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 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor reported that lawyers in Vermont averaged earnings of $105,900 per year. 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 November, January, March, June and July, on Mondays 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

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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 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

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

Vermont administers the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). Study help for the three parts of this exam can be found at the National Conference of Bar Examiners website.  These include the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). 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, the Vermont-specific Bar Exam Application will be made available to you by the Vermont Board of Bar Examiners.

Deadlines for applications are December 1 for the February bar exam and May 1 for the July bar exam. The application fee is $300, and there is an additional fee of $50 if you want to use your own laptop for the exam.

Pass Rates

You should receive your Vermont bar exam scores by mail six to eight weeks after taking the exam.
The Vermont Board of Bar Examiners posted the following results for past bar exams:
July 2018: 70% overall pass rate
Feb 2018: 65%
July 2017: 62%
July 2016: 66%

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 Without Examination
If you are already a licensed lawyer in another state, you may be admitted to the Vermont bar without taking the bar exam. 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
  • You have not failed the Vermont bar exam or scored less than 270 on the UBE within five 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! There are requirements you must fulfill during your first year of practice. One of the requirements you must fulfill as a new Vermont lawyer is to complete the mentorship program. You must be mentored for your first year of practice by a judge or an experienced Vermont lawyer. You must also perform certain legal tasks or attend functions during this mentorship period. 

Additionally, you must complete 15 hours of continuing legal education on Vermont practice and procedure. At least six of these hours must be earned through attending live courses.
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 civil trial lawyers Affolter Gannon Law in Essex Junction; workers compensation lawyers Biggam, Fox & Skinner in Burlington; finance and environmental law firm Burak Anderson & Melloni in Burlington; real estate and banking lawyers Kenlan, Schwiebert, Facey & Goss in Rutland; and bankruptcy law firm Obuchowski & Emens-Butler in Bethel.

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. Up to 10 hours of this MCLE may be earned through self-study. 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: Each of Vermont’s 14 counties has its own Superior Court made up of five different divisions- civil, criminal, environmental, family and probate.
      • The Civil Division, which includes Small Claims Court, has exclusive jurisdiction over most civil cases; reviews lower court decisions and administrative agency decision appeals.
      • The Criminal Division hears almost all criminal cases in the state, and some civil cases.
      • The Family Division hears matters concerning family law. No jury trials occur here.
      • The Environmental Division is a 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 Probate Division hears matters of probate, wills, adoptions, guardianship, etc. 
  • Vermont Judicial Bureau- This division has statewide jurisdiction over all civil violations. It hears cases all over the state, but the location of its clerk’s office is White River Junction.

Elective membership organizations

The following are a few membership and nonprofit organizations for Vermont attorneys, in which you might wish to become active:

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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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