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The Inner Circle / Winter 2017

 

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>> State of the Campus by Dean and President Marc Mihaly
>> Experiential Advocacy Program
>> Member Profile: Mollie Roth JD'96
>> Community Renewable Energy

 

An Update from the Dean Search Committee

 

Dear Leaders' Circle and President's Society members,

The Dean Search Committee, after interviewing several candidates in person to serve as the next Dean and President of Vermont Law School, invited five candidates to campus for further interviews and meetings with the administration, students, staff, faculty, and alumni over the course of two days. One of the important aspects of each campus visit was a presentation by the candidates where they shared with the VLS community their background, qualifications, interest in the position, and vision for the school. The candidates then fielded questions from those in attendance.

In order to have as inclusive a process as possible, after completion of the campus visits, the various members of the VLS community or their representatives—staff, students, faculty and alumni—met to discuss the candidates, and then representatives from those constituents shared their views regarding the candidates with the members of the Dean Search Committee.

Informed by the feedback from the VLS community, the Dean Search Committee met on Friday, February 3, to deliberate and, as required by the VLS Bylaws, to ultimately recommend to the Board of Trustees at least two candidates for consideration by the full Board as to whom would serve as the next President and Dean of Vermont Law School. We are now pleased to inform you that the Dean Search Committee unanimously recommended David Mears and Thomas McHenry for consideration by the full Board.

David is well known by many of you. He is currently a professor and serves as the VLS Dean of Faculty. After years of law practice, David joined the VLS faculty, directed the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, and taught courses including Property and Environmental Law. David has also taught as a Fulbright Scholar at Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou, China. As many of you know, David has had a distinguished legal career in public service, ranging from the Enforcement Coordinator in the Texas Water Commission, Assistant Attorney General in the Texas Office of the Attorney General, Trial Attorney with the Department of Justice’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division, and Senior Assistant Attorney General and Chief of the Ecology Division in the state of Washington Office of the Attorney General. More recently, David served for four years as the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation in the Shumlin administration before returning to VLS.

David has a lengthy and deep relationship with VLS that started when he was a student here earning his JD and Master of Environmental Law and Policy degree. Indeed, if selected, David would be the first alumnus to serve as the President and Dean of Vermont Law School. David attended undergraduate at Cornell University and graduated with a degree in environmental engineering technology.

Thomas McHenry is a partner in the Los Angeles office of the full service law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, where he is a member of the firm’s environmental and natural resources practice group. His practice focuses on a broad range of environmental issues including air quality, hazardous wastes, environmental due diligence, land use, and energy. In addition to his practice, Tom has served on a variety of California state environmental advisory committees and commissions, as well as on the boards of several environmental non-profit organizations. Tom has also taught for years Environmental Law and Environmental Leadership at Claremont McKenna College. For the past three summers, Tom has also taught in the VLS summer program, including an environmental due diligence course and co-taught a course on comparative land use regulation.

Tom attended Yale College where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree history in 1977 and received a Master of Forest Science from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 1980. Tom then attended law school at New York University where he received his JD in 1983.

The final step in the process of selecting the next President and Dean of Vermont Law School is for David and Tom to meet with the full Board this Saturday. The Board of Trustees will hear from representatives of the students, staff, faculty, and alumni, then deliberate and make a decision shortly thereafter as to whom will succeed Marc Mihaly as the next President and Dean of Vermont Law School.

On behalf of the Dean Search Committee, Brian and I thank all who participated in this important endeavor. We appreciate all the feedback, ideas, advice, and questions that we received from so many. It was invaluable input and served to inform the members of the Dean Search Committee as we considered all the impressive candidates seeking to lead this wonderful institution that each of you have so selflessly supported.

