Located just outside the heart of downtown Nashville, Tennessee, the Vanderbilt Law School was started just prior to the founding of Vanderbilt University. Since its beginnings in 1874, the law school has remained a small, highly esteemed professional school. Its first class had more professors than students and today Vanderbilt Law School admits less than 200 students per year with an acceptance rate of less than 25%. In the past 20 years, Vanderbilt Law School has grown from one of the most prominent law schools in the South to national prominence. To become a top tier law school, Vanderbilt introduced a Law & Business program along with numerous student journals while also bolstering its graduate offerings. The law school is now considered to be one of the top 20 programs in the country and one of the most competitive. In its long history, the law school has produced a number of notable justices and politicians including Vice President Al Gore.
First year students at Vanderbilt Law School take five required courses in core classes in the subjects of civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. Students also take a two semester class that covers all aspects of the legal writing process. In their spring semester, students also take a class in legal history, the regulatory structure, and one elective of their choice. Prior to graduation, the only additional required classes are: one section of constitutional law, a class in professional responsibility, a satisfactory practical course, and a substantial writing project. In total, students are required to take 88 hours of coursework of which 23 hours may be satisfied in approved courses in other departments.
Upper class students focus their final two years of study on one of several subject areas: alternative dispute resolution, criminal justice, environmental law, social justice, international law, government, innovation, or intellectual property. In addition, Vanderbilt Law School created the innovative Law & Business certification which provides students with a unique education in both law and business administration. The focus areas at Vanderbilt Law School also align closely with the school’s clinical program to allow students to combine their coursework with practical skills as they prepare for their future careers.
Vanderbilt Law School offers a one-year Masters of Law (LL.M) degree which includes two tracks: Law & Business or the Thesis Track. The first track requires additional coursework to provide a foundation in the legal framework affecting businesses and corporations. The second track requires less coursework but, instead, requires a major research project supervised by faculty members.
The Vanderbilt Law School also created the first joint degree combining the juris doctor with a PhD in Economics. Combining the theories of economics with the study of law, students in this dual program produce ground-breaking research that explores the interplay of the two fields. Similarly, Vanderbilt Law school offers a program that allows students to complete their J.D. and a Masters in FInance within three years.
Along with the graduate programs, Vanderbilt Law School has additional joint programs that pair the juris doctor degree with Masters in Divinity (MDiv) or Business (MBA) as well as programs that combine the J.D. with an MD or PhD.
Career and Career Placement
Graduates of the Vanderbilt Law School are some of the most sought after lawyers in the country. Within 10 months of graduation, over 95% of graduates are employed in long term careers with over 90% of those accepting positions that require a law license or prefer a law degree. Less than half of those students accepted positions in large (500+ attorney) law firms. Instead, Vanderbilt Law School graduates use their educations to pursue careers in every sector of the law: public interest careers (6.5%), small and medium sized law firms (26%), government roles (10%), judicial clerkships (12.5%), and business jobs (5%). Graduates also found careers that commanded top salaries with a median starting salary of $160,000.
With a law school that is known for its small class size, Vanderbilt Law School still maintains a career service center with seven full time staff members. The office offers its students an impressive array of services including organizing fall and spring on-campus interviews, numerous networking events and job fairs, as well as connecting students with the school’s extensive alumni who practice all over the world in virtually every field of law.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
Students at Vanderbilt Law have the opportunity to enroll in one or two semesters of the clinical education program which allows students to build real world legal skills while working under the close supervision of the faculty. Students are graded on a pass/fail system for clinical hours and the time demands are rigorous with most students dedicating almost 10 hours per week to case work. In total, Vanderbilt Law offers eight different practice areas in their clinical program which covers a wide array of legal skills.
In addition to the the clinical program, Vanderbilt Law offers students additional opportunities to build practical skills through simulations, externships, and a unique summer stipend program. The stipend program aims to defer living expenses so students can work in non-profit and pro bono summer jobs to build the skills they need for their future careers.
Located less than two miles from the heart of Nashville, the campus of Vanderbilt Law School is set within a national arboretum of over 300 hundred tree and shrub varieties. Student life on campus is full of opportunities to engage in a student led organizations that touch on academics, identity, governance, advocacy, special interests, and even law school competitions such as moot court or mock trial.
Nashville, Tennessee is not only the home of country music but also one of the fastest growing cities in the United States and consistently ranked as having one of the top qualities of life in the country. Students will find ample off campus housing and a startling set of entertainment options within the city. Nashville is surrounded by forests and renowned for its extensive Greenway system through the city.