Open main menu

Vermont Law School (VLS) is a private, American Bar Association‑accredited law school located in South Royalton, Vermont. The school has one of the United States' leading programs in environmental law, and has maintained consistently high ranking in Environmental Law by U.S. News and World Report.[2] The Law School offers several degrees, including Juris Doctor (JD), Master of Laws (LLM) in Environmental Law, Master of Environmental Law and Policy (MELP), Master of Food and Agriculture Law and Policy (MFALP), Master of Energy Regulation and Law (MERL), and dual degrees with a diverse range of institutions. According to Vermont Law School's 2013 ABA-required disclosures, 54.5% of the Class of 2013 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation.[3]

Vermont Law School
Vermont Law School seal
Motto"lex pro urbe et orbe" Law for the Community and the World
School typePrivate
DeanThomas McHenry, President and Dean
LocationSouth Royalton, Vermont, United States
43°49′18″N 72°31′16″W / 43.8218°N 72.5210°W / 43.8218; -72.5210Coordinates: 43°49′18″N 72°31′16″W / 43.8218°N 72.5210°W / 43.8218; -72.5210
Enrollment601 (J.D.), 42 (MELP), 20 (LLM)
USNWR ranking133[1]
Bar pass rate85.2%



Vermont Law School's 13-acre (5.3 ha) campus is located in South Royalton in central Vermont. The campus is set just above the broad banks of the White River.

The oldest and centermost classroom building on the campus is the town's original schoolhouse, built in 1892. In 2005 the former town schoolhouse (the original Law School building in 1973) was renovated and renamed Debevoise Hall, after one of the first deans of the Law School, Thomas M. Debevoise. Practicing what it preaches, the Law School emphasized environmental concerns in the renovation, as well as historical preservation and design efficiency. Debevoise Hall was the only LEED Silver Certified renovation building project in the state of Vermont.[4] Debevoise Hall continues to serve as classroom space and now also houses administration offices, the Environmental Law Center, and the Yates Common Room.[5]

The James L. and Evelena S. Oakes Hall building was constructed and dedicated in 1998. Oakes Hall incorporates "green building" techniques along with the latest classroom technology.[6]

Jonathon Chase, the late former dean of the Law School, liked to joke that South Royalton was the only town in America "with a law school and no stop light." Vermont Law School holds the distinction of being the law school farthest from a traffic light, at 27 miles (43 km).[7] As of January 2019, South Royalton does not have a stoplight.


Vermont Law School was founded in 1972 by the late Dr. Anthony Doria and held its first classes in the summer of 1973 with 113 students in what was then known as the old South Royalton schoolhouse. In December 1973, VLS was certified by the Vermont State Board of Education as an institution of higher learning. Provisional ABA approval came in February 1975, and a full complement of classes were offered in the fall of 1975. The Law School's charter class graduated in spring 1976. Full approval by the ABA came in 1978, and the Law School was accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) in 1980. VLS became a member of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) in 1981.[5] In 2019, the Law School controversially stripped tenure from 75% of its faculty, citing financial exigencies.[8]

Solomon AmendmentEdit

Vermont Law School was one of two law schools in the U.S. to refuse cooperation with the Solomon Amendment, a statute passed by Congress requiring colleges and universities to allow military recruitment on campus or risk losing federal funding.[9] The school is also part of FAIR Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, a consortium of 38 law schools and law faculties that challenged the Solomon Amendment in Rumsfeld v. FAIR. Following the repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' in 2011, all law schools in the country now cooperate with the Solomon Amendment.


As well as the Juris Doctor (JD), the Law School offers several degrees and joint-degrees, as well as degrees with other universities. Degrees include Master of Laws (LLM) in Environmental Law, Master of Laws (LLM) in American Legal Studies, Master of Laws (LLM) in Food and Agriculture Law, and Master of Laws (LLM) in Energy Law; Master of Environmental Law and Policy (MELP), Master of Energy Regulation and Law (MERL), and Master of Food and Agriculture Law and Policy (MFALP).

