Monday, January 5, 2015

Financially troubled Vermont Law School peddles expensive summer program to undergrads who want "to make a difference."

(This image comes from a two-minute long video ad posted on You Tube by Vermont Law School (aka "VLS," aka "death trap"). See Video at 1:23. The ad touts VLS's transformative summer program, and concludes with an earnestly smiling young law student describing her professional goals as follows: "I hope to be an agent of change. I feel I already am by coming to VLS." Video at 1:56-2:00. Kids, just give VLS a sufficient amount of your money, time, and faith, and the school will launch you on a legal or public policy career drenched in idealistic purpose, with plenty of free time to float lazily down the White River, brewski in hand).

A.  Vermont Law School's online sales pitch for its "New Frontiers" summer program for undergrads: 

"Are you an undergrad interested in advocacy? In making a difference? Develop the tools you need to become a powerful advocate for the environment in the New Frontiers in Environmental Law and Policy summer program at Vermont Law School. New Frontiers provides undergraduate students interested in environmental issues an opportunity to learn how our system of government is designed to work; to explore how it actually works; and to understand how to run an effective environmental campaign to change the status quo.


*  Learn from expert faculty in our top-rated Environmental Law Center, which has a rich history of working to influence environmental policy on the local, national and international level.

*  Establish a legal framework that will set you on a path to becoming a leader who uses the power of the law to make a difference. . . .

Students who attend all three weeks will have the opportunity to take a legal writing seminar at no additional cost."

[Quoted price: $6,000 for the full three week program, pro-rated for those who opt for two weeks ($4,500) or one week ($2,500)].
B.  The message above, decoded and de-scammed: 

Are you an idealistic college kid, still a teenager perhaps, who wants to do something about pollution and global warming, and who craves support and mentorship from professionally successful grey-hairs of like mind? Then you fall within our targeted market segment, and we hope that we can succeed in extracting $6,000 from you, a modest sum that you still may be unable to afford. So we are prepared to sell you two-thirds of our product for only three-quarters of the price.  

You see, our lousy law school has been having severe financial problems lately because prospective law students are steering clear, however much we try to charm them with gifts of free maple syrup and fun apple-picking outings. This has led to a downgrade of our bonds to sub-prime status by Moody's Investor Services, along with a published "negative outlook" (See "Moody's downgrades Vermont Law School to Ba1; outlook negative,"14 April 2014), and our consequent "technical" bond default. As a result, we have had to implement staff downsizingcleanliness downsizing ("[VLS] has cut down on cleaning services. . ."), and a trifling 21% reduction in full-time tenure-track faculty.

Indeed, by any meaningful metric--number of applications, acceptance ratio, matriculant yield, actual matriculants, median LSAT of admitted students, net tuition versus operating expenses, faculty and staff size, and even, uh, timely bond payments-- our alleged nursery of environmentalist-activist-lawyers is crumbling faster than the Larsen B ice shelf. And so we are trying very hard to nourish alternate revenue streams-- such as this "New Frontiers" program, as well as our thriving online master's programs (MFALPs and MELPs and MERLs, oh my!)

Anyway, in exchange for that 6K, we will provide you with three weeks’ room and board here on our picturesque rustic campus, where we will intellectually engage and inspire you via environmentalist-flavored political science classes taught by three lawprofs, with a legal writing seminar thrown in to boot. We will butter you up and make you feel like a budding progressive leader (or a "change agent" for any true anarchist amongst you who objects to the word or concept of "leader"). We may gently suggest that the way to fully realize your personal goals and progressive ideals is to enroll here as a law student after you finish college. You know, a 6K mini-scam is nothing compared to our full-blown JD nightmare: $47,135/yr. in tuition and mandatory fees, and a dire 54% nine-month-out FT bar-required employment rate for the Class of 2013 (43% for the Class of 2012),  this in a state that allows you to sit for the bar without ever attending law school.  

Click through our promotional pages and you may form the impression that the Vermont Law School is the starry-eyed yet intrepid love child of Greenpeace and Amnesty International, rather than a cynical money-extraction enterprise meant to make faculty and top administrators rich at your expense. Hope to see you this summer!

C.    Vermont Law School in bad decline: by the numbers:  

                               (info from VLS disclosures, as posted on the EMMA bond site)

D.  Conclusion:

There is a short list of schools that scamblog commenters track with particular care-- schools that are not merely run-of-the-mill scams, but that occupy the scammy extreme of law school scamdom. Schools such as the Infilaw Three, Thomas Jefferson, Cooley, New England, and unaccredited Indiana Tech. These schools have earned our attention through, inter alia, very low or rapidly falling admissions standards, horrible placement rates, rumored or verified financial distress, obnoxious antics or salesmanship by deans or top faculty, plus a certain powerful though hard-to-pin-down vibe of scamminess. Vermont Law School, with its relentless lure-the-idealists focus and its piss-poor outcomes, has earned inclusion on this list.


  1. The language of this shameful ad campaign by VLS exposes the true villainy of at the heart of the higher ed scam. It targets well-meaning people who have been conditioned their whole lives to believe that higher education is the path to being a good, contributing member of society. People go to college en masse because this is what they've been told is the right thing to do.

    Let's not forget that many Law students are just doubling-down (quadrupling-down, really) on the next stage of a higher ed trap that they've already been funneled into. We'd have less unnecessary Law students if there were less unnecessary undergrads in the first place.

  2. Replies
    1. "Ask not what your law school can do for you, ask what you can do for your law school."

    2. Ohio, I almost spewed the water I was drinking onto my smartphone.

  3. I've got to agree with the scamsters on this one. Vermont Law School is desperately in need of change agents. Their moral environment is polluted beyond belief.

  4. I think it's obvious at this time that their JD program is on life support and still fading. The only thing keeping VLS afloat is its online LLM program, which contributes almost a quarter of its student body.

  5. Methinks VLS is trolling for dumb but idealistic kids whose parents have deep pockets. Just the sort of victim they need to keep afloat.

  6. It's real easy to soullessly judge a Law School simply based on financial figures, and numbers while important, less tangible elements may be overlooked; Such as the unsurpassed one-on-one academic attention, the unbelievable sense of camaraderie among the student body, and the fact that many of the tenured faculty and visiting professors are absolute AUTHORITIES in their respective fields.

    1. The students will need that camaraderie while navigating unemployment/underemployment with a $200,000 debt load and coming to terms with the fact that their terrible decision to attend Vermont Law School has destroyed their lives.

  7. Off topic. One more large law firm is a

  8. I graduated from VLS with a JD, and despite having excellent references, a judicial clerkship, and practical experience, I cannot find a job. I have sent out over 35 resumes and have not gotten a single call back. Depressing, to say the least.

    1. have you taken a look in the mirror lately? or maybe you smell weird? getting into law school is a guarantee that you will have the chance to work toward earning admission to a state bar exam, nothing else. its not a guarantee of future wealth. you need to make your own money, stop trying to "find a job" and go create your own niche. do research. find a problem you can solve. quit wasting time bitching against the law school system, and maybe take your JD and go try and sit for a Bar exam