With thanks to you all,

 Brian Dunkiel signature  Vice Dean Mark Latham

Brian Dunkiel '96
Co-Chair, Dean Search Committee
Member, Board of Trustees
Vermont Law School

Mark Latham
Co-Chair, Dean Search Committee
Professor of Law 
Vermont Law School


State of the Campus by President and Dean Marc Mihaly
 

Vermont Law SchoolDear Leaders' Circle and President's Society Members,

This is a most exciting time for Vermont Law School. As you may remember, last May the Community and Trustees adopted a new VLS Strategic Plan. We are now in full implementation mode.

The Strategic Plan provides for the launch of a “hybrid” JD where students will spend one entire year at VLS, and then have the option to finish up over the next two-to-four years in our intense and high quality online program while they work part-or-full time. We have applied for the necessary regulatory approvals, and are building the in-house infrastructure necessary to meet the needs of this new cohort. Together with our growing accelerated two-year JD (six semesters including summers), VLS students will have even greater flexibility to customize their education to meet their timeline, and reduce their student debt. We also see a growing use of internships and semesters-in-practice for the same reasons.

As you know, the Master’s degrees now provide a substantial portion of our enrollment and revenue. The Strategic Plan envisions incubation of new degrees or programs that will generate additional enrollment or other new sources of revenue for the school. One of the most promising has just emerged: a possible educational offering from a new Center for Criminal Justice Reform at VLS, an effort spearheaded by Professor Bobby Sand, a leader in the field of restorative justice. We have completed a detailed market study that found a substantial unmet market for a master’s degree and possible certificates in the restorative justice field. We are pursuing this option now, starting with the regulatory approvals, marketing, and building of curriculum.

We are in the final phases of the selection of a new dean who will take the helm mid-year. I am delighted to report that we had a plethora of qualified candidates. Through the excellent work of a joint board-faculty-staff-student selection committee, that list was narrowed to five, and then two candidates to be considered soon by the trustees.

We will report to you soon an update on the Strategic Plan implementation and the results of the dean search. Please feel free to write or call me with questions or thoughts.

Very best,

Marc Mihaly signature

Marc Mihaly
President and Dean
Vermont Law School


Hands-On Law Education
 

Inner Circle, Gary BrooksOne course to be launched this summer at Vermont Law School is Improv for Lawyers. But though the class will be co-taught by an actor and theater professional, it won’t focus on comedy or the stage. The class instead will emphasize skills lawyers need: thinking and reacting quickly, making effective presentations and compelling storytelling.

In a restructuring of the VLS Experiential Advocacy Program (XAD), Improv for Lawyers and another summertime weekend intensive course, Writing for Practice—crafting memoranda, engagement and opinion letters and other documents—are being developed. Those courses and other initiatives planned by XAD director and assistant professor Gary Brooks reflect a growing focus at VLS and nationally on the importance of hands-on law education through simulations, clinical work and other practical-skills training. The consensus is that the most effective education combines theory and practice.

“My vision is for this program to be the driver for VLS to meet and exceed the expectations and requirements of the American Bar Association and accrediting agencies,” Brooks says. “I want to create new offerings in the regular curriculum that are experiential-based in a more innovative way…It will be a ‘guerrilla’ approach to insert experiential things into the curriculum wherever we can.” VLS is building on its foundation as a leader in experiential law education, underscoring that while it’s helpful for law students to see a contract, it’s far more useful for them to actually write and arbitrate one before they begin practice.

XAD’s forerunner, the model General Practice Program, was established in 1987 as a simulation-based teaching methodology and later recognized by the ABA. “I want to return the program to its roots, where it was designed to offer simulation and practical-skills training to students who end up in small firms or solo practice…so they’re dealing with adjunct professors who are practicing lawyers and can create simulations,” says Brooks, XAD director since July 2016. In small firms, “They may not get the kind of mentoring…to give them more training, skills and experience.”

