Vermont Bar Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2 Fall 2015, Vol 41, No. 3 - Page 23

by Margaret Martin Barry, Esq. VLS and the VBA Support for Attorneys Who Want to Serve Vermont On August 13, The Herald of Randolph frontlined with two articles, “Where Have All the Lawyers Gone?” and “VLS Aims to Fill Gaps.” In the first article, M.D. Drysdale reported that four Randolph attorneys have closed or are winding down their businesses, and in the second he spoke of the number of Vermont Law School graduates who serve local communities and the law school’s efforts to continue that trend. Mr. Drysdale sounded an alarm that has been of concern to the Vermont Bar Association and the courts for some timea concern articulated most consistently as the need for access to representation by people in isolated and small communities by people of low and modest means. Why is representation important? Our system of laws and their enforcement is designed to allow individuals to resolve conflicts and assert rights, to protect public safety, and for businesses to operate and plan in a stable setting. Legal representation is an important part of navigating this system and assuring that rights are effectively asserted. I contacted Michael Kennedy, the state’s bar counsel who also manages attorney licensing, to learn what he had observed with regard to attorneys who are retiring, selling, or closing their practices. He said that his records showed eight had done so in 2014 and eleven in 2015. A September 2014 Vermont Bar Association survey gave more of a forecast. The survey was sent to VBA members and 712 responded, a 30% response rate. To the question “Are you considering retiring in the near future?” 22% said they would be retiring in the next two years; 36% said they would be retiring in the next three to six years; and 42% said they would be retiring in the next seven to ten years. To the question “If retiring in the next 10 years, is another lawyer taking over your practice/your clients?” 37% said yes, I am all set; 30% said no, I haven’t set that up yet; 2% said I’ve tried but can’t find anyone; 1% said no, THE VERMONT BAR JOURNAL • FALL 2015 but I’m using ALPS Attorney Match; 14% said no, I’m just going to close up my office; and 16% said “other.” The numbers are troubling, especially when you consider the impact on Randolph and even smaller towns and villages spread across the state. VLS has had a long history of preparing students for practice through its experiential programs. South Royalton Legal Clinic has worked with students to provide free legal services to low-income Vermont residents since 1987. The law school has seven other clinics that prepare students for environmental, criminal law, and legislative practice. VLS also has an extensive externship program in which students are placed in offices and judicial chambers to work under the supervision of respected practitioners in Vermont, across the country, and, in limited circumstances, throughout the world. Additionally, VLS has extensive courses that simulate real-life lawyering experiences as a way to prepare students for 23