermont Law School, after all. So this year, as we continue to implement the tenets of our strategic plan, I am confident that Vermont Law School’s unique mission, academic programs, and community will continue to serve us well. VLS is like no other law school, and we are stronger for it.


Marc Mihaly signature white

Marc B. Mihaly, President and Dean

Like Mother, Like Son

Inner Circle member profile winter 2015Alumna Susan Lacoste MSEL’03 and Alumnus Todd Heine ’11 have something in common that extends beyond mother and son DNA: they are both proud members of the Vermont Law School Leaders’ Circle.

In her mid‐50s, Susan fulfilled a dream to live in Vermont and attend law school. Enrolling in the MSEL program in 2002, she immediately found a warm and supportive community. “The faculty were amazing; I learned so much, and they bent over backward to allow me to apply my course work to areas that were of interest to me.”

Like many graduates, Susan feels that attending VLS was a life‐altering experience. She had completed undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Chicago where she received an excellent education. But, she says “The University of Chicago taught to my brain; VLS taught to my soul.” Susan graduated cum laude in 2003. Now retired and living in Montreal, Susan volunteers for NGOs as a French translator, and in support of climate change initiatives.

With Susan’s encouragement, her son Todd M. Heine attended Vermont Law School. A focused and driven student, Todd enrolled in 2008 and graduated three years later summa cum laude with triple degrees: JD, LLM, and Master’s through VLS’s joint‐degree program with the Université de Cergy‐Pontoise.

Like his Mom, Todd found VLS faculty to be flexible and helpful during his somewhat unorthodox studies at Vermont Law School. “I’m the only attorney I know who studied for three years, in three countries, and got three degrees. Faculty in VLS’s international program were incredibly supportive in making it happen.”

Now living in Seattle, Todd is an attorney for fast‐growth companies that need support on employment, tax, immigration, and corporate law in conjunction with HR, which almost always involves multiple countries. He has also provided pro bono counsel for people seeking refugee status in the U.S.

Mother and son share a love for Vermont Law School. Says Susan, “I met the most fantastic people who care about our world—the people and the environment. The school is focused on humanity, kindness—values that we need to reinforce in our changing world.” Todd echoes Susan’s comments and notes, “VLS faculty, colleagues, and culture taught me that the human side of law is the most valuable part of legal services. I wouldn’t have gotten that perspective anywhere else.” Susan and Todd’s support of VLS extends beyond financial. Susan serves as a member of Vermont Law School’s 3M (MSL, MSEL, and MELP) Committee, whose work resulted in the creation of two new seats for Master’s only students on the Vermont Law School Alumni Association Board. The group also focuses on the academic experience of master’s students during their tenure at VLS. This year, Susan has also agreed to serve as a member of the Dean’s Leaders’ Circle Committee, working to build philanthropic support for VLS. Todd, an active alumnus in Seattle, is participating in establishing a regional group in that area, and has organized alumni gatherings. Two wonderful people—one family, in one large community. Thank you, Susan and Todd, for your generous support of Vermont Law School!

Admissions: How You Can Help

By John Miller '09, Associate Dean for Enrollment and Marketing

John Miller horizontal Application season is in full force here in Admissions. As we work on recruiting the entering classes of 2015, I want to take the opportunity to address a question I’m often asked: “How can I help?” The answer is, you can do so much—and you already have.

As a Vermont Law School Leaders’ Circle member, you have shown your commitment. Your support of VLS bolsters our reputation among prospective students and influencers. If your voice helps just one prospective student make the decision to come to Vermont Law School, you will have had an enormous impact.

In Admissions, we work hard to connect prospective students with alumni who can answer questions about VLS, and offer advice and support through the application process. If you want to help in this way, make sure that you’ve shared all of your current contact, address and business information with the Office for Institutional Advancement.

We also ask that potential alumni volunteers sign up for Vermont Law School’s alumni website, vlsConnect. We use the online directory to identify alumni who want to help; we reach out to those who might make good personal connections for prospective students. We have a go-to list of amazing alumni volunteers, but we are always grateful for new faces and perspectives.

If you are—or want to become—an admissions volunteer, you may be asked to attend an upcoming prospective student event in your community, or to talk to someone interested in your field of expertise. It’s important to note that we do not give out your contact information to prospective students without permission.

Again and again, I’ve seen that referrals from within the Vermont Law School community make the best VLS students. So, if you know someone who is considering VLS, please reach out to us; we would love to assist them as they decide if Vermont Law School is a good match.

We appreciate all the support we get from our alumni and our community. I am grateful to work with you each year. It’s going to be an exciting few months for us in Admissions, and I look forward to telling you more about our next class of entering students. Thank you!

A Call for Volunteers!

Leaders Circle logoWe are excited to share that—under the leadership of Board member Rick Shafer ’77—Vermont Law School has restored the Dean’s Leaders’ Circle Committee, a group dedicated to building philanthropic support for VLS through strong membership in the Leaders’ Circle.

When the Leaders’ Circle was at its height, its membership was largely driven by the work of this group, a small but loyal cadre of volunteers. Over the course of the year–through phone calls, emails, and sometimes even personal visits–volunteers would reach out to alumni, parents, and friends, to ask for support at the Leaders’ Circle level. It worked then, and it can work now.

Vermont Law School’s Strategic Plan calls for 200 Leaders’ Circle members by June 30, 2015, and with the help of the Dean’s Leaders’ Circle Committee, we plan to get there. Our community is strong, and there are scores of alumni, parents and friends who would love to put their philanthropic support behind VLS—it’s our job to give them that opportunity.

