Vermont Law School Offers Innovative Online Environmental Degree Programs

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Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, has the top-ranked environmental law program and one of the top-ranked clinical training programs in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. VLS offers a Juris Doctor curriculum that emphasizes public service; two Master’s Degrees (Master of Environmental Law and Policy, and Master of Energy Regulation and Law), and three post-JD degrees — LLM in American Legal Studies (for foreign-trained lawyers), LLM in Energy Law, and LLM in Environmental Law. The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center, the South Royalton Legal Clinic, and the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic.

“Vermont Law School graduates already occupy key positions in federal agencies, including Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the US EPA, as well as leadership positions in energy companies, the military, foreign governments, & local governments.

Vermont Law School (VLS), ranked No. 1 in the nation for environmental law, now offers two of its environmental master’s programs in an online format in addition to their on-campus counterparts. The online VLS Master of Energy Regulation and Law (MERL) and Master of Laws in Energy Law (LLM) make it possible for students across the country to participate in these programs with limited interruption to career and family.

Vermont Law School is widely regarded as the preeminent school for those passionate about pursuing energy exploration and development while protecting the environment. VLS has been ranked No. 1 in environmental law by U.S. News and World Report 17 times since the ranking began in 1991, earning the ranking for an unprecedented six consecutive years in 2014.

“This is an exciting step,” said Associate Dean for Innovation and Distance Learning Program Director Rebecca Purdom of the online options. “Vermont Law School is committed to providing high-quality legal education for working practitioners, many of whom already have industry expertise, and many of whom are making career transitions. Vermont has been the top environmental law school for more than 40 years, and we’re excited to make our energy expertise available to a wide and remote audience.”

The MERL program is designed for those with or without a law degree who wish to gain a broad-based understanding of energy law and policy, regulation, and economic analysis. Of the 30-credit-hour program curriculum, six courses are required: Energy Law and Policy in a Carbon-Constrained World, Energy Regulation and the Environment, Environmental Economics and Markets, Public Law Alternative Fuels and Renewable Energy, and Oil and Gas Development and the Environment. The remaining hours are electives.

Michael Dworkin, founder and director of the Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE) at Vermont Law School, says the MERL degree speaks to growing interest in regulation and policy across multiple elements of the energy sector.

“Vermont Law School graduates already occupy key positions in federal agencies, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. EPA, as well as leadership positions in energy companies, the military, foreign governments, and state and local energy regulators,” Dworkin said. “The availability of these key programs will help students further deepen and tailor their expertise for the energy challenges ahead.”

The LLM in Energy Law program is designed for those who have earned a JD degree and wish to gain a high level of expertise in energy law and policy. Of this 30-credit-hour program curriculum, four courses are required: Energy Law and Policy in a Carbon-Constrained World; Energy Regulation, Markets, and the Environment; Administrative Law; and the LLM Graduate Seminar. Students complete the remaining hours with electives.

The range of electives for either program is one of the widest offered by any law school in the world. A choice from more than 50 environmental and energy courses gives students the ability to create a highly personal academic path.

Both programs can be completed in as few as 18 months, and provide opportunities for experiential learning through a choice of either an externship or participation in research at the Institute for Energy and the Environment, where students work alongside respected energy experts on the cutting edge of energy-and-environment innovation.

While the LLM in Energy Law prepares students to practice in the public or private sphere or pursue careers in teaching, research or public policy, the MERL program focuses on preparing students to work for private energy companies, consulting firms, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, or as entrepreneurs who will create new jobs in the energy field. Graduates of both programs are prepared to become effective agents of change at the intersection of energy development and the environment.

“To be successful, students need to have a serious appreciation of not only the technical aspects of electricity generation, the oil and gas industry, the alternative fuels markets – they also need to understand the social precedents and impacts of policies that affect the electrical grid, the petroleum industry and the development of renewable fuels,” Dworkin said. “The curriculum is designed to explore the technical, the political, the policy dimensions, and the social and ethical consideration of energy in the United States and the world.”

VLS has attracted experienced environmental litigators, former high-level government officials, and thoughtful visionaries to join its faculty. In addition to sharing a high level of expertise with students, VLS faculty mentor students by providing direction, inspiration, and connection to industry leaders as well as to others passionate about finding solutions to the energy and environment issues of the 21st century.

For more information about the curriculum or the admissions requirements for the online Master of Energy Regulation and Law or Master of Laws in Energy Law, visit energyonline.vermontlaw.edu.

The Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School provides accessible resources on contemporary energy law and policy and is modeled on the fundamentals of a successful public policy consulting firm. The IEE distributes scholarly, technical and practical publications; provides forums and conferences for professional education and issue development; and serves as a center for graduate research on energy issues, with environmental awareness. For more information about the IEE, email Institute Coordinator Jennifer Thomas at jthomas(at)vermontlaw(dot)edu.

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Maryellen Apelquist
Vermont Law
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