|Rankings and Top 100 Profiles 3rd and 4th Tier Profiles Dean Interviews Discuss Your School TLS Stats TLS Programs International Profiles Law School Articles|
Vanderbilt University Law School
This profile was written by a TLS staff writer without the participation of any members of the Vanderbilt Law administration. Quotations from Dean Morton and Dean Guthrie were excerpted from separate interviews conducted independently from the creation of this article. For our full interview with Dean G. Todd Morton, click here. For our full interview with Dean Chris Guthrie, click here. Published November 2007, last updated February 2011.
The Vanderbilt University Law School has a nickname. If you have heard it spoken before, this nickname might evoke something in you. Current students and alumni will say it with more than simple pride; professors and administrators also know the nickname, as do employers across the country.
The law school, ranked as a top 20 school for many years now, seems to operate with several Southern principles in mind: friendship, family, vivacity, and an honest day’s work. Vanderbilt University is located in Nashville, both the state capital and the country’s best spot for country music. Students report back to TLS that with its small class size, Friday “Blackacres” events, great live music in the city and tons of caring administrators, their experience at the law school is memorable.
When graduates enter the workforce, they fan out broadly across the country. Vanderbilt Law’s reach as a national school is underscored by the fact that more than half of its graduates don’t even work in the South; in fact, the disbursement is so wide that no single state consistently draws a majority of Vanderbilt graduates for its bar exam. In 2007, for example, more Vanderbilt graduates took the bar in New York than any other state. And, in Tennessee, graduates have no complaints about the law school’s ability to prepare them for the state bar and find them well-paying jobs in many different markets.
It is with some pride, some satisfaction, and some affection, therefore, that lawyers recall their three years in Nashville. This is why the school’s nickname, Vandy, has been so popular among students, graduates, and professors. It recalls the law school’s laid-back, yet vibrant, lively, and professional atmosphere.
With all this in mind, students should be cautious about attending any law school. The legal market is in trouble, and applicants need to know what law schools are planning to do in response. Fortunately, the Dean of Vanderbilt Law, Chris Guthrie, and Assistant Dean and Dean of Admissions, G. Todd Morton, address some of these concerns for TLS.
Vanderbilt Law, it should be noted, is one of the most expensive law schools in the country. Few schools outside of the T14 will leave their graduates with more debt. However, the law school recognizes the seriousness of this, and has started a new initiative to let students more easily pursue part-time public interest work before they begin full-time employment.
Vandy is a true Southern school; over 2,002 alumni enjoyed their experience in Nashville enough to live and work in Tennessee. Remember, though, that Vanderbilt is not strictly a Southern school. Vanderbilt has a national reputation, it looks out for its students, and is by all accounts a fun place to study law. While all top law schools require hard work, Vandy seems to do so without needlessly stressing its students out and thus can be an excellent setting for a legal education.
Getting into Vanderbilt Law is difficult, though as applications increase, the law school has been accepting more and more students while maintaining a small class size. If your numbers are above the schools’ medians, you should feel comfortable about your situation. Students come from all over the country; the Class of 2012 hailed from 38 states, 6 countries outside of the U.S., and most (60%) have worked at least one year before setting foot on campus.
Like all admissions offices, the file readers at Vanderbilt Law look for stand-out applications. This means that if one particular part of your application shines, whether it’s your personal statement, LSAT score, or work experience, your chances of gaining acceptance will undoubtedly improve.
Your application is not looked at as separate parts; rather, the admissions process stresses the interdependence of each item you submit. According to Dean Morton, your transcript, grade trends, undergraduate major, and any personal information potentially relevant to academic performance will be taken into account before determining the true value of your GPA.
Dean Morton gives us some insight into the application process. “Each application is reviewed in its entirety by at least two readers. Readers use ratings that approximate each application’s overall ‘strength’ relative to other applications.” In other words, your application, as strong as it is, is paired with other, equally-strong applications.
