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Vanderbilt Law School

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Official Guide to ABA-Approved JD Programs

The JD Program

A Balanced Approach

Among the nation’s leading law schools, Vanderbilt Law School stands out as a forward-thinking community of professionals committed to providing tomorrow’s lawyers with the knowledge, skills, and experience they need to tackle difficult problems locally, nationally, and globally in law, public service, business, government, or other areas where law and legal reasoning promote positive outcomes for individuals and society. Scholarship, professional development, and commitment to service for the greater good are integral components of a Vanderbilt legal education.

With about 155 students in each entering JD class, our smaller size allows greater access to an elite faculty in an unusually collegial and rigorous school culture. Drawn from across the nation and abroad, VLS students have remarkably varied backgrounds, experiences, and professional goals, while sharing a common commitment to challenge themselves and each other to excel.

With state-of-the-art facilities situated on a beautiful and vibrant university campus in a sophisticated and livable city, Vanderbilt offers a balanced approach to a productive and rewarding legal education.

Accessible Faculty, Collegial Culture

The central experience of a Vanderbilt legal education is working closely with our faculty of leading experts who approach teaching with the same careful preparation, skill, and enthusiasm they seek to foster in students embarking on professional careers. Lawyers must be team players in difficult circumstances, and Vanderbilt’s well-established active-learning culture promotes collegiality, collaboration, mutual support, and respect for others’ views as integral components of professional practice. Widely respected for their scholarly impact, professors draw on their cutting-edge scholarship to create engaging classroom courses connected to experiential learning opportunities that strengthen core and content legal expertise. Faculty members take an open-door approach, extending their availability to students well beyond class times.

An outstanding classroom curriculum reinforced by experiential and interdisciplinary approaches to advanced training in the second and third years are the hallmarks of a Vanderbilt legal education. Entering students begin their studies with Life of the Law, a course designed to distill the core ideas of legal education and provide tools and information that help beginning law students become productive and effective as quickly as possible. First-year sections of 55 to 60 students study torts, contracts, criminal law, civil procedure, property, and the regulatory state. Legal writing and a spring semester elective course round out the first-year curriculum.

Upper-level courses are nearly all elective, allowing each student to tailor a legal education to individual interests and professional goals. Broad curricular offerings and academic programs allow extensive flexibility to delve into one or more areas of compelling interest and to prepare for a career in any area of law:

  • Law and Business
  • Criminal Justice
  • Energy, Environment, and Land Use
  • Intellectual Property
  • International Legal Studies
  • Law and Government
  • Law and Innovation
  • Litigation and Dispute Resolution
  • Social Justice

Dual-degree Programs

Dual-degree programs make it possible to combine the JD with an MSF, MBA, MD, MDiv, MTS, MPP, MA, or PhD in conjunction with the university’s various graduate and professional schools. The JD/MS in Finance leads to both degrees in six semesters and provides unmatched training for graduating students entering transactional law practice.

Experience Counts: Connect Theory to Practice

Traditional course offerings connect to real-world practice through an array of structured experiential learning opportunities in which students learn both the theory and practice of law in context. Guided by law faculty and experienced practitioners, our students learn how the legal system works and how its participants interact by using their classroom training in both real-world and simulated practice settings including clinical courses, practicums, simulation courses, and externships for academic credit.

Students serve the public in real practice settings through the law school’s clinical offerings that include

  • Civil Practice
  • Community Enterprise (small business/nonprofits)
  • Criminal Practice
  • Geriatric Clinic Medical Legal Partnership Practicum
  • Immigration Practice
  • Intellectual Property and the Arts
  • International Law Practice Lab

Public Interest Law

Vanderbilt is committed to cultivating a culture of public service and to facilitating opportunities for students to use their legal training in service of the greater good. The Assistant Dean for Public Interest provides comprehensive resources and support for students interested in pursuing public interest and public service opportunities during and after law school.

Each year, law students receive stipend awards for summer pro bono work serving as interns in judicial chambers, US Attorney offices, governmental agencies, NGOs, nonprofit legal aid organizations, and federal public defender offices. Other financial support for students pursuing public interest careers include Garrison social justice scholarships and public interest fellowships for second- and third-year students. Vanderbilt’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program provides financial support to graduates who choose low-paying public service jobs, VLS Public Service Pathways stipends support new lawyers pursuing public interest employment, and the Barrett Social Justice Fellowship enables VLS graduates to carry out one-year public interest projects under the supervision and sponsorship of a host organization.

