For the first time in Vermont Law School’s (VLS) nearly 50-year history, this week a cohort of students began their law school careers during the spring semester.
Offered in addition to the traditional fall start and VLS’s unique summer cohort, the spring start was developed by VLS in response to new juris doctor students whose law school plans were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the impact of COVID became really apparent in the late summer, early fall of last year, we began hearing from a lot of our prospective students that the uncertainty surrounding the fall semester was a big barrier for them,” said Cynthia Lewis, vice dean for faculty. “We began thinking about how we could accommodate those students during this unprecedented time and we collectively decided that this was important, to not only them, but the VLS community.”
The relatively quick turnaround between idea and execution speaks to the school’s ability to react quickly to changing dynamics.
“This is a great example of our flexibility and commitment to our students,” said Katie Merrill, director of admissions. “It was quite a bit of work and at times complicated to figure out how to incorporate a new cohort, but when you start from a place of ‘this is what our students need right now’ you are able to work through all those issues.”
The students who started their studies this week are, in typical VLS fashion, a diverse group, hailing from states such as California, West Virginia, Texas, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont.
“We are excited to begin this journey with them,” said Merrill. “Even with all of the uncertainty out there, they are committed students who want to start law school so they can ultimately get out there and make a difference.”
One of the benefits of the spring start is that it also gives students the opportunity to take accelerated coursework and finish law school in two years and take a February bar exam.
“If they chose to, they’ll be able to get out into the workforce and start making an impact in the world even sooner,” Merrill added.