This pyramid structure allows admissions offers to admit students according to their appropriated “level.” There are no hard and fast rules as to what puts a student in one level or another. This is because admissions officers see students with the same GPA who went to different colleges with different grading standards; students who worked full-time, part-time or not at all during school; others who were the first in their families to graduate; and others with chronic illnesses or serious handicaps.
The pairing system allows file readers the option to “tip” one student up a level or down a level, depending on “individual characteristics and potential contributions to the class,” says Dean Morton. Also, he adds, “In considering work experience, community involvement, extracurricular activities and the like, we tend to think about not only the ‘what’ (i.e., military service, corporate work experience, Teach for America, etc.) but also the ‘how,’ to the extent possible.”
While some students might gain a slight advantage by applying before decisions start going out, Morton says, “[Any] potential advantage is offset by ‘staging’ decisions to avoid exhausting all offers of admission before we have reviewed all applications.” Therefore, submitting later in the cycle shouldn’t hurt an applicant’s chances too much.
A few things will put your transcript ahead of the pack. An upward grade trend is good, especially if your course load, work hours, or extracurricular obligations increase as you improve your grades. If you are fresh out of graduate school, your new degree will add to your viability as a candidate.
The school’s level of prestige may not play as important a role, though Morton says that “the college attended provides a backdrop” for admissions counselors to evaluate your performance.
Multiple LSAT Scores
Vandy, interestingly, considers both scores along with the average, and they don’t discard one score or the other. They stay away from language that suggests an addendum will make them toss out a lower LSAT for consideration; however, Dean Morton does offer this:
If two scores are very far apart (say, six points or more), then an addendum may allow a file reader to lean in favor of one score. Your file reader will need some evidence to help them decide to weigh this score over the other.
Unlike most other law schools, Vanderbilt Law offers an optional interview for all of its applicants. Most of the time, these interviews are conducted by alumni in or near the city of the applicant, which is an impressive testament to the breadth of Vandy’s alumni base. Indeed, there are Vanderbilt alums in forty-nine states, Washington D.C., three U.S. territories, and twenty-six foreign nations.
The purpose of the interview is to give each applicant a chance to both find out more about Vandy and to present herself in a professional manner. This is your moment to show, in person, that you are capable of success in the legal profession. Valued characteristics include “sociability, maturity, commitment, intelligence, concern for others, listening skills,” et cetera.
Dean Morton stresses that these interviews are good for both the school and the applicant, since each can better decide whether Vandy is the right fit or not. “In short, it’s a win-win proposition.” Alumni will even conduct interviews abroad, and no matter where they are, “your interviewer will write up a brief report of your conversation that provides some impressions of you as a prospective law student.”
Do not be intimidated if you have a looming interview. Here are some upbeat reports from the 2008 cycle:
In order to write a personal statement well, you first have to realize that you are put on a stage with no props, no special effects and a single spotlight. All you have is your voice, which has to be clear, if not strong, and the facts of your personal story. Vandy receives many statements that focus on “the people, experiences, and events that have shaped the candidate’s course to law school.”
Admissions counselors have to read thousands of personal statements each year. They will easily spot when an applicant is harping to the law school; if you include a detail or event only because it sounds impressive, they will catch it and write it off as disingenuous. Dean Morton says, “Work to communicate rather than to impress, and to show rather than to tell.” That said, if you include a mention of Vandy, it has to be well-integrated into the statement, or else it may come off as pandering.
This generally requires thoughtfulness, revision, and sincerity. If you pull it off well, then this is more than likely going to help your application. If you choose the more general route; that is, if you write a statement that will go out to all schools, this can be useful to file readers as well. Morton says, “Readers like to know what you are going to be like as a law student, so a general personal statement helps in that regard.”
TLS, in an exclusive interview, asked Dean Morton what made for a great personal statement. He responded:
He also added a vignette about how horribly a personal statement can get out of hand with detail:
Whatever you do, don’t do this. Stick to the requirements and don’t send law schools anything they don’t ask for, even if it is the greatest story ever told.
