State By State Requirements to Become a Lawyer

Law Career info in Vermont

Vermont provides a unique environment in which lawyers can practice. First, it is one of the only states that do not have an intermediate appellate court. All appeals are handled directly by the Vermont Supreme Court. Secondly, Vermont’s immigration lawyers handle many cases having to do with immigration to and from Canada. Third, Vermont lawyers become involved in the state’s numerous environmental issues, so many that the state’s court system has its own Environmental Division to handle such issues. Vermont is not only an interesting state in which to practice law, but it is also a lucrative one. In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor reported that lawyers in Vermont averaged earnings of $93,750 per year. Those earning in the 75th percentile averaged $115,950 per year, while those earning in the 90th percentile averaged $154,870 annually. If you would like to become a lawyer in the Green Mountain state, read on.
 

Step 1

Get Your Vermont Undergraduate Pre-Law Major

The Vermont Board of Bar Examiners requires that, before you attend law school, you must have completed at least three-quarters of the credits required to obtain a bachelor’s degree. If you desire to attend a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), you must obtain a

Accreditation

Your undergraduate institution must be accredited by an entity recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Requirements and Standards

There are no mandates on courses that you must take during your undergraduate education. The ABA recommends that you embark on a course of study that challenges and interests you, above all. If you elect to take coursework in areas such as philosophy, political science, communications, economics and business, you may find that having a background in these subjects will help you more than others when you reach law school.

Vermont Undergrad Degree Options

You must have a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Sciences (BS) under ABA rules prior to entering law school. The major of your bachelor’s degree does not matter. However, some students have found that undergraduate majors taken from the above-listed subject areas help them more in law school.


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Step 2

LSAT (Law School Admission Test) in Vermont

Step 2 on your way to becoming a Vermont lawyer is to pass the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). A passing score on this exam is vital to admission to any ABA-accredited law school in the country.

How to prepare

Free study help is available at the LSAT website, provided by its sponsor, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Other exam preparation resources in Vermont include:
LSAT Exam Prep Courses in Vermont:

Exam content

The following abilities will be tested when you take the LSAT:

  • Reading Comprehension: Your ability to read and understand complex passages of information and the relationships between different portions of passages is tested.
  • Analytical Reasoning: Commonly referred to as Logic Games, this section tests your ability to understand relationships and draw deductive conclusions.
  • Logical Reasoning: Your ability to take an argument apart and determine its assumptions will be tested here.
  • Writing Sample: This section requires you to write an essay on a given topic, supporting a decision. You are not scored on this part of the exam as part of your overall LSAT score, but your essay will be sent to law schools when you apply.

Application process

Apply online with the Law School Admission Council to take the LSAT, which is given in October, December, February and June, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Vermont examination centers where you can take the LSAT include:

  • Champlain College, 163 S. Willard St, Burlington, VT 05401
  • Middlebury College, Old Chapel, Middlebury, VT 05753
  • Vermont Law School, 164 Chelsea St, South Royalton, VT 05068-0096

Receiving Your Score

You will receive your LSAT score, which will be between 120 and 180, in three weeks via US postal mail. Vermont Law School, the only ABA-approved law school in the state, typically accepts students with an average LSAT score of 154.

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Step 3

Go to Law School in Vermont

Application process

Step 3 in the process of becoming a Vermont lawyer is to apply to the ABA-approved law school of your choice. Any ABA-approved law school nationwide, not just those in Vermont, apply. A complete listing of these schools is found in the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools.

Credential Assembly Service

All ABA-approved law schools require that you use the Law School Admission Council’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) when you apply for admission. It helps you in gathering all undergraduate and graduate transcripts from college credits you have completed up to this point, as well as gathering letters of recommendation, evaluations, and other documentation necessary when you apply to law school. The CAS centralizes all of this information and creates law school reports for each school to which you apply (up to a total of five). It will apply electronically to these schools for you. The fee you pay the LSAC for this service covers these electronic applications as well.

