Unconventional Path to Becoming a Lawyer: Vermont Senator Nader Hashim Passes Bar Exam through Law Office Study Program

DUMMERSTON — In an unconventional journey, State Senator Nader Hashim, representing D-Windham, recently achieved a remarkable feat by passing the bar exam in Vermont. What sets his accomplishment apart is the unique approach he took to prepare for the bar exam—an approach that harkens back to the days of Abraham Lincoln.

Vermont is one of the few states in the U.S. that offers an apprenticeship model for aspiring lawyers, known as the Law Office Study Program (LOS). Under this program, individuals "read the law" for four years, dedicating 25 hours each week to studying under the guidance of a Vermont attorney or judge, bypassing the traditional route of attending law school.

In a recent announcement, Hashim's achievement brought attention to this unconventional path to becoming a lawyer, which is gaining traction in several states as a response to legal industry shortages and other challenges.

The LOS approach, sometimes referred to as "reading the law," is an alternative path to legal licensure in a handful of states, including Washington, Vermont, California, and Virginia. However, states like North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, Georgia, and Maine are exploring similar paths to address legal workforce shortages and case backlogs.

While the LOS program offers a unique opportunity to enter the legal profession without the burden of law school debt, it is not without its challenges. According to Reuters, only a small fraction of aspiring lawyers opt for this route. In Hashim's home state of Vermont, it was reported that 47 individuals pursued this path in 2019.

Hashim, who is 34 years old and resides in Dummerston, entered the program after considering law school but needing to continue earning a living. He explained that the LOS program essentially involves a four-year apprenticeship under the mentorship of an attorney, where participants learn by shadowing attorneys and engaging in hands-on legal work.

"It's learning from what they do, and learning how lawyers actually do the work," Hashim explained. "And after four years of doing that, you have to take the bar exam. Then you're an attorney."

Hashim underwent rigorous preparations for the bar exam, describing it as "one of the most stressful experiences" of his life. He recently celebrated his success on social media, announcing, "I PASSED THE BAR EXAM! I AM A LAWYER!"

Throughout his journey, Hashim was sponsored and mentored by Evan Chadwick of Chadwick & Spensley, PLLC, a law firm based in Brattleboro, Vermont. During his four-year apprenticeship, Hashim also worked as a paralegal at Chadwick's firm, earning a salary while gaining practical experience in various areas of the law.

Reflecting on Hashim's achievement, Evan Chadwick expressed his pride in his mentee, saying, "I am very proud of Nader and feel he will serve as a great asset to the Vermont bar."

Hashim's diverse background, which includes experience as a state trooper and a lawmaker, along with his legal journey through the LOS program, positions him for a successful legal career. He plans to focus on family law, leveraging his strong mediation skills and experience in domestic violence cases.

The Law Office Study Program in Vermont, administered through the Vermont Bar Association, requires participants to hold a bachelor's degree and work under the guidance of a supervising attorney. It involves ongoing reporting, mentorship, and fulfilling prerequisites in various legal subcategories.

Hashim's success story highlights the potential of the LOS program as a cost-effective and practical alternative for individuals seeking a career in law, especially for those looking to avoid the financial burden often associated with traditional law school programs.