Letters of Recommendation
Listen to the advice of Dean Morton, as it mirrors the advice given on TLS and elsewhere regarding letters of recommendation:
Sometimes, he says, the law school will get a letter that says the applicant requested the letter of recommendation repeatedly, and only after this insistence did the recommender agree to write something. In these cases, you should know that this anecdote might find its way to law schools, and that the letter might be only a qualified endorsement.
If you’re coming out of a graduate program, Dean Morton has some good news. “Letters of recommendation from graduate school faculty members are usually detailed and insightful as a product of student / faculty collaboration and close interaction.” So, ask your thesis advisor for some help, and you may have yourself an excellent endorsement headed to your law schools of choice.
About 67 percent of students received scholarships from the law school in 2008. This is an impressive number for any school, and is likely helped by the small class size. The median amount given out was $15,000 for all students. Dean Morton supplements this information:
He does not expect the recent economic troubles to affect, at all, the distribution of merit- or need-based scholarships to Vandy students. In order to qualify for need-based aid, students must submit a FAFSA and Need Access form by the appropriate deadlines.
While the amount of aid provided is impressive, there's no denying that many Vandy students still find themselves with a reasonable amount of debt. That said, it is a positive mark for the school that the amount of available aid is quite competitive with other law schools in the same tier. Of the 67 percent of students who received aid last year, about 51 percent was for less than half tuition; roughly 15.5 percent of the class received aid ranging from half tuition to full tuition plus a stipend.
A current first-year says that “Vandy puts tons of people on the waitlist, so if you want to go here badly, you need to stay in it for the long haul, even if that means two days into orientation.” Further, since the number of waitlist offers varies from year to year, the level of uncertainty can be highly stressful for those who have Vandy as their first choice.
Dean Morton plays up this variance and indeterminism:
In order to get out of admissions purgatory, some steps should be taken. First, be sure to keep in touch with the Office of Admissions. Make certain they have your correct contact information; if you earn any accolades or awards, let them know; and know that if you do get an offer, you’ll have to decide relatively quickly.
A first-year student offers some more advice:
While Dean Morton might not characterize getting off the waitlist as a battle requiring scratching and crawling, he does echo the points that an interview is helpful and regular contact is important.
Vanderbilt Law receives about a hundred transfer applications each year, admits less than twenty students, and enrolls about fifteen of these. Dean Morton adds, “For transfers, we give heightened consideration to three main factors: 1) first-year transcript, 2) interview, and 3) reason for transfer to VULS or to be in Nashville.”
Transferring is a difficult process, since it takes place while you’re worrying about doing well in your current law school, and will usually involve uprooting yourself in the middle of a hectic summer. If your dream school is Vandy, it can be worth it. On the other side of the fence, only 6 students transferred out of Vanderbilt in 2008, for reasons and destinations unknown to TLS.
Law School Culture
Dean Guthrie chimes in on the culture at the law school:
Of course, he mentions, “This isn’t true of all law schools.” At other schools, students have reported competitiveness and not as much collaboration among the student body and faculty. Naturally, schools will vary in their ability to build a positive culture that values hard work, good grades and, at the same time, cooperation. Vanderbilt has a good, collaborative culture going for it, Guthrie argues, “and I think this, more than any other single factor, is our comparative advantage when recruiting both students and faculty.”
Grades, nonetheless, remain a point of competitiveness among students. A first year reports, “If you work your ass off you can get that good grade.” Students who are at the top of the class are clearly the workhorses. To crack into the all-As club, though, is extremely difficult because of the grading curve, and the majority of students will find themselves smack in the “incredibly tight curve in the middle.”
One student who received grades “ranging from B- to A” says that the grades corresponded to the efforts he put into respective classes. “I tried in the classes I liked and didn’t in the classes I didn’t like.” This student studies about 4 hours a day during finals. Many students will say that grades are random, but some press the point that “you get what you work for and if you can write well you will get great grades.” A student offers this advice:
Tolerance at Vandy
For students from outside of the state or those who have never visited Nashville, there hovers over the city the stereotype of the South as intolerant. In reality, most minorities and gays feel welcome in Nashville, and the bar scene is not as segregated as it is in other urban cities.