The Law School has partnered with different domestic and international universities to offer dual-degree programs. Domestic schools include: Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (JD/Master of Environmental Management), Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth (MELP/Master of Business Administration), the University of Vermont Rubenstein School of Natural Resources (MELP/Master of Science in Natural Resources), Thunderbird School of Global Management (JD/Masters of Business Administration), the University of South Carolina (MELP/JD), University of South Dakota (MELP/JD), and Northeastern University School of Law (MELP/JD). International universities include the University of Cambridge (JD/master of philosophy), Cergy-Pontoise University (France), and the University of Seville (Spain).

Julien and Virginia Cornell LibraryEdit

The Julien and Virginia Cornell Library opened in 1991.[6] The library contains over 250,000 print volumes, including primary and secondary legal materials focusing on state, national, and international law.[10] The library also possesses a collection of microforms including congressional documents, state session laws, and briefs. The library's electronic collection includes access to LexisNexis and Westlaw and other online gateways and databases, as well as a large catalog of full-text electronic journals and books and databases offering primary legal materials.

Vermont Law School maintains "an extensive interdisciplinary environmental collection, including journals, monographs, electronic resources, and other material related to the study of the environment and environmental law and policy."[11]

Centers, institutes, clinics, and programsEdit

Law Centers and Research Institutes

  • Environmental Law Center—The Environmental Law Center (ELC) began in 1978 with eight master's degree students. As noted, the ELC's program is consistently top-ranked by U.S.News & World Report. The ELC confers both the Master of Environmental Law and Policy (MELP) and Master of Laws in Environmental Law (LLM) degrees. The Class of 2008 included 87 students receiving these master's degrees.
  • Center for Agriculture and Food Systems—The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) has a dual mission: to train the next generation of food and agriculture advocates and entrepreneurs, and to create innovative legal tools supporting the new food movement. CAFS trains students through a comprehensive array of residential and distance learning courses and a Food and Agriculture Clinic. VLS offers a JD Certificate in Food and Agriculture, and both Master's and LLM degrees in Food and Agriculture Law and Policy. CAFS' diverse course offerings, law clinic and degree options make it the most comprehensive sustainable food, agriculture, and environmental law graduate program in the country.
  • Institute for Energy & the Environment—The Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE) is a national and international resource for energy law and policy. The institute offers a full course curriculum and a certificate of concentration during the academic year and through its Energy Summer seminars; distributes scholarly, technical, and practical publications; provides forums and conferences for professional education and issue development; and serves as a center for graduate research on energy issues, with an environmental awareness.[12] The Institute’s research team is selected from top students in the energy and environmental programs at Vermont Law School.[13] The Institute maintains the IEE blog focused on current events and research.
  • Environmental Tax Policy Institute—The Institute analyzes ways in which taxation can address environmental problems. As a resource for the public and private sectors, non-governmental organizations, the press and academia, the Institute seeks to better inform the public policy debate about the role of environmental taxes at the local, state and federal levels.
  • Land Use Institute—The Land Use Institute (LUI) addresses intensifying land use law and policy issues at the local, national, and international levels that critically pertain to the development of a sustainable society. These issues include application of smart growth principles, ecological planning, affordable housing, flood hazard mitigation, improving the confluence of energy and land use regulatory decision-making and other permitting processes, and land conservation strategies. LUI works with VLS faculty and students, and other nonprofit legal and professional planning partners, to provide sound and innovative information, experience, and education to advance the practice of land use law and planning. This mission is served through direct support for local and regional planning agencies, forums and conferences for issue development, preparation of legislation affecting critical land use issues, education and training for state and local land use planners and regulators, practical and scholarly publications, and graduate professional teaching.

Clinics and Experiential Programs

  • Environmental & Natural Resource Law Clinic—The clinic engages in litigation and advocacy, including: winning a major victory for the endangered gray wolf; protecting wetlands and tributaries; litigating on behalf of individuals threatened by the mining operations of a major, multi-national company; and defending a sacred tribal site. Student clinicians work on behalf of public interest, environmental, and conservation organizations, and learn how to find their way through the complex maze of laws and procedures that regulate economic development and resource extraction activities.
  • South Royalton Legal Clinic—The South Royalton Legal Clinic (legal clinic for the area's low-income residents) was established in 1979. In 2007–08, the clinic supervised 58 clinicians and work-study students and handled a caseload of 119 cases.
  • General Practice Program—The General Practice Program (GPP) was instituted in 1987. The GPP is recipient of the American Bar Association's E. Smythe Gambrell Award for Professionalism, a national award for law schools and other organizations in recognition for advancing professionalism in the practice of law.
  • Legal Clinic of Petrozavodsk State University – Under the patronage of Vermont School of Law at the Faculty of Petrozavodsk State University opened the first legal clinic in Russia in October 1995, supported by the Council of Judges.


