Tim Connolly, JD 2009
From my experience, Vermont Law does not have the cut-throat mentality that people associate with law school.”
BA, political science, Middlebury College
As a staffer working on the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 2005, Tim Connolly listened to the stories of military families who felt they had been harmed by water contamination at the Camp Lejeune Marine base in North Carolina.
One retired Marine fervently believed that his 9-year-old daughter's death from leukemia in the mid-1980s was linked to the water supply, and he, like other families, also believed the Marines had not been forthcoming about their own investigation of the matter.
The chemicals, TCE and PCE, were first discovered in Camp Lejeune's drinking water in the early 1980s, linked to an adjacent dry-cleaning facility and other industrial sites. The polluted wells were shut down in 1985 and Camp Lejeune was later listed as a Superfund site. But nearly two decades later, the families were still searching for answers about the resulting illnesses that they believed were linked to the chemicals.
Tim and his EPW colleagues worked with the families and managed to get language included in a military appropriations bill that called on the National Academy of Sciences to expand the investigation. It also required that all Marines who lived in the affected area be notified of the potential health effects stemming from the contaminated water.
That experience helped steer him towards law school, with an interest in public health issues.
"That was one small thing we could do to help those families, and it was an issue that, in our minds, went beyond politics," he says. "Working with those families was an experience that made me appreciate the value and fulfillment of working on behalf of individuals, and I realized that a law degree would enable me to be a better advocate."
As he considered various law schools, Tim decided Vermont Law School "would be the best fit." A native of Burlington, he attended Middlebury College, where he earned a BA in political science with a minor in environmental studies.
"It was an easy transition. It's in my home state, in a rural community, and there are the kinds of things I like to do in my free time: skiing, jogging, cycling," he says, noting that he is also drawn to issues at the state level.
He also credits an accessible faculty and close-knit student body for making the VLS experience more enjoyable.
"From my experience, Vermont Law does not have the cut-throat mentality that people associate with law school," he says. "It's more of a cooperative and supportive academic environment."
Last summer, Tim clerked for the Burlington firm of McNeil Leddy and Sheahan, working on municipal law for cities and towns. He spent the previous summer clerking with the Chittenden County Public Defender's Office in Burlington, and in spring 2008, he landed an externship with Vermont Superior Court in Woodstock and Rutland.
But his legal background started before he even entered law school. As a Middlebury student, he interned with the State's Attorney's office in Burlington, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Alaska; and with U.S. Federal District Court Judge William Sessions III before graduating and heading to Washington, D.C.
With that background, he's had a taste of criminal law; environmental law; property law; employment law; workers' compensation and medical malpractice cases, and he enjoys the variety.
Yet he might just come full circle in the end.
"I haven't ruled out a future in politics," he says with a grin. Recalling his work in the U.S. Senate, he adds, "It's fascinating."