Several students (including a 3L and a former undergraduate) comment extensively on the level of tolerance found at the law school and in the city:
Prospective students should note that Nashville is “a big blue dot in an otherwise red state” and won’t necessarily fit most people’s conceptions of what states in the Bible Belt are like. Regardless of what one thinks about the South – or about law school – the best way to see if any place is a fit for you, whether you’re Black, Asian, gay, disabled, or a mother of three, is to pay that school a visit.
Students at most top law schools will have great things to say about their professors. Most of the time, these people are more than teachers; they act as career advisors, mentors and specialists that students can consult on a regular basis. It should not be surprising that at a school that values friendship, collaboration and hard work that students will talk to their professors on a regular basis and be well-prepared for intelligent discussion in the classroom.
The student-to-faculty ratio is 13.4 to 1, which is a competitive number for a law school, but is the second highest in the top 20 (UVA’s is 13.5 to 1). Still, this number is not too shabby, and the professors that Vanderbilt Law does have seem to know how to run a class.
Dean Guthrie attributes this to hiring practices. He says, “I firmly believe that teachers matter more to a student’s learning than the particular content the teacher happens to be teaching.” One second year gives an anecdotal account of the “awesomeness” of one professor:
There are 81 total faculty members at Vanderbilt Law, and professors have authored books on Saddam Hussein, the legal market, constitutional law, and articles on carbon emissions, hedge funds and corporate governance; the list is large and impressive. The faculty’s breadth of expertise mirrors Vanderbilt Law’s belief in being an all-around powerhouse. As mentioned above, students will be able to find work in legal markets across the country, as the law school has nurtured its connections in many markets over the years. Similarly, its professors are not stacked in one particular area of the law; their interests are across-the-board, which helps those students who want to explore different fields of the law.
A helpful 2L gives this rundown of the first-year professors:
Whether or not professors will use the Socratic Method will vary from class to class, and for the most part, professors know how intimidating the law can be. They are there to challenge you, but, most of the time, are not there to flat-out embarrass you. If you go into class each day prepared and with a positive attitude, law school will have a hard time turning you into a ball of stress.
Recently, Vandy has amped up its Distinguished Lecture Series, bringing in prominent lawyers, scholars and judges, including famed Justices O’Connor and Scalia. This lecture series has several different components to it, each of which invites a different sort of scholar, including those who work in international law, health policy, or civil rights advocacy. A full list of the series’ components can be found on this page.
Academic excellence is the norm for elite law schools like Vanderbilt, and few would argue with the school’s claim of having “an outstanding curriculum reinforced by innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to advanced training.” Every incoming student has the same course work, which, along with the small class size, helps students bond with each other in meaningful ways.
First-year students all take civil procedure, constitutional law, contract, criminal law, legal writing (for two semesters), property, regulatory state (covering “statutes and agency decisions”) and torts. One other required course, Life of the Law, introduces students to how to study law and, according to the website, “gives students the skills that will prepare them for their other first year courses.” This course is pass/fail.
Second and third-years have a list of over 100 course titles to choose their course of study. Impressively, nearly 60% of these upper-level courses feature an enrollment of less than 25 students. How you go about your time in your second or third year is entirely up to you. There are no formal requirements, nothing you need to fill out, no necessary consultations with faculty or staff. Some academic programs (discussed below) are there to help you make these decisions, as choosing a handful of classes out of 100 can be a daunting task. Luckily, staff is there to help, and can help you form a curriculum that is well-aligned with your career goals.
Vanderbilt Law does not rank its students, though each semester, if you score in the top 20% of your class, you earn a spot on Dean’s List. The top 10% of those who graduate will receive the prestigious Order of the Coif honors.
There is no computer requirement at Vandy, so if you want to forego technology and toss the Macbook Pro for three years, this is your chance.
