Vermont Law School, ranked No. 1 in the nation for environmental law, has expanded its distance learning options to include courses for Juris Doctor (JD) credit, a move that furthers the school’s mission to extend its unique brand of legal education and commitment to advocacy to students around the world. VLS, which established the nation’s first online master’s degree program in environmental law in May 2011, now offers a dozen online classes available for JD credit and plans to have a full complement of more than 20 classes by the end of this year.
Courses cover general environmental topics, including environmental law and natural resources law, as well as specialties in energy law, climate change law and policy, and food and agriculture law. “Distance learning continues to be the best option for students who want to access Vermont Law School’s world-class faculty and resources in environmental law and policy, but who can’t make it to Vermont to take classes,” said VLS President and Dean Marc Mihaly, who has been a champion of distance learning since he helmed the school’s top-rated Environmental Law Center. “We are pleased to make our expertise available to a wide and remote audience of JD candidates,” Mihaly added.
Vermont Law School approved the courses to be offered for JD credit this spring in anticipation of an American Bar Association (ABA) ruling that will allow an increase in the number of credits students can take online as part of a degree. The ABA ruling, expected in August, would allow students to take 15 credits at one time in their second and third years, effectively sanctioning one off-campus — or online — semester (Section 306, American Bar Association Revised Standards for Approval of Law Schools, August 2014). Distance learning options are open to both current VLS students and students at other law schools who may wish to incorporate specialized environmental legal training into their programs. “Students from other law schools have sought out our online environmental courses,” said Associate Professor Rebecca Purdom, associate dean of innovation and new programs and director of distance learning programs at Vermont Law School. “We are working with other law schools to provide these courses directly to their students. We welcome the opportunity to make environmental expertise available to schools looking to expand their offerings.”
Purdom helped establish the Working Group for Distance Learning in Legal Education, comprised of law school administrators from across the country who meet twice yearly to discuss and develop best practices related to high-quality online legal education. The group’s website is housed within the Program on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School. “Distance learning options are going to be part of how we reach students now, and into the 21st century,” Purdom said. In addition to the JD credit options, Vermont Law School offers an online Master of Energy Regulation and Law (MERL), Master of Environmental Law and Policy (MELP), and Master of Laws (LLM) degrees in both environmental law and energy law. For more information about distance learning at Vermont Law School, visit environmentallaw.vermontlaw.edu.