Vanderbilt University Law School
|Vanderbilt Law School|
|Parent endowment||$3.6 Billion|
|Location||Nashville, TN, US|
|Bar pass rate||98%|
Vanderbilt University Law School (also known as Vanderbilt Law School or VLS) is a graduate school of Vanderbilt University. Established in 1874, it is one of the oldest law schools in the southern United States. Vanderbilt Law has consistently ranked among the top 20 law schools in the nation, and is currently ranked 16th in the 2015 edition of U.S. News & World Report. Vanderbilt Law School enrolls approximately 640 students, with each entering J.D. class consisting of approximately 175 students.
The dean of the law school is Chris Guthrie, who began a five-year appointment as dean on July 1, 2009.
The small class size has contributed to a congenial, non-competitive atmosphere. VLS has more than 45 student organizations, which support many lectures, presentations and social events throughout the year. Students are also encouraged to form new organizations tailored to their personal interests, which has most recently produced Law Students for Social Justice (LSSJ), a new organization within the Social Justice Program that aims to facilitate an increasing number of students interested in pursuing public interest careers or hearing from legal practitioners on various ways to implement social justice values into their practice.
On some Friday nights throughout the school year, various student organizations sponsor informal social gatherings known as "Blackacres," named after the outdoor courtyard on campus where the gatherings are often held; Blackacres typically feature free food and beverages, including kegs of beer, and are sponsored by student organizations and law firms.  The law school also has an annual auction to support its Legal Aid Summer Stipend program, which provides financial assistance to enable students to do pro bono legal work during the summer break.
Vanderbilt Law School was established in 1874, and was the first professional school to open (Vanderbilt University itself did not start its undergraduate classes until 1875). The Law School's first class consisted of only seven students and eight professors, with a two-year course of study comprising the school's curriculum. William V. Sullivan was the school's first graduate and would eventually represent Mississippi in the United States Senate.
Through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the law school remained small, and never exceeded 70 students. The law school offered a two-year departmental program, and changed locations between downtown Nashville and the Vanderbilt campus. By 1941, it had expanded into the old chapel area of Kirkland Hall on the Vanderbilt campus, but faced very limited enrollment during World War II. Classes were suspended in 1944.
Vanderbilt Law School was revived with a $1 million endowment in 1947 and experienced significant growth through the 1960s. Facing overcrowding, in 1962 it moved out of Kirkland Hall and into a dedicated Law School Building on 21st Avenue, where it currently resides.
Since then, VLS has undergone a series of renovations and expansion, notably including a $24 million upgrade under then-dean Kent D. Syverud completed in 2002.
By 2000, VLS had established a Law & Business Program, new clinical programs, multiple law journals, and an LL.M. program for foreign lawyers. At this point, Vanderbilt had greatly solidified its regional prestige and was well on its way to aggressively developing a national reputation.
In 2005, Edward L. Rubin was appointed to replace Syverud as dean of the Law School. During Dean Rubin's tenure, Vanderbilt Law School significantly developed its Litigation & Dispute and Resolution Program (resulting from a $2.9 million endowment donation), established or formalized a number of academic programs,and increased its reputation in the field of Law and Economics by establishing a Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics based within the law school and headed by noted economist W. Kip Viscusi; students earn both a J.D. and a Ph.D. through the program.
Chris Guthrie succeeded Rubin as the law school's dean in July 2009. In addition to its Law and Business and Litigation and Dispute Resolution Programs, the law school now offers programs in Intellectual Property Law; International Legal Studies; Energy, Environment and Land Use Law; Criminal Justice; Social Justice; and Law and Government.Vanderbilt University and the law school also offers a joint-degree law and neuroscience program in which students earn both a J.D. and Ph.D. In fall 2011, Vanderbilt received a $4.8 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation that supports a Law and Neuroscience Research Network based at the law school and headed by Professor Owen Jones.
VLS fares well in a number of national rankings:
Vanderbilt's faculty ranked eighth among U.S. law schools in a study, "Scholarly Impact of Law Faculties in 2012: Applying Leiter Scores to Rank the Top Third," conducted by a team led by Indiana University law professor Gregory Sisk.
VLS ranked seventh for "Best Career Prospects" in 2012, 2011 and 2007, ninth for best classroom experience and second for best quality of life in Princeton Review Best Law Schools.
VLS ranked seventh in the 2013 U.S. New Judicial Clerkship ranking, based on the percentage of J.D. students going to federal clerkships in the class of 2011.