Vanderbilt Law, thanks to the previous dean, Edward Rubin, has the country’s first Ph.D. in Law and Economics program. Also, the law school offers a certificate program for those who are interested in studying Law and Business. Dean Guthrie elaborates on this program, saying it “allows [students] to develop expertise in transactional practice (including accounting and finance) without the time and expense of a JD/MBA.” These two tracks have helped build up Vandy’s name in the eyes of employers, and graduates with these specializations are well-suited to enter markets that value such experience.
Recently, Vanderbilt Law’s massive list of courses has been organized according to academic similarity. Program areas now exist to help students choose what they want to study. Examples of these tracks include Constitutional Law & Theory, Criminal Justice, Law & Human Behavior, and Technology & Entertainment Law. A full list can be found on Vandy’s website.
One of the tracks is the Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program, which actually ends with a “capstone” projects, according to Dean Guthrie. In this capstone, students work in small groups and with a faculty expert to study disputing. Guthrie continues:
Speaking of travel abroad, of particular note is the law school’s Vanderbilt in Venice program, which allows students to study abroad in a charming Italian city under the guidance of Vanderbilt Law and University of Venice faculty.
It is a six-week summer program that “brings together a small group of law students and four professors to study selected international and comparative law topics.” Dean Guthrie tells us that classes are held “in a 500-year-old palace” that has been refitted to include the modern wonders of air-conditioning, a computer lab, and wireless Internet. Students can discuss the law while a gondolier ferries them to and fro, or walk through streets that end in inlets. Vandy students also get a unique perspective during their extended stay in this world-class tourist destination. Venetians are used to honeymooners, so law students are an interesting and welcome addition to residents of the sinking city.
For summer 2010, classes “are likely to include Comparative Perspectives on Counter-Terrorism, European Union Law, International Law: The International Arbitral Process, and Islamic Law.” This is the only summer study abroad program that Vanderbilt Law offers.
Joint Degree Programs
Join degree programs are plentiful at Vandy, and students can add a veritable alphabet soup to their resumes; an MBA, M.Div. (Master of Divinity), MTS (Master of Theological Studies), MD, MPP, Ph.D, and MA (in Latin American Studies) are all available to interested students.
According to Dean Guthrie, the law school “also allows students with multi-disciplinary interests to design their own joint degree programs.” Even if there is no formal program set up, you can make one at Vandy without too much fuss. Joint degrees look good to employers, they work for the school, and are a valuable addition to your resumé.
Many students, in their second or third year and with an open schedule, will choose to work in a clinic for credit. All clinical courses are offered on a pass/fail basis, and students can sign up for one semester or for the entire academic year. The time you spend working on a clinical course will vary, but everything points to the clinical experience being a significant time commitment.
Vandy has clinics available in litigation and transactional practice. “Even in the litigation model,” says Guthrie, “our students represent clients in civil, criminal, and appellate courts as well as in administrative hearings.” This experience looks good to employers, as it shows you have experience developing a relationship with and counseling clients.
In this market, such practical experience becomes more valuable, as law firms and other employers are looking for students who can and do hit the ground running. With less hiring comes more competition between schools, and Vanderbilt is doing what it can to remain competitive. Dean Morton states, “At Vanderbilt and elsewhere, the chief concern among current students is the economic downturn which has created great uncertainty in the legal services industry.”
It also seems to be the chief concern among law schools, and as they attempt to attract students, you will see proposals and future plans for how a particular law school will tackle these challenges. At Vanderbilt Law, the approach seems to be manifold. “In response to the uncertain employment climate,” says Morton, “the law school has expanded services to students by adding a new member to the Career Services staff and initiating a new career services workshop series.”
The small class size of Vandy helps to mitigate some of the fallout from a contracting legal market. Dean Guthrie argues that while the legal services industry suffers and demand for such services has fallen and clients are more cost-sensitive, the industry “hasn’t suffered nearly as much as many other industries.” Manufacturing, construction, retail, and other industries, he says, have taken a worse hit. “Looking forward, Money Magazine identifies law as one of the top 50 professions during the next decade (#18 overall) and projects an 11% growth rate in legal employment.”
In the meantime, though, Vandy is pushing a public interest initiative to help students worry a bit less about the transition into full-time employment. Details on the initiative can be found below.