Accreditation

The Vermont Board of Bar Examiners requires that you graduate from an ABA-approved law school before taking the bar exam. Exceptions may be made, which will be covered in Step 4.

ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Vermont

Just one law school in Vermont has ABA accreditation:

Course requirements

The following subjects are tested on the Vermont bar exam and should be studied in law school:

  • Administrative law
  • Bankruptcy
  • Business organizations
  • Civil procedure
  • Commercial law (includes Uniform Commercial Code)
  • Vermont Constitutional law
  • Federal Constitutional law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal law and procedure
  • Equity
  • Ethics
  • Evidence
  • Family law (includes juvenile law)
  • Practice skills
  • Personal and real property (includes foreclosure)
  • Torts
  • Taxation
  • Trusts and estates
  • Wills and probate

Online Law Degrees

Clerkship Requirement

Under Vermont rules of bar admission, you must complete a three-month clerkship in a Vermont law office prior to bar admission.   You may choose one of the following options to fulfill this requirement:

  • Work for 12 weeks for at least 25 hours during a 7-day period
  • Work for 24 weeks for at least 30 hours during a 14-day period

You may begin the clerkship anytime after completing your first year of law school and within two years of taking the Vermont bar exam. It may be done in stages, and need not be completed before sitting for the bar exam. You must find your own clerkship by contacting Vermont lawyers. You may or may not be paid for your clerkship – this is up to the individual attorney who engages you.

During your clerkship, you will become familiar with Vermont legal practice and procedures.  It also serves a mentorship purpose, giving you someone who you may contact with questions or for advice when you start legal practice.
When you are ready to begin your clerkship, file the Notice of Commencement of 3-month Law Office Clerkship form. Once your clerkship has ended, file the Termination of Clerkship form.

Degree Programs

You must have a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from an ABA-approved law school to be admitted to the Vermont Bar. See below for exceptions if you graduated from a non-ABA approved law school or from a law school outside of the United States.

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Step 4

Pass the Vermont State Bar Exam

When you have completed all work necessary for graduation with your JD degree (even if you have not yet received your degree), you may take the Vermont bar examination.

Other requirements

You must be a US citizen, at least 18 years of age, be of good moral character, and have completed at least three-quarters of the work for a bachelor’s degree, in addition to having completed work for a JD degree, prior to taking the Vermont bar examination.

Non-ABA approved law school graduates

There are a few options to fulfilling the legal education requirement necessary to sit for the Vermont bar exam if you did not graduate from an ABA-approved law school:

  • Complete four years of  a law office study program under the supervision of a Vermont bar member who is a licensed, practicing lawyer in the state (must still fulfill the pre-legal education requirement if you choose this route)
  • If you graduated from a non-ABA approved or online law school not approved, you must have it approved by the Vermont Supreme Court. You may also have to complete up to two years of law office study before the Court will deem you eligible to take the Vermont bar exam.
  • If you have graduated from a non-ABA approved law school and have already passed the bar exam in another state and been admitted to that state’s bar and actively practiced law there, you may be granted eligibility to take Vermont’s bar exam by the Court

Graduates of Foreign Law Schools

If you are a graduate of a foreign law school and already admitted to practice law in a foreign jurisdiction, you may be admitted on motion to the Vermont bar (without taking the Vermont bar exam).

If you are a graduate of a foreign law school, the Board must find that your education is equivalent to a Vermont law school education. It may ask you to pursue the study of law in Vermont for at least two years before taking the state’s bar exam, under the supervision of a Vermont lawyer who has at least three years of experience.

