Vanderbilt University Law School

Infobox Law School

name = Vanderbilt University Law School
established = 1874
type = Private
endowment = $80 Million (US)
parent endowment = $3.4 Billion (US)
head = Edward L. Rubin
city = Nashville
state = TN
country = USA
students = 601
faculty = 132
ranking = 15
bar pass rate = 97.8%
annual tuition = US$39,838
homepage = []

Vanderbilt University Law School (also known as VULS) 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 15th in the 2009 edition of the "U.S. News & World Report".

In addition to its "U.S. News & World Report" ranking, VULS was ranked 11th in the inaugural "Vault Top Law School Guide" [] . In 2008, the "Princeton Review" ranked Vanderbilt 7th for Best Career Prospects, 4th for Best Classroom Experience, and 4th for Best Quality of Life [] . Most recently, Vanderbilt Law was ranked 15th in the 2008 "National Law Journal" job placement study [] , with slightly over 45% of the graduating class being hired by the NLJ Top 250 firms [] . The median starting salary for Vanderbilt Law graduates is $145,000 (US) [] .

The Law School places much emphasis in fostering a small, collegial environment; with only approximately 600 students enrolled, each entering class usually consists of slightly under 200 students. Given the law school's endowment of approximately $80 Million (US), the small class size receives the 16th highest per-capita endowment among US law schools. []

The dean of the law school is Edward L. Rubin [] , formerly the Theodore K. Warner, Jr. Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.


With total enrollment of approximately 600 Juris Doctor and L.L.M. candidates, usually no more than 200 students comprise each entering class. The student-to-faculty ratio has correspondingly dropped in recent years, and is currently at 13:1 [] , similar to small, elite peer schools like Duke Law and Cornell Law.

The small class size, complementing the small-city background of the Nashville metropolitan area, has contributed to a congenial, non-competitive atmosphere. VULS has over 40 student organizations [] , which support many social events throughout the year. Most Fridays during the school year, the law school sponsors an informal social gathering known as "Blackacre", named after the outdoor courtyard on campus where the gatherings are held. [] "Blackacre" typically features free food and beverages, including kegs of beer, and is sponsored by different student organizations and law firms every week. The law school recently began encouraging greater social interaction between JD and LLM candidates, with the result being that JD students have the unique opportunity to discuss law careers with accomplished law professors, legal aid directors and Fulbright scholars from around the world. [cite unavailable.] Students are also encouraged to form new organizations tailored to their personal interests, which has most recently produced: the Vanderbilt Law Brew Guild, a coalition of students interested in exploring sustainable microbrew techniques; the Nashville Fine Dining Society (NFDS), an elite, invitation-only value-based buffet organization (which in turn has resulted in students forming other dining societies less focused on ironic labels); and Law Students for Social Justice (LSSJ), a new official 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.

Regarding career options, the small class size and diverse makeup of its students contribute to a dispersing graduating body, both in terms of industry and geography. While 71.8% of the most recent graduating class pursued law firm work, 13% found employment as judicial clerks, and 7% entered the public service industry. Geographically, Vanderbilt graduates pursue work in the Southern/Mid-Atlantic (38%) and Northeastern (30%) regions; slightly fewer graduates find work in the Western/Southwestern (14%) and Midwestern (13%) region, and 5% of the class find work abroad. [] . 85% of graduates find jobs in major metropolitan areas, and 94% already had jobs by graduation. []

This dispersal, along with its lack of a class rank system [] , has minimized competition among students for firm opportunities among different regions and different firms. Moreover, students may not compete with each other relative to other schools because of heavy firm recruiting---typically over 800 firms recruit second-year students annually, with 550 firms participating in the On-Campus Interview (or OCI) program. [] Notable firms include Skadden, White & Case, and Davis Polk. [] .

The law school also offers a unique 1L OCI program, which is traditionally held in the spring semester, and involves more regionally proximate firms based in Nashville, Charlotte, and Atlanta.


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 Sullivan was the school's first graduate, and would eventually represent Tennessee in the United States Senate.

Through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Law School remained reasonably small, and never exceeded 70 students. The curriculum continued as 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, but faced very limited enrollment during World War II. Classes were suspended in 1944, which largely remained stagnant until the end of the war.

The Law School was revived with $1 million endowment in 1947, and experienced significant growth through the 1960's. Facing overcrowding, it was moved out of Kirkland Hall in 1962, and into the Law School Building on 21st Street, where it currently resides.

Since then, VULS has undergone a series of renovations and expansion, notably including a $24 million upgrade under then dean (and current Washington University School of Law Dean) Kent Sveyrud. Such expansion has included greater integration with the Owen School of Management, the Peabody School of Education, and other Vanderbilt professional programs.

By 2000, VULS 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 Rubin was appointed to replace Sveyrud as Dean of VULS. Since then, the Law School has significantly developed its Dispute and Resolution Program (resulting from a $2.9 endowment donation), established a Summer Study program on its Venice, Italy campus, and increased its reputation in the field Law and Economics with the notable hiring of former Harvard Law professor Kip Viscusi.