Students “remain committed as a group to supporting one another,” says Dean Guthrie. The law school’s Career Services Office, described as “to die for” by a recent graduate, also helps keep students optimistic. In 2008, 96% of the Class of 2008 had secured employment by graduation.
As the chart below shows, Vandy has national reach. Morton adds, “Unlike schools that usually send a majority of new graduates to one or two employment markets, Vanderbilt graduates take employment in many different markets across the nation.” Indeed, students generally go to eight different markets: Atlanta, California, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Nashville, New York, and Washington D.C.
Guthrie continues, “Given that job losses in large law firms have been much higher in certain markets (e.g., New York) than others (e.g., Dallas or Nashville), our diversified employment portfolio and alumni base” is a good thing, as it gives students, especially those who are flexible about where they want to work, some peace of mind in a troubling market.
Generally, Vanderbilt graduates are not hampered by the bar exam, as over 96% of those who sat for the exam in recent administrations in the state of Tennessee successfully passed. On the notoriously tough California Bar Exam, most graduates rose to the challenge as well. Although the following data shows Vandy graduates slightly below the state average for New York in 2008, the majority of recent years have seen the graduates surpass New York state bar passage averages as well.
Thanks to the efforts of one TLS member, we have one of the most comprehensive summer employment breakdowns for any law school.
We graciously thank Observationalist for compiling the information below:
Summer placement for the Class of 2009 ran as such: 42% Vault 100, 64% National Law Journal 250, about 78% private firms.
Summer placement for the Class of 2010 was a bit less favorable to students: 34% Vault 100, 49% National Law Journal 250, about 74% private firms.
These numbers confirm that Vanderbilt has its foot in the door at law firms across the country. Even second-years can find themselves in one of eight major markets, and a good amount of students will gain experience at the most prestigious firms in the country.
Public Service Initiative
The new Public Service Initiative, according to Dean Morton, “provides six-month stipends after graduation for graduates taking any 20-hour-per week position at a public interest organization.” This is designed to help students gain experience while transitioning into full-time employment. Qualifying public interest organizations are not-for-profits, NGOs, or governmental entities.
Vanderbilt law, says Dean Guthrie, “also pays for our students to attend public interest job fairs so that they might interview with employers who do not visit campus.” And in 2009, students began a Pro Bono pledge, “which allows incoming students to commit to seventy five hours of pro bono work during their law school career.”
Judicial clerkships are where most students end up if they don’t choose the law firm route. This market, as most students know, is very competitive, and it is a testament to Vandy’s breadth that students in 2009 clerked in 17 different states. You can see a list of the most recent clerks and their positions here.
Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)
Vanderbilt Law’s website gives a brief summary of its LRAP program. For those who enter into public interest work, the program is there to help pay anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of a student’s annual loan repayment obligation. This offer is there for up to 10 years, at which point the student is on her own. The amount of aid given out is salary-based. For more details, feel free to contact Linda.J.Williams@Vanderbilt.edu or visit here and click on LRAP Summary.
Quality of Life
According to a recent graduate, Nashville allows Vanderbilt Law students to reach “that elusive equilibrium of work and play.” Though the city offers all of the amenities and activities that a city should offer, it is not so large as to cause the hassles and headaches one would find in a large metropolis.
Musical outlets are everywhere, and there are stretches of bars, clubs and restaurants spread throughout the city. Although Vanderbilt’s campus is near the heart of Nashville’s downtown, parking is not that much of a problem. Housing is relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to cities like New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Recently, Vanderbilt’s law school building underwent a complete renovation; most students and graduates are impressed and satisfied with the new facilities. Also, because the law school is located on Vanderbilt University’s main campus, students can enjoy the university’s vast green grounds.
The campus is only about 324 acres, and is actually designated as a national arboretum. Most buildings are close together, so once you are on campus, you can easily hop from the business school to the law school to the main library. Dean Guthrie adds to all this, “Princeton Review’s annual surveys rank [Vanderbilt Law] in the top five or ten schools in the nation in terms of our students’ classroom experience and quality of life.”