Preparation

The National Conference of Bar Examiners website offers free study help for the national parts of the Vermont bar examination. These include the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). The Vermont Board of Bar Examiners also offers free past exam essay questions and answers for your review here. More help in preparing for the Vermont bar exam is available through:

Exam content

Vermont’s bar exam consists of the 200 multiple-choice question MBI, the performance and skills-based MPT, and essay questions. Subjects that you may encounter on the Vermont bar exam include:

  • Administrative law
  • Bankruptcy
  • Business organizations
  • Civil procedure
  • Commercial law (includes Uniform Commercial Code)
  • Vermont Constitutional law
  • Federal Constitutional law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal law and procedure
  • Equity
  • Ethics
  • Evidence
  • Family law (includes juvenile law)
  • Practice skills
  • Personal and real property (includes foreclosure)
  • Torts
  • Taxation
  • Trusts and estates
  • Wills and probate

Application Process

The Vermont Bar exam is given the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier. To begin the application process to take the Vermont bar exam, you must first apply online with the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). This entails completing the NCBE Standard Character and Fitness Electronic Application. Once completed, print three copies and send one original to the NCBE, one copy to the Vermont Board of Bar Examiners, and keep one copy for your records. Make sure to sign and have notarized three original Authorization and Release forms in the application, as well as the Acknowledgement of Complete Application form.

Mail the NCBE original, including the three signed and notarized original Authorization and Release forms and signed and notarized Acknowledgement of Complete Application form plus required fee (listed on application) to: National Conference of Bar Examiners, 302 South Bedford St., Madison, WI 53703-3622.

Mail one copy of the NCBE application, plus a $240 application fee payable to the Vermont Board of Bar Examiners, notarized Electronic Application Verification form, signed and notarized Vermont Authorization and Release Form, Exam Details Form, and Laptop Registration Form and fee if you choose, to Vermont Board of Bar Examiners, 2418 Airport Rd., Suite 2, Barre, VT 05641. Application deadlines are May 1 for the July exam and December 1 for the February exam. You will be notified by the Board of your acceptance to take the exam by July 1 for the July exam and by February 1 for the February exam.

Pass Rates

You should receive your Vermont bar exam scores by mail six to eight weeks after taking the exam. To pass the Vermont bar exam, you must have at least a score of 135 on the MBE and a score of 135 or more on the written part (MPT and essay). If you receive a score of 130 to 134 on either part, you can still pass the exam if your score for the other part of the exam is higher than 135 by two points for each point you are below 135 on the low-scoring part of the exam.

The Vermont Board of Bar Examiners posted the following results for past bar exams:

February 2012:                  56 percent of all test-takers passed the exam
July 2011:                           68%
February 2011:                  68%
July 2010:                           81%
February 2010:                  66%
July 2009:                           62%
February 2009:                  60%
July 2008:                           68%
February 2008:                  59%

Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)

You must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) with a scaled score of at least 80. This must be achieved within seven years of passing the Vermont bar exam. Admission on Motion

If you are already a licensed lawyer in another state, you may be admitted to the Vermont bar without taking the bar exam (that is, Admission on Motion). You must meet one of the following requirements:

  • You are in New Hampshire or Maine, and have you practiced at least three years
  • You are licensed in another jurisdiction, and have practiced for five of the past ten years

Complete the Petition for Admission Without Examination.

Licensing and Admission to the Bar

Once you have passed the bar exam, you will be given instructions on when and where to report for your formal swearing-in ceremony. Here, you will be formally admitted to the Vermont bar. The Vermont Supreme Court sets the date of admission ceremonies. Usually they are held four times yearly, in March, May or June, September, and November or December.

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Step 5

You’ve Been Admitted to the Vermont Bar

Congratulations on passing the Vermont bar examination! You are now a member of the state bar and licensed to practice law in Vermont! Lean on your mentor lawyer from your clerkship for help as you start out in legal practice. Whether you choose to open your own law practice, join an existing practice, or work as legal counsel for a company, your mentor can be of great assistance to you as you start out in the Vermont legal world.

The Vermont Bar Association is a voluntary organization that you should seriously consider joining. It offers discount continuing legal education programs, networking opportunities, a lawyer referral service, case research services, free publications, advocacy, and more for Vermont lawyers.

Existing law firms in the state that may hire new attorneys from time to time include full-service firm Downs Rachlin & Martin PLLC in Brattleboro; business law firm Lisman, Webster & Leckerling, PC in Burlington; corporate and immigration specialists Cheney, Brock & Saudek, PC in Montpelier; the bankruptcy law office of Kathleen Walls in Middlebury; and commercial litigators Cleary, Shahi & Aicher, PC in Rutland.

