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Vanderbilt Law School

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Vanderbilt Law School, ranked 16th by U.S. News and 14th by Above the Law in 2014, seems to operate with several enduring principles in mind: collegiality, excellence and service. Vandy is located in Nashville, Tennessee, both the state capital and the country's best spot for country music. Students report to TLS that with Vandy's 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.

Vanderbilt’s relatively low tuition and Nashville’s favorable cost of living leave Vandy grads who borrow with manageable debt. According to U.S. News, Vanderbilt ranked 82nd on “average indebtedness of 2013 graduates who incurred law school debt.” The school’s 2013-14 tuition and fees ranked 35th among ABA law schools, and while Law School Transparency estimates the Non-Discounted, Debt-Financed Cost of a Vandy J.D. to be $257,344, this figure does not account for scholarships (discounts). Vanderbilt’s total scholarship budget covers about one-third of students’ tuition expenses, which means that students collectively pay only about two-thirds themselves.i

With its relatively low cost and student debt in mind, consider that Vandy’s Law School Transparency Class of 2013 Employment Score was 85.9%, which ranked 10th (tie) nationally. When graduates enter the workforce, about 20% stay in Tennessee, while 80% fan out broadly across the country. The top five destinations for 2013 grads were Tennessee; New York; Washington, D.C.; California; and Texas.ii

In their 2009 interviews, the dean of Vanderbilt Law, Chris Guthrie, and the dean of admissions, G. Todd Morton, discussed the factors that they feel set Vanderbilt apart from other top law schools.

Cost of attendance, 2014-2015
Tuition and fees $49,300
Estimated living expenses $24,804
Law School Transparency total estimated debt-financed cost of attendance $257,344


Getting into Vanderbilt Law is difficult, though if your numbers are above both medians, you should be OK. Students come from all over the country; the class of 2015 hailed from 36 states, plus D.C., and three countries outside of the U.S., and most (62%) were out of college at least one year before law school.

Like all admissions offices, the file readers at Vanderbilt Law look for standout 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 may improve.

Admissions statistics
Class of: 2016 2015
25th - 50th - 75th percentile LSAT 163 - 167 - 169 163 - 169 - 170
25th - 50th - 75th percentile GPA 3.45 - 3.74 - 3.85 3.43 - 3.71 - 3.85
Percentage minority students 17% 25%
Number of applicants 25.5% 24.6%
Applications received 3,296 3,757
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Admissions basics

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 gave 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.

Imagine a pyramid with a small peak level containing a relative few standout applications, a larger second level of "near-standout" applications, a larger third level, and another level or two. Imagine further that there are permeable boundaries between levels, both because our assessments are admittedly imprecise and differences in "strength" across adjacent levels are often small.

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," Dean Morton said. He added, "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 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

If you take the LSAT twice, Vandy will consider both scores along with the average; it does not discard one score or the other. Admissions personnel stay away from language that suggests an addendum will make them toss out a lower LSAT for consideration; however, Dean Morton did offer this:

If you provide information that you feel is helpful for interpreting your GPA or LSAT (or any other aspect of your application), we will review it, whatever format you provide and whatever information you include. It is up to you to decide content and presentation.

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 readers will need some evidence to help them decide to weigh this score over the other.

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The interview

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 applicant's city, which is an impressive testament to the breadth of Vandy's alumni base. Indeed, there are Vanderbilt alums in 49 states, Washington D.C.; three U.S. territories; and 26 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, [and] listening skills."

Dean Morton stressed 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."

Personal statement

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 officers read thousands of personal statements each year. If you include a detail or event only because it sounds impressive, they will catch it and write it off as disingenuous. Dean Morton said, "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 said, "Readers like to know what you are going to be like as a law student, so a general personal statement helps in that regard."

Dean Morton told TLS what makes for a great personal statement:

Outstanding personal statements are the product of candor, self-reflection, earnest engagement with the prospect of entering the legal profession, attention to detail, and effective communication skills.

He also added a vignette about how horribly a personal statement can get out of hand with detail:

I once read a personal statement with a cover memo that indicated the applicant recognized that the suggested length was two pages, but there was so much of importance to convey that his statement required ten pages. The memo closed with an apology and an assurance that the author had done everything possible to keep the statement brief and on-point. The first line of the statement began: "It was a dark and stormy night when I was born…"

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:

The best recommendations are written by people who know the candidate well for a sufficient period of time and in a capacity to have something to say about [the candidate's] work ethic, honesty, maturity, ingenuity, persistence, intelligence, communication skills, or other attributes important to success in law studies. Letters from people who barely know the applicant are usually not very helpful in assessing these attributes, and represent a lost opportunity.