Student activities add to the school’s reputation, and you can easily find YouTube videos of the Black Law Student Association Talent Show to get a feel for some of the events that make Vanderbilt a unique experience.
Current students share the following about finding housing in Nashville:
Indeed, students will likely have to decide between saving some money on rent or having to deal with Nashville traffic five days a week. Students continue:
One student comments further on The Americana, saying it “has a great roof deck and it's definitely close to school, though understand you're sacrificing quality as the price goes down.” This student lives two miles down the road, is right off of the #7 bus line, and pays “$650/month for a 3br/2bath w/ a huge back deck, garage, and fenced in back yard with extra parking for friends.” Final remarks on housing follow:
In Nashville, strip malls are popular but they are hardly offensive to the eye, as the city maintains a good balance between wide, well-manicured streets hemmed in by businesses and a multitude of winding roads that cut through narrow, tree-lined neighborhoods. Driving is king in Nashville, so if you lack a car and are too far to walk from campus, chances are you’ll likely be carpooling or learning the bus routes.
Dean Morton says it is “an ideal location for law school with both federal and state courts and agencies, large national firms and small boutiques, nonprofits, the entertainment and healthcare industries, and it is a sophisticated and livable city that offers a great quality of life.” The metropolitan area has about 1.5 million residents, but there is enough space between houses and buildings so that the city maintains its small-town feel. Music is prevalent, people are nice, football is a beloved pastime and the restaurants, greenways, and countryside of Tennessee are all nearby. Students tend to be surprised, as this1L says:
Country music, dueling piano bars, karaoke, and an exciting nightlife are all integral to the city. Students have the Grand Ole Opry to visit, the home of Elvis a few hours away in Memphis, and can enjoy the city that brought Dolly Parton and hundreds of other country stars to world renown. Note that Nashville is home to the Country Music Hall of Fame; there is no more fitting place to have such a tribute to the genre.
One visiting student shares some qualms about the city:
Nashville and Southern culture, for many outsiders, takes some getting used to. One third-year recommends embracing the honky tonk nature of the city – where else can you see “Kenny Chesney and Kid Rock drunk and jumping on stage to sing together?”
As is the case with many of Vanderbilt's peer schools, one of the prominent concerns of prospective students is the high amount of debt which is often incurred in order to afford three years of legal education. About 82 percent of the Class of 2008 took out educational loans during their time at Vandy, borrowing an average of $110,080 in order to obtain their J.D. While this exceeds the national average for ABA-approved private law schools ($91,506 in 2008), it is on par with many of Vanderbilt's peer schools. Furthermore, students should take solace in the fact that Vandy has national reach, a powerful reputation, and broad employment prospects with potential for high-paying salaries capable of handling such a large debt.
That said, six figures of debt remains a hard pill for any applicant to swallow; whether choosing Vandy or another institution, all applicants must come to terms with the realities of student debt -- especially in an unstable economy -- and shape their education plans accordingly.
Dean Guthrie informs us that the law school has “50 active student organizations. Large, well-established, and popular student organizations include the Legal Aid Society, the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), the Women Law Student Association (WLSA), the Entertainment and Sports Law Society, the Law & Business Society, the International Law Society, the Federalist Society, and ACS.”
Vanderbilt Law also has three academic publications: Vanderbilt Law Review, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, and Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law. There is also Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review, published in conjunction with the Environmental Law Institute in D.C.
Membership on a law school’s primary law review is coveted, and, accordingly, becoming a member of Vanderbilt Law Review is very competitive. Students are selected in Spring of their first year. There is a case comment competition after students take their final exams of the year, and students are chosen based on their score from this competition along with their first year GPA.
If you find yourself holding a position on any journal, chances are your duties will include cite-checking articles and/or writing editorial notes for the journal itself. All journals at Vandy have a nondiscrimination policy.
By most accounts, Nashville is an enjoyable and livable city. Vanderbilt, by most accounts, has a lovely campus with plenty of green and students are ready to both work hard and help each other out. The reputation of the law school seems well-earned, and anyone who gains admission into Vandy is in their rights to feel proud about getting accepted into a top law school.