Examples of simulations are handling a divorce proceeding, counseling a plaintiff in a personal injury suit, drafting probate and estate-planning documents, and conducting real estate closings. In the XAD restructuring, some existing adjunct courses will transition from freestanding XAD courses into labs — with simulations — affiliated with doctrinal courses. Brooks also is developing a system to plug experiential classes into doctrinal courses if a professor has to miss a class. A colleague can fill in with an experiential or simulation-based class. Courses that focus on professionalism—how to treat other lawyers and the courts, responsibility to client and community—will be part of the XAD reorganization, too.

XAD includes a certificate option for students who meet certain criteria. The certificate will be retooled and on hiatus during the 2017-18 academic year and reinstituted for 2018-19 as the renamed General Practice Certificate. The XAD program also will be renamed. “The certificate has provided a niche for the law school. It has been a big factor in recruiting students and in students being able to successfully find jobs in cases where the certificate really meant something to a potential employer,” Brooks says. Experiential learning is popular at VLS. “All indications are that students can’t get enough of it,” says Brooks, who teaches estate planning and commercial transactions courses.

Alumni who took his classes have attested to the effectiveness of experiential learning. An alumnus in Brooks’ commercial transactions class accepted employment with a small southern Vermont law firm. “His first assignment was almost exactly identical to a simulation problem we dealt with in class. He was able to jump all over it and impress the firm’s partners with his quick work,” Brooks says. Another graduate who had taken the same class interviewed for a position at a Burlington law firm, in a competitive field of candidates. Unexpectedly, she was asked to draft a promissory note on the spot.

In a simulation in the commercial transactions class, she had prepared a promissory note. “She said she knew exactly how to do it at the interview,” Brooks notes. She got the job.


Member Profile: Mollie Roth JD'96

Molly Roth JD'96 Vermont Law School attracts students who are universally talented, highly entrepreneurial, sometimes quirky, frequently passionate, and always engaged. Mollie Roth may just fit into all five categories. She has walked many paths since receiving her JD in 1996, but she has stayed rooted in a landscape of science, law, business and innovation.

Before coming to VLS, Mollie’s earned a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers, majoring in neuropsychopharmacology, the study of how drugs and the environment influence the nervous system. After college she worked as a research assistant at Oregon State College of Pharmacy where she studied the role of amino acids in the body’s regulation and mediation of pain. Although Mollie’s ultimate goal was attending medical school (something she still hopes to do) she decided that law would be a more manageable challenge at that point in her life.

The Environmental Law program was what originally drew her to Vermont Law School, but Mollie soon realized that this area of law was not going to give her the challenge she sought. “During moot court, I realized that endless arguments over whether some piece of garbage was in fact garbage under some environmental statute did not suit my skills or personality. I began to take a variety of courses, and it struck me with my education and experience in science that patent law might be a good fit for me.”

After graduating in the top 10 of her class, Mollie was hired by what was then Kaye Scholer Fierman Hays & Handler LLP (KS). It was more than luck that brought her to this prestigious New York City firm: “I was supposed to interview with KS at a science law recruiting conference but the firm withdrew from the conference before I got a chance to meet them. I then proceeded to drive KS’ Assistant Human Resources Director—who had a small connection to Vermont—insane for months. Her efforts, and a letter of introduction from the then Dean Max Kempner, paved the way to an interview. “I was the first student from VLS they had ever employed and I swear they half expected me to come to work in Birkenstocks!” Mollie learned the value of going the extra mile and approaching things from a different manner—a lesson she has applied across her many career paths.

At KS, Mollie became immersed in complex pharmaceutical product liability litigation and again, realized that this area of law did not suit her. “As a litigator, you are focused on things that happened years in the past and not helping to move the business forward. I wanted to use my legal skills to make better decisions to help grow business, not talk about things that could have been prevented previously.”

Mollie got the opportunity in the business world when she was hired as Vice President, Business Development and General Counsel of Diaceutics, a small international consulting company working in the personalized medicine space. As the fourth hire of this start-up consulting company, Mollie took an enormous risk. “I actually took more than a 50% pay cut to take the position, but I knew I wanted out of large firm practice, and personalized medicine was just taking off as an area of scientific research and I found it fascinating.1” She eventually moved into a position of Chief Operating Officer for Diaceutics and helped grow the company to 30 people, located in five countries across two continents.