According to Vermont Law School's official 2013 ABA-required disclosures, 54.5% of the Class of 2013 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation.[3] Vermont Law School's Law School Transparency under-employment score is 29%, indicating the percentage of the Class of 2013 unemployed, pursuing an additional degree, or working in a non-professional, short-term, or part-time job nine months after graduation.[14]

Tuition and financial aidEdit

JD tuition for 2015–2016 is $46,848.[15] Eighty-eight percent of the entering JD Class of 2014 received a partial merit scholarship.[16]


Vermont Law School students publish two legal journals, the Vermont Law Review and the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law, on a regular basis several times a year in print and online. In addition to regular publication, both journals sponsor annual symposia.

Notable faculty and administratorsEdit

Notable alumniEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Vermont Law School". U.S. News & World Report – Best Law Schools. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  2. ^ US News and World Report (2011). "Environmental Law – Best Law Schools – Graduate Schools – Education – US News and World Report". Retrieved 2011-09-23.
  3. ^ a b "Employment Statistics" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  4. ^ "U.S. Green Building Council". Retrieved 2015-06-07.
  5. ^ a b Vermont Law School (2009). "Vermont Law School – History and Mission". Retrieved 2009-04-27.
  6. ^ a b "Id".
  7. ^ Nemethy, Andrew (The New York Times) (1988-05-15). "Off the Beaten Track to Study Law – The New York Times". Retrieved 2009-04-27.
  8. ^ "AAUP investigation finds Vermont Law School violated shared governance when it stripped tenure from most faculty". Retrieved 2019-05-16.
  9. ^ Zezima, Katie (2008-06-29). "Law School Pays the Price in 'Don't Ask' Rule Protest, New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
  10. ^ School, Vermont. "Vermont Law School". Vermont Law School. Retrieved 2015-06-07.
  11. ^ Library Information (2008). "Information about Julien and Virginia Library: Collections". Archived from the original (webpage) on 2007-12-22. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  12. ^ "Dworkin's Leadership at VLS Wins National Recognition". The Herald of Randolph. 2008-12-04.
  13. ^ The Associated Press (2010-04-05). "Vermont Law School gets $450K for smart grid study". BusinessWeek.
  14. ^ "Unemployment Score".
  15. ^ "Tuition & Fees - Vermont Law School".
  16. ^ "JD Class Profile - Vermont Law School".
  17. ^ "Deborah \Arnie\ Arnesen". Harvard University Institute of Politics. Retrieved February 2, 2013.
  18. ^ "Sarah E. Buxton's BIOGRAPHY". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  19. ^ "Biography, Honorable Karen R. Carroll". Vermont Court System. Montpelier, VT: Vermont Judiciary. 2017.
  20. ^ "Shumlin taps Judge Harold Eaton for high court". Washington Times. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  21. ^ "vincent 'vince' illuzzi's biography". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved February 2, 2013.
  22. ^ Elizabeth MacDonough – Vermont Law School Archived 2009-02-11 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2014-04-12.
  23. ^ "charles 'charley' a. murphy's biography". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved February 2, 2013.
  24. ^ The Federal Reporter, Volume 751. Eagan, Minnesota: West Publishing. 1985. p. 104.
  25. ^ "Vermont Law School Begins its 5th Year". Bennington Banner. September 12, 1977. p. 3. Retrieved April 25, 2015. The president of the board of trustees, Sterry R. Waterman, senior judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, was also awarded the juris doctor degree. Although he had studied at three law schools prior to his long legal career and has several honorary degrees, he had not previously received the law degree.

External linksEdit