Students will have to make a choice, as acceptance into Vandy will likely come with acceptance into similarly-ranked schools. Dean Morton says that “if you are honest with yourself about what matters to you and pay attention to those things, it is hard to go ‘wrong’ in choosing a law school.” This is not necessarily an endorsement for Vanderbilt Law School, but acts as some helpful, general advice.
If you want an endorsement, Dean Guthrie offers one: “Ask yourself this question: would you rather go to a higher-ranked school with limited employment opportunities or a lower-ranked school with more expansive career options?” Vanderbilt, presumably, is the law school that has more expansive career options. This may fly in the face of the T14-or-bust mentality perennially exhibited on TLS, but he does have a point.
The numbers support the claims that Vanderbilt Law has national reach, and few other schools are as keenly tapped into each of the major markets. The main sticking point for many prospective students, then, is the potential debt. Most students who attend nearly any law school in the top 20 will find themselves with a lot of debt; the question, then, becomes, “how much of a lot of debt do I want?”
Eventually, you will have to make a decision, and regardless of where you find yourself in school, you can take Dean Morton’s advice: “Entering law students should relax, mentally and physically. Law school is a life-changing experience that is best approached well-rested with an open mind. Leave your expectations at the door and dive in.”
U.S. News & World Report Ranking: 17th
Yale Law School
Stanford Law School
Harvard Law School
Columbia Law School
University of Chicago Law School
New York University Law School
Berkeley Law (Boalt Hall)
UPenn Law School
University of Virginia School of Law
Michigan Law School
Duke Law School
Northwestern Law School
Georgetown University Law Center
Cornell Law School
UCLA School of Law
The University of Texas School of Law
Vanderbilt University Law School
USC Gould School of Law
University of Minnesota Law School
The George Washington University Law School
University of Washington School of Law
University of Notre Dame Law School
Washington University Law
Emory University Law School
Washington and Lee University School of Law
The Arizona State University College of Law
Boston University School of Law
Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Boston College Law School
Fordham Law School
The University of Alabama School of Law
UC Davis School of Law (King Hall)
The University of Iowa College of Law
The University of Georgia School of Law
William & Mary Law School
The University of Illinois College of Law
Wisconsin Law School
UNC School of Law
The Brigham Young University Law School
George Mason University School of Law
Moritz College of Law
University of Maryland School of Law
University of Arizona College of Law
UC Hastings Law School
The University of Colorado School of Law
Wake Forest University School of Law
The University of Utah College of Law
University of Florida Levin College of Law
American University College of Law
Pepperdine Law School
The Baylor University School of Law
The Florida State University College of Law
Loyola Law School
SMU Dedman School of Law
Tulane University Law School
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
University of Houston Law Center
Georgia State University College of Law
Lewis & Clark School of Law
Temple Law School
University of Richmond Law
Chicago-Kent College of Law
University of Connecticut School of Law
The University of Kentucky College of Law
Brooklyn Law School
University of San Diego School of Law
Case Western Reserve University School of Law
Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Seton Hall University School of Law
The University of Cincinnati College of Law
The University of Denver Law School
University of Miami School of Law
University of New Mexico School of Law
The University of Pittsburgh School of Law
The University of Tennessee College of Law
Northeastern University School of Law
PSU School of Law
UNLV Law School
LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center
St. John's School of Law
Missouri - Columbia Law School
Columbus School of Law
Michigan State University College of Law
Rutgers-Newark School of Law
Buffalo Law School
The University of Oklahoma College of Law
Oregon School Of Law
Indiana University Indianapolis Law
The University of Arkansas School of Law
University of Kansas School of Law
University of Louisville School of Law
University of Nebraska College of Law
Marquette University Law School
Santa Clara Law School
Syracuse University College of Law
Rutgers Law - Camden
University of Tulsa College of Law
University of Hawaii Richardson School of Law
West Virginia University College of Law
South Carolina Law
Villanova Law School