In 2013, Mollie founded her own consulting company PGx Consulting, providing a variety of expertise and business services to biotech companies and laboratories working in the personalized medicine space. One of her first clients at PGx was a dental company, which led Mollie to study the intersection between the oral microbiome (the bacteria that live in our mouths) and systemic health. Research suggests that these bacteria play a role in a variety of diseases, from pancreatic cancer and heart disease to preterm birth. Mollie expanded her study of the microbiome and fostered an interest in companies engaged in commercializing microbiome therapies. That interest, now a passion, led her to establish the Arrowhead Translational Microbiome Conference, which brings together companies from around the world to discuss and overcome the challenges and hurdles to commercializing microbiome technologies. Mollie also serves as Executive Director of The Microbiome Coalition (TMBC), an organization she helped start. TMBC works to promote greater public understanding of the role of the microbiome in human health and wellness, and works to advance appropriate regulations, needed investment and required infrastructure.

Despite a full plate, Mollie also serves as Assistant General Counsel, Compliance for two divisions of CR Bard, a medical device manufacturer in Phoenix and Salt Lake City. “I am not sure this area of law even existed when I was in school,” Mollie said, but she also notes that it draws on skills from many areas, not just law, which keeps it fresh and interesting. In this position, Mollie trains new hires on the laws pertaining to the medical device industry, writes articles on timely issues, organizes and hosts quarterly compliance meetings with members of management and works with a variety of functions to ensure the division’s business practices are compliant and also meet business goals.

It would make sense that a person as busy as Mollie might shy away from volunteering for Vermont Law School, but last May, her classmate Brian Dunkiel recruited her to join several other classmates in preparing for their 20th reunion. “Brian conveniently forgot to mention that what he really wanted me to do was fundraise!” But she was committed. (Thanks the classmates she contacted for giving!)

Mollie said she joined the Leaders’ Circle for one simple reason: “Because I was asked, sometimes that’s all it really takes. I am now at a point in my career, between all of my microbiome work and my position at Bard, that I am able to gladly support the school. And I want to help grow VLS’ reputation beyond an environmental law school, because it served us non-environmental lawyers well, and I want prospective students to know that.”

Of her time at VLS Mollie says this: “I loved Vermont Law! How do you not love being at VLS? It is truly a family.” While her career took her on a different path than many of her peers, she is grateful for her experience at VLS. In Mollie’s experience, “right or wrong, having a JD provides you instant respect, and I was able to do more in emerging areas of science and law because of that degree. It also teaches you a way of thinking and looking at problems and challenges in a very specific and logical manner, the application of which helps in almost anything you do.”

1The Academy of Medical Sciences defines personalized medicine as “a medical procedure that separates patients into different groups—with medical decisions, practices, interventions and/or products being tailored to the individual patient based on their predicted response or risk of disease.”


Community Renewable Energy


Community Solar ProjectThe Institute for Energy and the Environment’s (IEE) Energy Clinic, established to advance the use of community renewable energy, recently secured more than a quarter of a million dollars in new funding sources to support their efforts. This support includes grants from two New England-based private foundations and a cooperative partnership established with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Development.

“The Clinic was established to serve local communities and help them pursue clean energy strategies that have a softer impact on the planet,” said Kevin Jones, Energy Clinic and IEE Director. “The technical assistance, legal advice and policy development work we are providing is resonating with funders. The experiential learning for our students as a transactional clinic focused on advancing a clean energy future is a significant added draw.”

Since its inception in 2014, the Clinic has developed some of the legal and business models needed to advance community energy development in New England and has provided the technical support to community organizations and others in Vermont and New Hampshire necessary to successfully launch renewable community energy projects. The Clinic, which provides these services free-of-charge, is student-staffed and operates year-round.

