The Professional Responsibility Program

The Vermont Supreme Court is responsible for the regulation of the practice of law.  The Court oversees all aspects of attorney licensing, including bar admissions, continuing legal education, and attorney discipline.

In 1999, the Court promulgated Administrative Order 9, in which it delegated supervision of the attorney discipline system to the Professional Responsibility Program. A complete description of the program is here.  At the same time, the Court adopted the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct.  The rules are often referred to as “the ethics rules” and are the rules with which attorneys must comply.  A violation of the rules is grounds for the imposition of a sanction against a lawyer’s license.

Inquiries & Assistance

Bar Counsel administers the Bar Assistance Program.  The program’s mission is to promote professional competence and a culture of compliance with the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct.  Bar Counsel aims to:

  • provide attorneys with guidance, referrals, educational materials, and information necessary to achieve, maintain, and enhance high standards of professional competence and professional responsibility;
  • provide attorneys and judges with guidance, referrals, and educational materials that promote the wellness and well-being of legal professionals;
  • provide a forum for the prompt non-disciplinary resolution of disputes involving attorney conduct; and,
  • inform the public about the existence and operation of the Professional Responsibility Program.

Michael Kennedy is Bar Counsel.  To make an inquiry, call Michael at 802-859-3004 or email him at   michael.kennedy@vermont.gov   He often responds quicker to email than to phone messages.  Inquiries are confidential.

For more information, please review Bar Counsel’s Mission Statement and Policies Concerning Ethics Inquiries.

COMPLAINTS

Screening Counsel screens each complaint that is filed with the Program.  The screening rule authorizes Screening Counsel to conduct a limited investigation to determine the nature of a complaint and whether it can be resolved informally.   Screening Counsel dismisses complaints that do not rise to the level of professional misconduct, resolves minor complaints, and refers more serious complaints for investigation by Disciplinary Counsel.

As of April 1, 2021, the Court Administrator has assigned Licensing Counsel to Andy Strauss to serve as Sreening Counsel.

Once a complaint is referred for an investigation by Disciplinary Counsel, Bar Counsel’s involvement ends.  Disciplinary Counsel investigates each complaint and decides whether to recommend formal disciplinary charges against the attorney involved.

Written complaints should be sent to:  Professional Responsibility Program, 32 Cherry Street, Suite 213, Burlington, VT 05401.  Complaints may also be sent via email to jud.prpcomplaints@vermont.gov

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