VLS ranked 15th in Above the Law's 2013 ranking of top 50 law schools.
The law school received 3,757 applications, for an entering class of 173 in fall 2012. The entering class of 2015 had median undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores of 3.71 and 169, respectively. http://law.vanderbilt.edu/prospective-students/class-of-2015-profile/index.aspx
Sixty-two percent of the most recent entering class had graduated from college at least one year before arriving at Vanderbilt. Like most law schools, backgrounds of Vanderbilt law students have included experience in such fields as business, the sciences, military service, education, technology, entertainment, and public policy. Of the most recently admitted class (the Class of 2015), 44% are women and 25% are minorities; the entering class also represents 109 different undergraduate institutions, spanning 36 different states and four foreign nations. http://law.vanderbilt.edu/prospective-students/class-of-2015-profile/index.aspx
Vanderbilt's upper-level concentration programs allow students to earn a certificate in Law & Business, as well as concentrate their studies in such fields as international law, intellectual property law; litigation and dispute resolution; energy, environmental and land use law; criminal law and social justice. In 2005, the Cecil D. Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program received a $2.9 million endowment through a cy pres settlement of a class action lawsuit. Vanderbilt also has programs that allow students to focus on intellectual property law; energy, environmental and land use law; international and comparative law, criminal justice and social justice. In fall 2011, Vanderbilt University received a $4.85 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation  for the establishment of a national MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience.
Vanderbilt's Ph.D. Program in Law & Economics was the first program of its kind in the nation. The program, which is directed by economists W. Kip Viscusi and Joni Hersch, admitted its first class in fall 2007 and graduated its first student, Jennifer Bennett Shinall, in 2012.
The Vanderbilt Law Review is ranked 18th among general-topic law reviews, based upon the number of times its articles are cited. Other journals are the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, founded in 1967, and the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, founded as the Journal of Entertainment Law and Practice in 1998. The recently created Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review, a new joint publication with the Environmental Law Institute, debuted in 2008. ELPAR is released each year as the August issue of the Environmental Law Reporter, one of the most widely circulated environmental law publications in the country.
- Greg Abbott - Texas Attorney General
- Bill Alexander- United States Representative from Arkansas (1969–1993)
- Bruce Bennett (Class of 1949) - Attorney general of Arkansas (1957-1960 and 1963-1966)
- Lucius E. Burch, Jr. - Conservationist, Explorer, Civil Rights Activist, and Attorney for Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Martha Craig Daughtrey - Senior Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- Karl Dean - Mayor of Nashville
- Al Gore - Former Vice President of the United States; winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Gore attended Vanderbilt Law School, but left in 1976 during his 2L year without attaining a degree to run for his father's seat in Congress.
- Pauline LaFon Gore - Mother of former Vice President Al Gore. She met her future husband, Albert Gore, Sr., while working her way through Vanderbilt Law School, from which she graduated in 1936.
- Dorsey B. Hardeman - former member of both houses of the Texas State Legislature, former mayor of San Angelo
- Ric Keller - former United States Representative from Florida
- Leonard Lance - United States Representative from New Jersey
- Gilbert S. Merritt, Jr. - Senior Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- Luke Messer - United States Representative from Indiana
- Bill Purcell - Former Mayor of Nashville; served two terms from 1999 to 2007.
- Ronald J. Rychlak - Noted author, attorney and professor of law at University of Mississippi
- Ben Quayle - U.S. Representative from Arizona
- Bill Steltemeier (1954) - Founding President of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).
- Fred Thompson - Former Republican presidential candidate; former United States Senator (R-TN), and actor on the television drama Law & Order
- Aleta Trauger - Judge, U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville
- Clay Travis - American sports journalist, writer and the author of the column ClayNation on Fanhouse
- Justin P. Wilson - Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury
- Thomas A. Wiseman, Jr. - Senior Judge, United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
- Lisa Schultz Bressman, professor of administrative law and associate dean of academic affairs
- Daniel J. Sharfstein, legal historian and 2013 Guggenheim Fellow—author of "The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White" (Penguin, 2011)
- Suzanna Sherry, author of numerous books on constitutional interpretive theory and casebooks on Civil Procedure and Federal Jurisdiction.
- Harold G. Maier, expert in Private International Law, International Civil Litigation (retired in 2006)
- James Clark McReynolds (1862–1946), United States Supreme Court Justice, served on the faculty before becoming part of President Theodore Roosevelt's Justice Department.
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