To further the Clinic’s efforts, the John Merck Fund awarded a one-year grant that allowed for the hiring of Jeannie Oliver, LLM’13 and former IEE Global Energy Fellow, as staff attorney to oversee the Clinic's legal work and expand the reach of this work throughout New England through collaboration with attorneys, the regulatory community, non-profits, and community groups in those jurisdictions. Adding this capacity allows the Clinic to increase advocacy efforts, community technical assistance, and training and peer support to other New England states. The Clinic also is working to adapt the community energy model to other regions and different ownership situations. These initiatives will help the region scale up its transition to locally developed, clean energy and provide a model for the rest of the nation.

“I am excited to help our students develop professional literacy in a very complex area of the law,” said Jeannie Oliver, “and to work with those students to make renewable energy transactions and the regulatory process understandable and accessible to communities, particularly underserved communities, motivated to reduce their carbon footprint through renewable energy technologies.”

With a grant from the Jane’s Trust Foundation, the Clinic established a new Climate Justice Fellowship. Laura Schieb JD'14, the current Climate Justice Fellow, is building on the Clinic’s community energy work by advancing sustainable and affordable energy solutions for those most vulnerable to the effects of energy poverty across New England. Solutions will be provided through focused technical assistance to service organizations, targeted public education to low-income communities, and training and peer support for organizations working toward similar goals.

“There are many barriers to overcome in helping underserved communities achieve access to clean solar energy to ensure there is a more fair distribution of benefits from net metering and other clean energy programs,” said Kevin Jones, Energy Clinic and IEE Director. “Through our climate justice work, we are seeking to broaden opportunities for solar ownership for all ensuring that both rural and low-income communities can benefit from increasing access to clean local solar.”

As an example of this work, the Energy Clinic is assisting the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association (NHSEA) to develop a community solar model that can be applied to cooperatively-owned mobile home parks in the state-affiliated ROC-NH (Resident Owned Communities). In New Hampshire, there are 119 Resident-Owned Communities affiliated with ROC-NH, consisting more than 6,800 households. The Clinic's goal is to develop a solar ownership model that can be broadly implemented by the ROCs under today's rules for these homeowners, and also for those homeowners in the 14 other states where ROC’s exist, including Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine.

Under the cooperative agreement developed with the USDA’s Rural Development program, the Clinic will advance rural development by enhancing community solar investment in New England’s rural communities through focused community technical assistance, training and peer support. The project will focus on developing and refining models that can be applied nationally to enhance rural economic development and promote investment in high poverty areas, while advancing the adoption of renewable energy technologies that mitigate climate change.

The Energy Clinic has a record of success on this issue. In the first few months of its existence, the Clinic provided technical assistance to Boardman Hill Solar Farm LLC (BHSF) in West Rutland, Vermont on a community solar project that subsequently received national recognition for being the nation’s first such project to receive an Internal Revenue Service ruling acknowledging a residential customer’s ability to take the federal investment tax credit for off-site community solar. BHSF is also one of the few direct ownership models that is being successfully replicated regionally. The Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network (VECAN) also recognized the BHSF project as the Best Solar Project in 2015 and on April 28, 2016 it was awarded a Vermont Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award. The Energy Clinic’s community solar model is based on this leading example and similar projects have been constructed in Randolph, Shaftsbury, and Waitsfield.


Where in the USA? A Map of VLS Alumni


Map of Alumni

Vermont Law School alumni are located in all 50 states; Vermont boasts the largest number of alumni (1,334) with the fewest alumni (three) residing in South Dakota. VLS graduates live in 37 countries around the world. To learn more about alumni living in your area, sign up for vlsConnect to use our Alumni Directory.

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The Leaders' Circle continues to grow!

The following people have joined or renewed their membership in the Leaders' Circle since the fall of 2016:

  • Andrea Berlowe JD'93 and Jonathan Binder JD'92
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