It’s so fun to see students grow and become confident in their writing, especially those who might have struggled before.”
Director of Legal Writing
Wherever he's clerked or practiced law-and that includes jurisdictions as varied as Alaska, New Orleans, and the Pacific island nation of Palau-Professor Greg Johnson has seen the power of clear and effective legal writing. Johnson believes that VLS offers its students superior training in this skill through its Legal Writing Program, where he has taught since 1997 and which he now directs. "Teaching legal writing is one of the things VLS does best," he says of the three-semester program that helps students learn and hone their research, briefing, and oral advocacy skills. "Judges, nonprofit directors, and other employers all attest that VLS alumni stand out as good writers." And they don't have to start out that way. "We're very patient and student-oriented," he says of the professors who teach in the program. "Whatever their initial level, students will improve their writing here." Such success stems from an intensive, individualized curriculum that helps students master legal writing's "ABCs" (accuracy, brevity, and clarity) and the formats and conventions unique to the law. In fact, Johnson has consistently found that after just two program semesters, students are equipped to handle any summer position that demands legal research and writing. Students are not the only ones excited by their progress in the program: "It's so fun to see students grow and become confident in their writing, especially those who might have struggled before," Johnson notes enthusiastically.
Johnson brings to VLS a rich and varied legal background that also reflects his love of travel: he clerked for the Alaska Supreme Court and for the Supreme Court of the Republic of Palau (to which he remains special counsel); he was a staff attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor in New Orleans, and taught at the law schools of St. Louis University and the University of Oregon. His expertise spans the areas of sexual orientation and the law, Native Alaskan legal issues, the law of Pacific Islands, and appellate advocacy.
For Johnson, VLS has proven a welcoming community as well as a rewarding place to teach. He has been especially heartened by the Law School's staunch support of its diverse community members, including Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender students, faculty, and staff. "I have found VLS stands on its principles and will sacrifice to uphold the civil rights of our students," he asserts. Johnson also believes the law school's location in Vermont is a plus for LGBT students. "The state has a tradition of progressive and inclusive politics," he says. He has felt encouraged here in advocating for gay rights, as when he testified before both houses of the Vermont legislature prior to passage of the state's landmark civil union bill.
And then there's the landscape, which is a boon for an avid runner and cyclist who once biked across the U.S. He still loves to travel-the Big Island of Hawaii is a favorite-but on so many levels, it's always good to come home to Vermont.