Sometimes, he said, 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 adviser for some help, and you may have yourself an excellent endorsement.


About 81% of students received scholarships from the law school in 2012. The median amount given out was $20,000. Dean Morton supplemented this information:

We have a small number of Law Scholar Merit Awards that are full-tuition plus a $5,000 annual stipend, which are awarded on the basis of a separate application in a competitive process.

In order to qualify for need-based aid, students must submit a FAFSA and Need Access form by the appropriate deadlines.

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The wait list

One student said, "Vandy puts tons of people on the wait list, 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 wait-list 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 played up this variance and indeterminism:

The number of applicants that accept our offer to be included on the wait list varies from year to year; the number of "active" wait-list applications varies from day to day as the summer progresses and some waitlisted applicants remove their applications from consideration.

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 offered some more advice:

Once you're on the wait list, you must keep in constant contact. I would suggest calling once a week, especially right after seat deposit deadlines, just to tell them that you're still interested. Second, you must either interview or re-interview. An interview can be crucial to getting in since Vandy is a very small law school. Make sure you come prepared with good questions and knowledge (all of which can be found on their website).

Finally, literally start asking anyone you know or meet if they have any connection whatever to Vanderbilt Law. I know someone who probably didn't have a realistic shot off the wait list but, because he asked around and found a friend of a friend of a friend who was friends with someone in the admissions office, he was able to have a good word put in and boom, here he sits next to me.

I hope that helps, but the bottom line is, if you want in and you're on the wait list, you need to scratch and crawl your way in.

While Dean Morton might not characterize getting off the wait list 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 fewer than 20 students, and enrolls about 10 of these. Dean Morton added, "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 two students transferred out of Vanderbilt in 2012.

Law school culture

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Dean Guthrie chimed in on the culture at the law school:

I do know that Vanderbilt has a distinctive culture. I would describe it as collegial, collaborative, and friendly. This culture applies not only to the students but also to faculty, staff, and alums. It means that the Law School is a wonderful place to study, work, and visit. The warm cultural environment is palpable in the building.

Vanderbilt has a good, collaborative culture going for it, Guthrie said, "and I think this, more than any other single factor, is our comparative advantage when recruiting both students and faculty."

Nonetheless, grades remain a point of competitiveness among students. One 1L said, "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-minus to A" said 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 said he studied about four 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:

The key to success is staying up on your reading and starting your outlines early enough to have time to study when finals come around. Know everything black letter down to the detail and be able to spit it out quickly on the test so that you have time for theoretical and alternative arguments.

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Tolerance at Vandy

For some who have never visited Nashville, there hovers over the city the stereotype of the South as intolerant. In reality, minorities and gays feel welcome in Nashville, and the bar scene is not as segregated as it is in other urban cities. Nashville is "a big blue dot in an otherwise red state" and may not fit some people's conceptions of what the South is like.

Several students (including a 3L and a former undergraduate) commented extensively on the level of tolerance found at the law school and in the city:

"Our Law Students for Social Justice MLK Day Teach-In yesterday included a number of discussions focusing on LGBT civil rights. Vandy's OUTLaw chapter runs a number of events during the school year for the student body."

"The gay community in Nashville probably isn't what you'd expect when you think of the Bible Belt. Personally I have never actually hung out with so many members of the gay community in other cities as I have here. [Many] LGBTs originally moved to Nashville to get into the music or arts biz but ended up staying because they felt comfortable here, and they've built up a pretty solid crowd that apparently dominate the city's independent art galleries."

"It's still the South-there's still a lot of socially conservative groups trying to push their private religious views into the public sphere, and the ACLU is still busy pushing for family cohabitation rights and a number of other issues-but if you're potentially interested in working on gay civil rights work during law school that could be a good situation to find yourself in."

Vanderbilt's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI) Life is a cultural center, a place of affirmation for individuals of all identities, and a resource for information and support about gender and sexuality. Campus Pride gives Vanderbilt four stars and Honor Roll status on its LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index.

The best way to see if any place is a fit for you is to pay that school a visit.



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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 advisers, mentors, and specialists whom students can consult on a regular basis. It should not be surprising that at a school that values friendship, collaboration, and hard work, students will talk to their professors on a regular basis and be well prepared for intelligent discussion in the classroom. The current student-faculty ratio is 13.1 to 1.

