The General Practice Program, which began more than 25 years ago at Vermont Law School, is a two-year, four-semester program that allows second- and third-year JD students to experience what a practicing lawyer does on a daily basis.
Students gain exposure to the professional legal culture through interactions with GPP faculty, student colleagues, and mentors. A class-size limit of 16 students promotes significant individual guidance from professors and facilitates discussion and teamwork. Students learn and practice a variety of skills: drafting, counseling, interviewing, mediation, negotiation, oral argument, and pretrial preparation. Students also confront and resolve ethical issues in their roles as attorneys.
The General Practice Program complements the traditional JD curriculum, preparing students to be general practitioners who must provide a range of legal services. The program also provides an alternative for those students who learn best in a hands-on manner.
The GPP meshes substantive law with professional skills. Classes are structured to simulate a law firm, with professors acting as senior partners who oversee the student “associates” as they perform a broad range of legal activities—role-playing representing clients through divorce proceedings, conducting real estate closings, handling employment cases, producing wills, and preparing for civil and criminal court appearances. Students are exposed to the legal professional culture through their interactions with GPP faculty and student colleagues. In addition, the GPP Mentorship Project introduces students to local practitioners for conversation and attendance at professional events.
A General Practice Program Certificate is awarded to students who have successfully completed all four semesters of the program, in addition to their JD.
The level of interaction GPP students have with practicing attorneys, the comprehensive nature of the courses, and the length of the program set it apart. The American Bar Association recognized the General Practice Program at Vermont Law School with the prestigious 2007 E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award, in recognition of projects that contribute to the understanding of professionalism among lawyers.