Vanderbilt University Law School
|Vanderbilt Law School|
|Parent endowment||$4.1 Billion|
|Location||Nashville, TN, US|
|Bar pass rate||92.5%|
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 17th in the 2018 edition of U.S. News & World Report. Vanderbilt Law School enrolls approximately 640 students, with each entering Juris Doctor class consisting of approximately 175 students.
The dean of the law school is Chris Guthrie, who began his second five-year appointment as dean on July 1, 2014.
According to Vanderbilt Law School's 2013 ABA-required disclosures, 85.9% of the Class of 2013 obtained full-time, long-term, bar examination passage-required employment nine months after graduation, excluding solo practitioners.
The total enrollment of students pursuing either a Juris Doctor (J.D) or LL.M. is approximately 640. The program usually admits no more than 175 students to the J.D. class, and approximately 50 students to the LL.M class each year. 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.
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. William Frierson Cooper, who had been nominated by Jefferson Davis to serve on the Supreme Court of the Confederate States of America, served as the first dean from 1874 to 1875. He was succeeded by Thomas H. Malone, a veteran of the Confederate States Army, who served as dean from 1875 to 1904.
Through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the law school remained small, never exceeding 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 South, where it is still located.
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., and the school introduced a joint-degree J.D./M.S. in Finance in conjunction with Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management in fall 2014.
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. Shinall joined Vanderbilt's Law and Economics faculty in fall 2014.
According to Vanderbilt Law School's official 2013 ABA-required disclosures, 85.9% of the Class of 2013 obtained full-time, long-term, bar passage-required employment nine months after graduation, excluding solo-practitioners. Vanderbilt Law School ranked 12th out of the 201 ABA-approved law schools in terms of the percentage of 2013 graduates with non-school-funded, full-time, long-term, bar passage required jobs nine months after graduation.
Vanderbilt Law School's Law School Transparency under-employment score is 6.3%, indicating the percentage of the Class of 2013 unemployed, pursuing an additional degree, or working in a non-professional, short-term, or part-time job nine months after graduation. 94.2% of the Class of 2013 was employed in some capacity while 1% were pursuing graduate degrees and 3.9% were unemployed nine months graduation.
The total cost of attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses) at Vanderbilt Law for the 2014-15 academic year is $74,104.
The Law School Transparency estimated debt-financed cost of attendance for three years is $270,165.
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 Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review, a 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 - Governor of Texas, Texas Attorney General (2002-2015), Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court (1995-2001)
- Bill Alexander - United States Representative from Arkansas (1969–1993)
- Bruce Bennett '49 - Attorney general of Arkansas (1957-1960 and 1963-1966)
- Theodore G. Bilbo (did not graduate) - Former United States Senator from Mississippi
- Jeffrey S. Bivins - Associate Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court
- Lucius E. Burch, Jr. - Conservationist, explorer, civil rights activist, and attorney for Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Cornelia A. Clark - Supreme Court Justice, Tennessee Supreme Court
- Bill Corr - United States Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama
- Mark Dalton - Chairman and CEO of Tudor Investment Corporation
- Martha Craig Daughtrey - Senior Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- Jeff Davis - Former Governor of Arkansas and United States Senator from Arkansas
- Karl Dean - Mayor of Nashville
- Vince Foster - Deputy White House Counsel 1993
- Bill Gibbons - Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security
- 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
- William Joseph Haynes, Jr. - Senior Judge, United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
- Thomas Aquinas Higgins - Former Senior Judge, United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
- Ric Keller - Former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida's 8th congressional district
- Robert L. King - Former Chancellor of the State University of New York
- Leonard Lance - United States Representative from the Seventh District of New Jersey
- Hill McAlister - 37th Governor of Tennessee
- Jon Phipps McCalla - Senior Judge, United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee
- Gilbert S. Merritt, Jr. - Senior Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- Luke Messer - United States Representative from the Sixth District of Indiana
- John Trice Nixon - Senior Judge, United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
- Tom Parker - Associate Justice, Supreme Court of Alabama
- Clarence W. Phillips - Tennessee state legislator
- Thomas W. Phillips - Senior Judge, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee
- 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
- Jim Sasser - Former United States Senator from Tennessee and the 6th United States Ambassador to China
- Kevin H. Sharp - Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
- Jane Branstetter Stranch - Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- Fred Thompson - Former Republican presidential candidate; former United States Senator (R-TN), and actor on the television drama Law & Order
- Jack Thompson - Anti-videogame activist and disbarred attorney
- Aleta Trauger - Judge, United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee,
- Clay Travis - American sports journalist, writer and the author of the column ClayNation on Fanhouse
- Thomas A. Varlan - Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee
- Hans von Spakovsky - Commissioner, Federal Election Commission, appointed by recess, withdrew own nomination after controversy
- Harry W. Wellford - Senior Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- Justin P. Wilson - Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury
- Thomas A. Wiseman, Jr. - Senior Judge, United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
- W. Kip Viscusi, University Distinguished Professor of Law, Economics, and Management and the Co-Director of the Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics
- Lisa Schultz Bressman, Professor of administrative law and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs
- Suzanna Sherry, author of numerous books on constitutional interpretive theory and casebooks on Civil Procedure and Federal Jurisdiction.
- James Blumstein, University Professor of Constitutional Law and Health Law and Policy
- William Frierson Cooper, nominated to serve on the Confederate Supreme Court by Jefferson Davis; first Dean from 1874 to 1875.
- Horace Harmon Lurton (1844-1914), Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Dean from 1905 until 1909
- Jacob M. Dickinson, 44th United States Secretary of War, Professor of Law from 1897 to 1899 while he was an attorney for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad
- Harold G. Maier, expert in Private International Law, International Civil Litigation (retired in 2006)
- Thomas H. Malone (1834-1906), Confederate veteran, judge, Dean of the Vanderbilt University Law School for two decades.
- James Clark McReynolds (1862–1946), Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, served on the faculty before becoming part of President Theodore Roosevelt's Justice Department.
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For a period of over twenty years he was Dean of the law department of Vanderbilt University, and gave up his work in the institution only a year and a half ago. Numerous lawyers in this community received their foundations of legal lore from him. Among those who studied with him was Judge J. M. Dickinson.
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