Dean Guthrie attributed the faculty's reputation to the school's hiring practices. He said, "I firmly believe that teachers matter more to a student's learning than the particular content the teacher happens to be teaching." One 2L gave an anecdotal account of the "awesomeness" of one professor:

[Prof. Tracey] George is so awesome; it is hard to be confused in that class. Her awesomeness includes: (1) Calling on you in rows, so you know when you are up-and when she does call on you, she helps you if you are stuck. (2) Only using the case text and then discussing them - no unnecessary notes to read. (3) Using PowerPoints and posting them online. (4) Having in-class practice exams. (5) Having class competitions for which there are prizes. ... (7) Bringing us donuts about 3 times a semester.

Vandy's 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.

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 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.


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First-year students all take civil procedure, contracts, 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 are required to take constitutional law, a professional skills course, and professional responsibility; other than that, they have a list of over 100 course titles to fill out the rest of their course of study. Nearly 65% of these upper-level courses feature an enrollment of less than 25 students. Some academic programs (discussed below) are there to help you make decisions, as choosing a handful of classes out of 100 can be a daunting task. Law school staff 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 the Dean's List. The top 10% of those who graduate will receive Order of the Coif honors.


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Vanderbilt Law was the first in the country to offer a Ph.D. in Law and Economics, launching it in 2007. Also, the law school offers a certificate program for those who are interested in studying law and business. Dean Guthrie elaborated on this program, saying it "allows [students] to develop expertise in transactional practice (including accounting and finance) without the time and expense of a J.D./MBA."

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 Criminal Justice, Law and Human Behavior, and Intellectual Property. A full list can be found on Vandy's website.

One of the tracks is the Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program, which ends with a "capstone" project, according to Dean Guthrie. In this capstone, students work in small groups and with a faculty expert to study disputing.

Guthrie also described a part of the International Legal Studies Program:

Students interested in international law practice can enroll in our International Law Practice Lab, where they do legal work for actual clients - e.g., the State Department, the Iraqi High Tribunal, the Sierra Leone Special Court, and so on-under the tutelage of Professor Mike Newton. Many of these students will go on to do supervised externships-either during the semester or in one of their summers-all over the world.

Study abroad

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.

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Joint degree programs

Join degree programs are plentiful at Vandy, and for a hefty sum, students can add a veritable alphabet soup to their resumes; an MBA, M.Div. (Master of Divinity), MTS (Master of Theological Studies), M.D., MPP, Ph.D., and M.A. (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.

Keep in mind, though, that joint degrees are very expensive and time-consuming. They can be valuable, but only if you have a specific, targeted plan in place with a good idea of the payoff.


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 the clinical experience being a significant time commitment.

Vandy has clinics available in litigation and transactional practice. "Even in the litigation model," Guthrie said, "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.

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Employment prospects

Law School Transparency gives Vanderbilt's class of 2013 an employment score of 85.9%. This number indicates the percentage of graduates who, as of nine months after graduation, obtained full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar passage-that is, jobs as entry-level lawyers. This score ranks 10th (tie) nationally.

About a fifth of the class remained in Tennessee; the rest spread out to other cities in the South and to larger legal markets elsewhere.

Top geographic locations (2012 graduates)
Tennessee 21.4%
New York 13.3%
Georgia 8.2%
Washington, D.C. 6.6%
Texas 5.1%

Vandy's percentage of graduates going straight to the nation's largest law firms, as measured by the National Law Journal, also ranks 17th. For the class of 2012, the percentage was 26.3%. The percentage of grads going to firms of more than 100 lawyers was 28.6%. A further 10.2% landed federal judicial clerkships, which often lead to prestigious biglaw or government jobs. The fraction of the class pursuing public interest work was a bit smaller, at 9.2%.

Vanderbilt posted its 2012 NALP report on its website. Of note are the salary ranges for first-year public- and private-sector workers. For the private sector (60% of those employed), the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles were $100,000, $130,000, and $160,000. For the public sector, the numbers were $48,400, $57,000, and $60,000. About 22% of 2012 grads who reported such information got their jobs through fall OCI.

Generally, Vanderbilt graduates are not hampered by the bar exam.

2012 bar passage rates (via ABA)
State Number of takers Vanderbilt's pass rate Jurisdiction's overall pass rate
Tennessee 49 95.9% 81.1%
New York 27 96.3% 85.0%
Texas 16 100% 86.2%
California 10 80.0% 72.2%
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Public service initiative

The school's Public Service Initiative was begun in 2009. According to Dean Morton, it "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 nonprofits, NGOs, or governmental entities.