This winter, we have increased our membership in the Leaders’ Circle to more than 100 supporters, and we are thrilled to be halfway to our goal. But we have work to do, and we need your help. Fundraising is not for the faint of heart, but if you are reading this, you have chosen to give generously to support VLS. You believe in philanthropy and you believe in Vermont Law School.

Please join us as we reconnect with the nearly 100 lapsed Leaders’ Circle members, and reach out to 50 more whose past pledges remain unfulfilled. Help us make new connections within our community and bring our alumni, parents, and friends into the Leaders’ Circle. Your work will make an important difference.

Will you choose to help us reinvigorate membership in the Leaders’ Circle? If so, please contact Patty McIlvaine, Director of Development, at 802-831-1325.

Thank you.

High Stakes, Real-Time Law

Student clinicians GMO Inner CirlceVermont Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic played a critical role in last year’s passage of the State’s first-in-the-nation labeling law for genetically engineered (GE) foods, and is now a leading player in its defense. In January, the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont heard arguments in the case against the labeling law.

The Clinic began representing the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) in 2012, providing legal support to the group’s advocacy for a GE labeling law in Vermont. The Clinic’s students were at the heart of this work, contributing to a comprehensive constitutional law memo that was shared widely with state officials and legislators, and testifying in committee hearings about the factual and legal bases for the law.

Student clinicians also compiled a wealth of studies and reports documenting the potential health risks and environmental harms of GE foods, explanations of the current regulatory systems, and polling results that demonstrated the broad state and national support for GE labeling. This information was shared with legislators, and as the law moved through the statehouse, the weighty stack of documents became affectionately known as “The Binders.”

In addition to their work with legislators, the Clinic’s students have also had the opportunity to work closely and strategize with other policy leaders in the state, including coalition partners of Vermont Right to Know GMOs: Rural Vermont, Northeast Organic Farming Association-VT, Cedar Circle Farm, and the Clinic’s client VPIRG. Clinic students were able to experience and participate in grassroots advocacy, and play an important part in the development of a groundbreaking law.

When the GE labeling law passed last May, Vermont made national news, and it was an enormous win for the bill’s advocates and the clinicians that worked on the project. But despite the bill’s broad support, the Clinic knew the victory was just the beginning--a challenge from the food industry was inevitable. So when just one month after Governor Shumlin signed Act 120, the industry sued Vermont, the Clinic was prepared for the challenge.

The Clinic moved swiftly to take part in the law’s defense, continuing to represent VPIRG, and also representing the Center for Food Safety (CFS) along with co-counsel from CFS. In July, the Clinic filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit. The Judge denied that motion, but allowed VPIRG and CFS to participate as amici curiae for the pendency of the suit. This fall, the Clinic submitted substantial briefing on the constitutional issues in the case in collaboration with the State (briefing available here.

There is still work to do to ensure the success of Act 120, and the final outcome remains to be seen. But no matter how it ends, it’s clear the Clinic’s work has been integral in sparking the national conversation about GE labeling. This kind of work is emblematic of the VLS clinical experience: giving students the invaluable opportunity to participate in a high-stakes, real-time legal project—to be an advocate on an issue that matters. We can’t wait to see where it leads.

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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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Join the Leaders' Circle

Leaders' Circle logo 2014







Welcome New Members

The Leaders' Circle continues to grow!

The following people have joined the Leaders' Circle since the fall of 2014:

  • Anonymous
  • Lisa M. Campion '11
  • Tom Federle '96
  • Steve Feldman '93
  • Janice A. Forgays, Esq. '85
  • Jackie Gardina, Vice Dean for Faculty
  • Mario F. Gallucci '90
  • Todd Heine '11
  • Mr. and Mrs. Ralph E. Jones III
  • Susan G. Lacoste MSEL'03 P'11
  • Mark Latham, Deputy Vice Dean for Academic Affairs
  • Gregory D. Shelton '97 and Jeanmarie Shelton
  • David Thelander '87
  • Jeremy T. Vermilyea '96
  • Stephanie Willbanks, Vice Dean for Administration and Student Affairs, and Stephen Willbanks

France lavender field

Experience Paris and Provence—VLS Style

Continue your lifetime learning with Professors of Law John Echeverria and Tom McHenry and current students on the Comparative U.S.-France Land Use Field Study Course, May 18-30, 2015. Study different approaches to land use management and protection from a comparative perspective, looking at Vermont, California and France. Here's your opportunity to spend a week in France and immerse yourself in the VLS learning experience! Learn more here.

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Vermont Law Review / Books 1 & 2

This year's volume of the Vermont Law Review is dedicated to Professor Cheryl Hanna; Book 1 features a moving speech by Professor Hanna that she gave in 2010. The speech is preceded by a wonderful dedication to Professor Hanna written by Charlie Becker, the journal's Managing Editor. Also included is a laudatory review of Professor Philip Meyer's book, Storytelling for Lawyers. David Dow writes that Professor Meyer's book is "splendid" and a "magisterial volume." Books 1 and 2 include scholarship on the following topics: ag-gag laws, land tenure and young farmers in Vermont, environmental post-modernists, GMO labeling laws, high frequency trading regulation, international environmental law, same-sex marriage, transgender military inmates, and more. Please contact Marie Horbar, Editor-in-Chief, about obtaining a limited hard copy version of the issue.