Vanderbilt's prestige, post-graduate career placement opportunities, and desire to maintain a traditionally small community has made it an attractive option for many applicants. This has allowed its Admissions Office to be among the most highly selective in the country. [] .

While the law school typically receives nearly 4,000 applications a year, less than 1,000 applicants receive offers, resulting in a matriculating class of under 200. In the 2007 application cycle, it received the largest number of applications in its history, experiencing a 10 percent increase over the previous year [] . Its acceptance rate is approximately 22% [] , and the entering class (of 2011) had median undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores of 3.72 and 168 [] , respectively.

Fifty-six percent of the most recent entering class had graduated from college at least one year before arriving at Vanderbilt [] . Backgrounds of such people have included experience in the business, science, military service, education, technology, entertainment, and public policy industries. Of the most recently admitted class, 51% are women and 23% are minorities; the entering class also represents 112 different undergraduate institutions, spanning 38 different states and three foreign nations.


Vanderbilt's corporate law program allows students to earn a Certificate in Law & Business, and it has strong programs in international and constitutional law. In 2005, a new program—the Cecil D. Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program, headed by complex litigation scholar Richard Nagareda [] received a $2.9 million endowment through a cy pres settlement of a class action lawsuit. Vanderbilt also has programs in law and human behavior, constitutional law, regulatory law, and environmental law.

In the spring of 2006, the law school announced the creation of a new program to award a Ph.D. in Law & Economics—the first program of its kind in the nation—directed by economists W. Kip Viscusi and Joni Hersch. The program admitted its first class in Fall 2007.

Vanderbilt Law School also offers a summer study program, Vanderbilt in Venice [] , which is open to students from all accredited law schools and offers courses in comparative and international law.


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. [] .

Notable alumni

* Greg Abbott - Texas Attorney General
* Bill Alexander- United States Representative from Arkansas (1969-1993)
* Paul Atkins - Commissioner, Securities and Exchange Commission
* Cornelia A. Clark - Justice, Tennessee Supreme Court
* Martha Craig Daughtrey - Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
*Karl Dean - Mayor of Nashville (assumed office September 21, 2007)
* Al Gore - Vice President, Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Al Gore briefly attended Vanderbilt Law School, but left without attaining a degree to pursue a career in Congress in 1976.
* 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.
* Ric Keller - Congressman (R-FL)
* William C. Koch Jr. - Justice, Tennessee Supreme Court, appointed June 15, 2007 (Justice Koch had previously served on the Tennessee Court of Appeals for the Western Section)
* Gilbert S. Merritt, Jr. - Senior Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
* Paul Ney, Jr. - Principal Deputy General Counsel, Department of the Navy
* John T. Nixon - Senior Judge, United States District Court for the Middle 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
* Fred Thompson - Former Republican presidential candidate; former United States Senator (R-TN), and actor on the television drama "Law & Order"
* Aleta Trauger - District Court Judge, United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
* Thomas A. Wiseman, Jr. - Senior Judge, United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee

Notable faculty


* Robert Belton, recipient of the 2006 National Bar Association Presidential Award.
* James F. Blumstein [] , health law and Constitutional law scholar, he also has argued 10 cases before the Supreme Court.
* Lisa Schultz Bressman, highly regarded scholar of administrative law.
* Rebecca L. Brown [] , an individual rights constitutional theorist and co-chair of the American Constitution Society's "Constitution for the 21st Century" project.
* John Goldberg [] , expert in tort law, a proponent for constitutionalizing the right to redress through tort, on which he published an article recently in Yale Law Journal.
* Owen D. Jones [] , scholar on the impact of evolutionary biology on law, a subject on which he has published articles in Columbia Law Review, among other journals.
* Nancy J. King [] , author of a Criminal Procedure casebook and member of the Rules Committee for the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
* Richard Nagareda [] , author of "Mass Torts in a World of Settlement" (University of Chicago Press - released in 2007).
* Edward L. Rubin [] , has authored numerous books and articles on legal theory and administrative law. He is among the most cited members of the law faculty.
* Jeffrey Schoenblum [] , scholar in choice of law in international wealth transfers and probate.
* Suzanna Sherry, author of numerous books on constitutional interpretive theory and casebooks on Civil Procedure and Federal Jurisdiction.
* Michael Vandenbergh [] , an environmental law scholar who explores the relationship between formal legal regulation and informal social regulation.
* W. Kip Viscusi [] , economist and health and safety risk scholar.


* Harold G. Maier (emeritus), expert in Private International Law, International Civil Litigation.
* James Clark McReynolds (1862-1946), United States Supreme Court Justice, served on the faculty before becoming part of President Theodore Roosevelt's Justice Department.
* Larry Soderquist (1944–2005), expert in Corporate Law.
* Kent Sveyrud (1997-2005), Dean of the Washington University School of Law

External links

* [ Vanderbilt University Law School homepage]


* " [ Vanderbilt Law Review] "
* " [ Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law] "
* " [ Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law ] "

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