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Saturday, June 2, 2018

Vermont Law School Plans Faculty Cuts

Vermont Law School Logo (2017)Valley News, Vermont Law School Plans Faculty Cuts:

As part of an ongoing campaign to right itself financially, the Vermont Law School is working out the details of a cost-saving “faculty restructuring” that will result in a reduction of the workforce.

“Our target is maximum programmatic efficiency and value,” President Thomas McHenry said during a phone interview on Tuesday. “Our major priorities are preserving our strong (juris doctorate) program, maintaining our strong environmental program, and keeping the immensely strong sense of community we have here.”

McHenry said that, in a process that began last October, all faculty positions are being reviewed for efficiency gains to help the law school recover from the effects of a national downturn in enrollment that hit its nadir a few years ago.

McHenry declined to discuss details of the restructuring process, which is expected to be completed in late June, but gave examples of expected outcomes that include shifting some professors to professor emeritus status, reducing the teaching and programmatic load for others, and asking others to take on more responsibilities.

Several members of the faculty, including some senior professors with tenure, declined comment. ...

While no staff members have been cut at this point, McHenry has identified some faculty who say they’re willing to restructure their jobs. Others won’t have a choice.

“We’re looking at the whole range of options, both voluntary and not,” he said.Though he described himself as optimistic about the school’s long term prospects, McHenry said the changes are needed to keep the law school viable.

“All institutions have to be worried about solvency. We have a small endowment and very limited state and federal funding,” he said. “The restructuring we’re going through is designed to address those concerns.”

Last year, the school employed 135 faculty and staff (not including summer, adjunct and online faculty) and taught more than 630 students (including about 140 online students). ...

In 2013, the school underwent a series of layoffs, and trimmed its operating budget — now roughly $23 million — by about $4 million. McHenry said there is no specific target for the current round of cost-savings, other than “as much efficiency as possible” while maintaining the school’s standards.

The news of the cost-cutting staff changes comes in the wake of a rocky semester during which some members of the student body rallied to defend the school’s good name, while others questioned its finances amid what some called a “culture of scarcity.”

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Comments

in my opinion reconstructing faculty is an amazing option for both the school as well as the students.

Posted by: Alex Zar | Jun 3, 2018 2:21:33 AM

It's entertaining, but sad, to watch this process unfold. We simply don't need this many law schools. The right thing would be for some, perhaps many, of them to close.

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Jun 3, 2018 3:52:08 AM

135 employees? That is a lot of employees, not counting adjuncts. How many are faculty?

Posted by: Anymouse | Jun 3, 2018 8:43:47 AM

Tuition a this school is 48k a year plus room and board and books and beer. Tuition at U Penn is 65k and all in estimated at 91k (this tends to be low and includes room and board for only half the year that school is in session). All ridiculous numbers. If you pay close to 300k for law school, firms have to pay you a lot of money to pay that off, and therefore bill clients absurd amounts for inexperienced lawyers.

Posted by: bo | Jun 3, 2018 11:53:54 AM

VLS is the only law school in the state of Vermont, and so serves a local community without many other options. It also is often ranked the best law school for environmental law in the nation. So while I can agree that the nation as a whole does not need as many law schools as it has, this one seems to have filled a unique market niche.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Jun 4, 2018 3:52:42 AM

@Ruralcounsel,

Northeastern is sometimes ranked the best public interest law school in the country, but public interest employers still vastly prefer T14 grads because we are talking about the legal profession. Ditto for patent law and Franklin Pierce / UNH Law. I don't imagine it is materially different for environmental law.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jun 5, 2018 8:50:50 AM

The legal profession might be adequately staffed with 30,000 bar admissions per year. You might allow allow aspirants to take the bar exam without any formal schooling. While we're at it, you might replace the JD with a foundational course 48 credits in length and and then supplement the foundational course with certificate programs in specialized areas of law which could vary in duration from 3 weeks to 49 weeks. Close a lot of schools and lay off a great many faculty.

Posted by: Art Deco | Jun 5, 2018 2:11:35 PM