Although Vermont houses no Fortune 500 companies, it is home to some major corporate players who might be in need of legal counsel at some time. These include ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s in Burlington; retail and mail order specialists Orvis in Manchester; Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in Waterbury; retailers Vermont Country Store in Manchester, Weston and Rockingham; and granite company Rock of Ages Corporation in Graniteville.

Other opportunities for Vermont lawyers may exist within federal, state and local government. A recent scan of the classifieds revealed positions available for lawyers in agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security in Essex; the Vermont Legislative Council in Montpelier; the State of Vermont in Springfield; and the Vermont Public Service Board in Montpelier.

Legal specialty certification

Vermont does not offer its own certification program for those who wish to specialize in legal practice areas. However, it does recognize independent certification programs for specialties in Business Bankruptcy, Civil Trial Advocacy, Consumer Bankruptcy, Creditors' Rights, Criminal Law Trial Advocacy, DUI Defense, Elder Law, Estate Planning Law, Family Law Trial Advocacy, Juvenile Law - Child Welfare, Legal Professional Liability, Medical Professional Liability, and Social Security Disability. Contact the Vermont Bar Association at (802) 223-2020 for more information.

Requirements for maintaining license

In order to maintain your license to practice law in Vermont, you must complete 20 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) every two years. This must include two hours of ethics and two hours of professionalism. Consult the Vermont Judiciary for more information on CLE regulations and requirements.

Court Systems in Vermont

The Vermont Court System consists of the following:

  • Vermont Supreme Court: the highest court in the state, based at 109 State Street in Montpelier. This is the state’s only appellate court. It hears all appeals, and administers the state’s court system.
  • County Courts: the following courts are located throughout Vermont’s 14 counties:
    • Superior Courts (Civil Division):  have exclusive jurisdiction over most civil cases; reviews lower court decisions and administrative agency decision appeals. They are located in:
      • Addison Civil Division – Middlebury
      • Caledonia Civil Division – St. Johnsbury
      • Essex Civil Division – Guildhall
      • Grand Isle Civil Division – North Hero
      • Orange Civil Division – Chelsea
      • Rutland Civil Division – Rutland
      • Windham Civil Division – Newfane
      • Bennington Civil Division – Bennington
      • Chittenden Civil Division – Burlington
      • Franklin Civil Division – St. Albans
      • Lamoille Civil Division – Hyde Park
      • Orleans Civil Division – Newport
      • Washington Civil Division – Montpelier
      • Windsor Civil Division - Woodstock
    • District Courts (Criminal Division): hear almost all criminal cases in the state, and some civil cases. All counties except Chittenden County have one District Court (it has six)
    • Family Courts (Family Division): hear matters concerning family law. No jury trials occur here. Found in all counties.
    • Environmental Division: Trial court with statewide jurisdiction over appeals from state land use permit decisions, from state environmental permits and other decisions of the Agency of Natural Resources, and from municipal land use zoning and planning decisions. It also hears municipal land use enforcement cases, as well as enforcement actions brought by the Agency of Natural Resources and Natural Resources Board. The Environmental Division is located in Barre.
    • Probate Courts (Probate Division): hear matters of probate, wills, adoptions, guardianship, etc. Found in:
      • Bennington
      • Burlington
      • Hyde Park
      • Manchester
      • Montpelier
      • North Hero
      • St Albans
      • Woodstock
      • Brattleboro
      • Chelsea
      • Island Pond
      • Middlebury
      • Newport
      • Rutland
      • St. Johnsbury

Elective membership organizations

The following are a few membership organizations for Vermont attorneys, which you might think about joining:

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Vermont Resources

General Resources

Law Exams

Lawyer Career Specialties

  Vermont Statistics:
 
VT Active Lawyers 2,166
Average Annual Wage $93,750

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