Vanderbilt Law, said 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."

Loan repayment assistance program (LRAP)

Vanderbilt Law's website gives a brief summary of its LRAP. For those who enter into certain qualifying public interest work, the program can 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 and capped at $50,000 a year in salary.

Quality of life

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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, 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 it is 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 10 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.

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Current students share the following about finding housing in Nashville:

The law school owns the Barbizon apartments right next to the Career Services building (right across the street from the law school). But they're not the cheapest apartments in the area and they're not nearly as nice as some of the other apartment buildings. Your cheapest option is to look on Craigslist and find a place a few miles away. Some people live in houses out on Granny Smith and pay in the realm of $400 to 500/month but they have a solid 15- to 30-minute commute depending on traffic.

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 continued:

20th & Grand ($$) is the most popular these days for people living right by the law school, followed by Americana ($$), Adelicia ($$$), University Square, Bristol on Broadway, and of course Barbizon. All of them are within four blocks of the law school.

Barbizon's the closest, but it doesn't have covered parking and I generally wouldn't recommend living there if you have other options.

A little more than a mile from school you've got the Gardens at Hillsboro, where a good number of people live (much nicer than Barbizon, though again, no covered parking). Also, the area around campus is mostly residential. You can likely find places within a mile or two that will charge less than the apartment buildings and give you your own garage, porch, and a yard.

The No. 1 most popular complex for law students overall (and particularly the 1Ls) would be the two connected Groves (Hillsboro and Whitworth). They're between 2 and 3 miles from campus and also don't have covered parking, but if you're looking for where most of your classmates will be, that's probably a good target. As an added bonus, a lot of undergrads live there and they've got swimming pools scattered around.

One student commented 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 lived two miles down the road, right off of the No. 7 bus line, and paid "$650/month for a 3br/2bath with a huge back deck, garage, and fenced in back yard with extra parking for friends." Final remarks on housing follow:

It really depends what you want out of school. For instance, I am single and my social life revolves around school, so I moved from 2 miles out last year to right across the street from school. I am paying $200 more a month to do that.

However, if your social life revolves mainly around staying in with a significant other, or hanging out with native Nashvillians in some of the outer neighborhoods, then it makes perfect sense to live farther out and save money.

It is just a huge pain in the butt to drive 15 minutes to the law school to meet up with people to cab downtown. … I know some people who do that, but I personally would hate it. Because I am so tied to the law school in every aspect of my life, I decided to live close. I may regret it when I am paying off loans but it is only about a $4,000 difference in the long run.

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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:

I love Nashville! I was skeptical before I came to visit, but after living here for a couple of months I can't believe I ever doubted it. I'm not into country music either, and I still love it!

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Country music, dueling piano bars, karaoke, and an exciting nightlife are all integral to the city. Students have the Grand Ole Opry to visit, can go to 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 had some qualms about the city:

What I didn't love [about it]: Nashville's small. Makes Boston look like a behemoth. Definitely would need a car. And Vandy (from my amateur perspective) didn't seem to be in the most going-on part of town. West End Avenue wasn't gorgeous. And there's no MLB team.

Nashville and Southern culture, for many outsiders, takes some getting used to. One third-year recommended 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?"

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Dean Guthrie said 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 the Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review, published in conjunction with the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C.

Membership on a law school's primary law review is coveted; accordingly, becoming a member of the Vanderbilt Law Review is very competitive. Students are selected in the 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 writing editorial notes for the journal.

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Contact information

Vanderbilt University Law School
Office of Admissions
131 21st Ave. South
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 322-6452

Quick reference

Vanderbilt Law School
2014 Above the Law ranking: 14
2014 U.S. News ranking: 15
LSAT scores at 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles: 163 - 167 - 169
GPA at 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles: 3.45 - 3.74 - 3.85
Application deadline: April 1
Application fee: $50
Law School Transparency employment score, class of 2013: 85.9%
LST total debt-financed cost of attendance: $254,858

Interview: Chris Guthrie, Dean of the Vanderbilt University Law School
Interview: G. Todd Morton, Assistant Dean and Dean of Admissions for Vanderbilt University Law School

Forum: Vandy 2L Taking Question
News: Above the Law


[i] Vanderbilt Law Admissions Office

[ii] Vanderbilt Law 2015 Viewbook, p. 62-3.