At a time when law schools are under heavy criticism from certain parts of the lawyers’ and students’ communities, it is refreshing to find citizens asserting their confidence in a law school. On Tuesday, the Vermont Law School Dean, Jeff Shields announced that the school’s three-year campaign for raising capital ended on June 30 and had raised $18.4 million exceeding the target of $15 million by over 20 percent. The funding came from a support base of almost 3,000 people including Vermont’s congressional delegation – U.S. Sen. Patrick, Leahy, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch – who worked hard to make the campaign a success.
The Vermont Law School Dean said, “I am heartened by the breadth of support we received during this campaign … This was a team effort on behalf of Vermont Law School by many people who recognize what we do for the state of Vermont, for our students and for the advancement of the rule of law at home and abroad.” The Dean further admitted, “We received terrific help from alumni, parents, friends, the bar, students, foundations, faculty, institutional supports and our congressional delegation…. Our campus leadership on this campaign was crucial to its success.”
The campaign had been set into motion following a key gift from Trustee Fran Yates that helped the school to purchase the former Freck’s department store in South Royalton. The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was renovated with strict environmental standards and renamed as the Center for Legal Services. The Center is now used to house the South Royalton Legal Clinic, the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, and other clinical programs designed to provide hands-on training to law students, as well as help the society at large. The building also houses the school’s bookstore.
The confidence of the public in the Vermont Law School has also been recognized by concerned people. Trustee James E. Hanson, a New Jersey real estate finance and management executive admitted, “For a school of this size and age to exceed its very ambitious fundraising goal in what was a terrible time to be raising money is quite remarkable.”
Professor Margaret Barry, associate dean for Clinical and Experiential Programs confirmed that Clinical work in the newly acquired building would include immigration law, family law and general poverty law. She said: “Now we have an exceptional clinical education space for our excellent clinical programs.”
Dean Shields said Sen. Leahy had helped to secure federal funding for the SRLC and the U.S.- China Partnership for Environmental Law, which is intended to strengthen the environmental rule of law in China through cooperative programs with China’s top law schools. The campaign was also successful in securing several million dollars for general support and endowment.