International Study and Special Programs

Vanderbilt-in-Venice allows students to study abroad in the rich cultural center of Venice, Italy. Taught by Vanderbilt Law faculty, courses cover topics in international law with intensive classwork augmented by outside experiences; the four-week program concludes in mid-June. Students also can gain academic credit along with valuable international experience in nonprofits, government agencies, and other organizations abroad through our robust individualized externship program.

Vanderbilt’s PhD in Law and Economics trains scholars for academic positions, law practice, policy-making, and public interest work. The JD/PhD in Neuroscience is associated with the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience at Vanderbilt University, which addresses a focused set of problems in criminal justice. The law school also offers an LLM program for foreign-trained lawyers.

Law School Building and Library

The Law School facilities are among the best designed in the nation, featuring a central open courtyard with adjacent café, comfortable lounges, and abundant natural light. Situated on Vanderbilt University’s parklike campus that is designated a national arboretum, the building is designed for 21st century legal studies and research with wireless connectivity, state-of-the-art classrooms and a trial courtroom, and on-site and remote access to a host of electronic resources. The law library provides a variety of study spaces, including two reading rooms and nearly 200 carrels. The service-oriented library staff oversees a collection of over 605,000 volumes and more than 250 electronic databases, and all other Vanderbilt libraries, containing more than 3.3 million volumes, are also available to law students

Learn more about the JD program at Vanderbilt Law School

Student Life

Student Life, Journals, and Law School Environs

A main reason that students choose Vanderbilt is the congenial, collaborative school culture. Spirited competition in an atmosphere of mutual respect creates a rare combination of intellectual vibrancy with a strong sense of community. The activities of more than 40 student organizations augment a busy schedule of visiting speakers, symposia, and conferences. Four student publications provide opportunities to strengthen legal research and writing skills—Vanderbilt Law ReviewVanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology LawVanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, and Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review (in conjunction with the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, DC).

Vanderbilt is a world-class university with strong partnerships among its 10 schools, neighboring institutions, and the Nashville community. In the natural beauty of Tennessee, Vanderbilt’s hometown has emerged as a vibrant city that offers numerous professional opportunities, wide-ranging cultural and recreational options, and a great quality of life. Among the nation’s most livable cities, Nashville is the state capital with a metropolitan area population of 1.7 million, and Vanderbilt is ideally situated in this major center for legal activity, allowing students an array of opportunities to gain experience in law firms, state and federal courts, and government, public agencies, nonprofits, and corporations.

Career Placement and Bar Passage

Career Services: National Reach

Vanderbilt graduates consistently secure top-tier legal employment across the nation. With more than three-quarters of each graduating class taking employment out-of-state, Vanderbilt graduates enjoy remarkable geographic mobility supported by the school’s long-standing relationships with legal employers coast to coast and by its global alumni network that covers 50 states; Washington, DC; four US territories; and 37 nations.

Most popular employment destinations for the JD classes of 2016 through 2020:

  • New York, 16%
  • Tennessee, 16%
  • Texas, 13%
  • Washington, DC, 9%
  • Georgia, 7%
  • California, 5%
  • Florida, 4%
  • Illinois, 3%
  • The remaining 27% took employment across 34 other states and internationally
  • About 10% of graduating students obtain federal judicial clerkships each year

Learn more about career placement at Vanderbilt Law School

Admission Decisions: Beyond the Numbers

Admission to Vanderbilt is competitive, and the selection process reflects our belief that the quality of the educational environment at the Law School benefits from considering a range of information about each prospective student that is far broader than GPA and LSAT score. We strongly encourage every applicant to interview with a Vanderbilt alum or admission officer. We review each file in its entirety for indicators of academic excellence, intellectual curiosity, interest in others’ welfare, perseverance, professionalism, and other characteristics of successful law students. We believe that talented students with a mix of backgrounds, perspectives, and goals promote a vibrant and beneficial educational environment and that full-file review in the admission process is central to that objective. We do not provide a two-factor applicant profile grid to describe a multifactor selection process in which we base decisions on experienced judgment applied to individual cases.

Learn more about admission at Vanderbilt Law School

Admitted Applicant Profile

25-75% UGPA Range at Vanderbilt:

3.65 to 3.96

25-75% LSAT Score Range at Vanderbilt:

164 to 171

25-75% UGPA Range at Vanderbilt:

3.65 to 3.96

25-75% LSAT Score Range at Vanderbilt:

164 to 171

25-75% UGPA Range at Vanderbilt:

3.65 to 3.96

25-75% LSAT Score Range at Vanderbilt:

164 to 171

Contact Information

131 21st Avenue South,
Nashville, TN 37203,
United States