The curriculum for the JD/MELP joint degree program combines the curriculum for the JD degree and the curriculum for the Master of Environmental Law and Policy degree—with the important difference that students enrolled in the joint degree program can count nine JD credits toward their MELP degree. The MELP curriculum includes three required courses (Public Law, Environmental Law, and Communications, Advocacy and Leadership), three of five core courses in different disciplines, and a wide array of environmental law electives. The JD curriculum includes a first-year foundation in basic legal subjects as well as techniques of legal analysis; the second and third years of the JD program mostly consist of elective courses and subjects that will be covered on the bar exam.
An integral feature of the JD/MELP degree program is the Summer Session during which students take classes and participate in a community of students and scholars exploring the cutting edge of environmental law and policy. Most MELP students take summer classes after completing their first year at the law school. The summer faculty include regular VLS faculty, scholars from other law schools in the U.S. and other countries, public-interest advocates, experienced government attorneys, and lawyers from private practice. The program offers approximately 35 two- and three-week courses between early June and early August. Students typically spend three hours in the classroom four days a week, leaving ample time to enjoy the many outdoor recreational opportunities in the Green Mountain State during the summer months, such as tubing down the White River, hiking the Long Trail, or enjoying a leisurely meal in South Royalton or any of the many other picturesque villages surrounding the law school.
During the summer, the law school also hosts four Distinguished Summer Scholars who are leaders in Environmental Law, Energy Law and Policy, Agriculture and Food, and International Law. Each of these scholars is available to meet with students during their two-week residencies. In addition, the summer faculty, the Distinguished Summer Scholars, VLS Media Fellows, and other visitors offer several lunchtime "Hot Topics" lectures on different environmental topics each week over the course of the summer.
After spending the summer after their first year taking environmental courses, most JD/MELPs spend the summer after their second year pursuing externships at different locations around the country and the world. Student externs earn credit toward their MELP degrees while gaining valuable experience that advances their education and helps prepare them for employment following graduation. A VLS counselor assists students in locating externship opportunities, but students can also identify suitable externship placements on their own. Students pursue a wide variety of externships, including with the U.S. Department of Justice, state attorneys general, federal and state environmental agencies, nonprofit advocacy groups, and many other types of institutions. A mentor in the office hosting each externship oversees a student's work, and a member of the VLS faculty serves as the on-campus externship supervisor for each student.
The full, current list of environmental and energy courses is available here: Download the Environmental Law Courses by Subject Area (.pdf)
Experiential Learning for Master of Environmental Law and Policy Students
JD/MELP students pursue a wide variety of clinical and externship opportunities. As discussed above, most JD/MELPs earn credit toward their MELP degree by pursuing an externship during the summer after their second year. In addition, some JD/MELPs do part-time externships during the regular school year, usually within the State of Vermont. Visit the Master's Externships page for more information.
The full range of other experiential programs that are offered to JDs is also available to JD/MELP students, including the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic and the Land Use Clinic. JD/MELPs can also enroll in the JD Semester in Practice or Judicial Externship programs. All of these experiential learning opportunities help ensure that JD/MELP graduates are prepared the first day on the job. Finally, JD/MELP students also have the option of pursuing "seventh semester" fall externships after graduating with their JD degree and taking the bar exam, allowing students to gain experience on the ground in the community where they plan to pursue a career.
Students who wish to pursue a particular specialty within environmental law may obtain a certificate in Climate Change Law, Energy Law, Land Use Law, or Water Resources Law. More information about the VLS environmental certificates is available here.