Fall 2008 - #1. An Interview with VBA President Doug Molde.

Author:by Robert M. Paolini, Esq.

Vermont Bar Journal


Fall 2008 - #1.

An Interview with VBA President Doug Molde

The Vermont Bar Journal #175, Volume 34, No. 3 FALL 2008

An Interview with VBA President Doug Moldeby Robert M. Paolini, Esq.On September 26, 2008, at the VBA's Annual Meeting at the Lake Morey Inn, outgoing president Stacy Chapman passed the gavel to incoming president Douglas Molde. Earlier this year, VBA Executive Director, Bob Paolini, sat down with Mr. Molde in his home in Johnson to learn more about his background and his goals for the coming year.

Bob Paolini: Doug, today is the last day of July, 2008. We are sitting at your home in Johnson, and we are going to have a conversation to try to introduce you to the members of the VBA. Let's start by talking a little bit about your background, and what got you to your position as VBA president.

Doug Molde: I guess if you go all the way back, I am from Montevideo, Minnesota, a small town in western Minnesota, with a population of about five thousand people. I graduated from the high school there and went on to college at Gustavus Adolphus, which is in St. Peter, Minnesota. Its founders were Swedish Lutherans. It is a great small liberal arts college. I went directly from Gustavus to the University of Minnesota Law School.

BP: Put this into time perspective for us. What years are we talking about?

DM: I went to college from 1964 to 1968, the Vietnam era, and law school from 1968 to 1971. I remember, in my last year of law school, watching a lottery drawing for the Selective Service, getting a very low number and wondering what was the next step in my life with my local Selective Service board. From law school, I interviewed with one firm in Minnesota. It was a firm of about six attorneys at that point in time and now many more. After applying, I decided that I wanted to be an attorney with the legal services program and that if the private firm offered me the position, I wasn't going to accept it. I did not get the offer, which was a relief. I then applied to be a VISTA attorney with Pine Tree Legal Services Program..

BP: That's in Maine?

DM: Maine, right. They wanted me to pay my fare to fly to Maine to interview for a position as a Vista attorney, and I said, I am not flying anywhere on my nickel to be a VISTA legal aid attorney. Somehow my name got to John Dooley, who at that point in time, was deputy director of Vermont Legal Aid. John knew a law professor who then interviewed me in Minnesota for Vermont Legal Aid. I received the position. Before coming to Vermont, I took the Minnesota bar exam-I actually took three-fourths of the Minnesota bar exam. I never finished, because as I was riding my bicycle home for lunch, the afternoon of the second day, the car door of a parked car was opened in my path, striking me and knocking me into a truck in the adjacent lane. I am lucky to be alive. I woke up in the hospital. I must have done well enough on the bar exam, as they passed me even though I had not completed the exam. I was transported to Vermont by my friends, because I had a concussion. I did my Vermont clerkship under Matt Katz, who was then a Legal Aid staff attorney. I took the Vermont bar exam, passed that, and started as a staff attorney with Legal Aid in St. Johnsbury with Dick Axelrod and Richard Kohn. Most of my work was out of Newport, where I interviewed clients at the Orleans County Council of Social Agencies office, working on their files out of the St. Johnsbury office. I did that for a year, at which time I was hired as a staff attorney in St. Albans and moved there. I worked there for five years.

BP: I want a little more timing here. You took a Minnesota bar, and in those days the bar was only offered once a year, right?

DM: Yes.

BP: Just in July, probably?

DM: Yes.

BP: So you had to wait a year before sitting for the Vermont exam?

DM: I took both of them in the summer of 1971. I took the Minnesota bar exam, the came out here. Legal Aid ran a bar refresher course and I took that. I was still recovering from the concussion. I would know that I knew the answer, but I had to wait while the answer came to me. I was at somewhat of a disadvantage on the Vermont bar exam, but I passed it.

BP: What was the time difference between the bar exams in Minnesota and Vermont? Were they a week apart, two weeks apart?

DM: It seems to me that they were approximately two months apart. My best recollection is that I took a bar review course in Minnesota, took that exam, drove to Vermont and took a bar review course here, and took the exam. It would be interesting to check to see what the dates were.

BP: Did you ever work in Minnesota?

DM: No. While I have maintained my license in Minnesota, I am on a restricted status, I don't take any Minnesota CLEs, and I couldn't even represent my mother in Minnesota. As far as I can tell, I would be able, if representing myself pro se, to be held to the standard of a licensed Minnesota attorney. I am not certain that is an advantage. However, I am proud of being an attorney and accordingly, pay my dues and stay admitted.

BP: So you spent a total of six or seven years with Legal Aid?

DM: Six years, 1971 to 1977. It's kind of like a social services position where you burn out. I grew unhappy in the job. I later realized that I was dissatisfied with my ability to achieve for my clients what I thought they were entitled to. While I made a difference, help was needed in so many areas. It was hard, as a lawyer, to improve my clients' lives or make things better. Our clients presented with so many issues. If they had a domestic relations case, they also had problems with housing, welfare, unemployment, transportation, SSI, etc. The absence of money creates a lot of problems. I met some really magnificent money managers, people who were just absolutely great. I liked my clients, a lot.

BP: Where were you living at the time? You worked in St. Johnsbury and then St. Albans, and now we're in Johnson, sort of in the middle of those two places?

DM: I lived in St. Johnsbury and traveled to Newport. I did that for a year, and then I moved to Georgia, Vermont. I lived on Skunk Hollow Road, which is where the whey plant went in. When the plant was coming in, I moved to Cambridge, and I lived in a house that had sixteen-inch walls and was originally a tannery. It is a beautiful brick house on Route 15. There was a Supreme Court case related to that house, where someone donated it for purposes that viewed negatively seemed designed to evade taxes. I worked in St. Albans when I was living in those places, and then I moved to Johnson. I bought land and built the house where we are now in Codding Hollow. I have been here at the end of the maintained road since 1977.

BP: Now you have a firm in Johnson?

DM: Yes.

BP: So you came out of Legal Aid and started your own office?

DM: Yes, I hung up my shingle as a solo practitioner. I looked...

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