Paul L. Caron

Monday, August 20, 2018

A Good Move By Vermont Law School

Vermont Law School Logo (2017)Following up on my recent posts (links below):  Sharon Mee (Office Manager, Vermont Law School's South Royalton Legal Clinic), A Good Move by Vermont Law School:

I have worked at Vermont Law School for 26 years and want to add my voice to what is happening now at Vermont’s only law school. Yes, some tenured faculty members are leaving or will be departing a few months or a year down the road. However, there are many extremely committed and dedicated faculty who remain on our campus. They are energetic, intelligent and moving forward to teach students in an exciting, dynamic fashion. It should be further noted that some of the tenured faculty have taught the same classes over and over again for many years, in some cases perhaps even using their teaching notes from 30 years ago.

The other factor to consider is the exorbitant salary of many tenured professors. Considering the cost of law school generally, it doesn’t make sense to pay an academician a six-figure salary when an equally well-educated practitioner can teach the same subject with a more vibrant approach for a lesser figure. ... 

[T]he new restructuring endorsed by Vermont Law School will expand its focus on practice-based legal education.

I would like to shake the hands of the dean and Vermont Law School’s board of trustees for their brave steps in doing what needed to be done to save this fine institution. The board wanted a balanced budget and I applaud that goal wholeheartedly. ...

Legal theory alone is not sufficient when one’s home is being foreclosed upon; there is a victim of domestic violence calling on the phone; yet another immigrant is being denied legal status for illegitimate reasons; or an environmental regulation is being eliminated or undermined. Not only will the law school remain viable in the years to come but we will be matriculating students who care about these very same problems in our society and they will be more skilled to address them. In fact, not only would I like to shake the hands of those who made these difficult decisions but I would like to take my hat off to them.

Prior TaxProf Blog posts:

Legal Education | Permalink


"And another one down, and another one down, another one bites the dust..." hey, the market will get you too, another one bites the dust...

Posted by: anon | Aug 20, 2018 6:28:11 PM

So the purge is a good thing, as long as you're one of the purgers?

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Aug 21, 2018 2:56:48 AM

Another in a continuing series of indicators that law schools don't have a faculty problem, they have an administrative staff problem. Ms. Mee is just another shining example of that.

Posted by: curmudgeoninchief | Aug 21, 2018 7:14:19 AM

The reality is VLS has both bond debt hovering around junk status and that highly unusual $17 million loan from the Department of Agriculture that was apparently brokered by Senator Leahy. They needed money pronto, likely had barriers to declaring financial exigency, and this was their best of available bad options.

Also Vermont's state capital has 7,000 people and 4 of the state's largest 7 employers are ski resorts. There's no demand or capacity for new lawyers, is what I'm getting at.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Aug 21, 2018 7:37:22 AM

Authored by an "office manager" at the school. Nothing like making policy by asking the secretarial staff. I wonder what her opinion is on trans-radial angioplasty. Did she stay at a Holiday Inn Express recently?

Posted by: Anonymous | Aug 21, 2018 9:38:59 AM

Law that doesn't require a solid base in legal theory is not law. It is administrative work for middle managers. Someone who does understand the Why of the How will always win all but the most mundane cases.

Posted by: Joseph Olson | Aug 21, 2018 9:44:25 AM

Getting rid of professors has its up side. But does anyone believe that the bloated bureaucrats have the ability / guts to identify poor performers and select them for dismissal? I point to my own college's board of teaching award winners and then the salary lists. If you want to know who is paid the least, check out who is getting the teaching awards.

Posted by: Bill | Aug 21, 2018 9:48:35 AM

It's the overcrowded lifeboat scenario. Some have to be kicked out in order for anyone to "survive."

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Aug 21, 2018 10:16:58 AM

It's kind of funny that at a third tier independent law school like VLS, the doctrinal professors are among the most dispensable employees. You certainly can't fire the people who unclog the toilets and keep the heat on. Some administrative staff (meaning people who do secretarial work, not policy-oriented dealings) is necessary so that higher paid employees aren't doing this work. But research oriented doctrinal faculty that teach 2 courses a semester can easily be replaced by adjuncts and visiting profs that have no research responsibility and come at 1/4 the cost. One could argue that not having high quality research will negatively impact the institutions reputation, but how much lower could it go anyway?

Posted by: JM | Aug 22, 2018 6:55:45 AM

Law school is just a trade school in fancy clothing. "High quality research" of law does virtually nothing for students in terms of teaching them the profession. Lawyering isn't that complex - 99% of the time, you don't need someone from Harvard, Yale, Stanford or the like to do your legal work. You can learn to be a perfectly proficient welder without learning welding theory from a PhD in materials science or engineering. Law school isn't that different, except in the minds of the first tier law schools.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Aug 23, 2018 5:19:44 AM

There are tradeoffs between cost and quality.

Vermont has announced that instead of dedicated, full time, and expert instructors with broad knowledge and a commitment to the institution, they'll get by with low paid adjuncts who don't care about teaching because it only accounts for a small fraction of their income, are preoccupied with their practice where they make real money, and have no commitment to the institution or the students.

There are plenty of other law schools in the region that haven't sacrificed quality to save a few bucks. They're going to benefit from Vermont's move.

Students who want quality will look elsewhere.

Posted by: Quality | Aug 25, 2018 12:04:41 PM