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Social Justice Curriculum



We strongly recommend that any student interested in social justice register for at least one clinical course serving the needs of low-income clients in a variety of contexts. These courses, which are run out of Vanderbilt Law School's in-house legal clinic, offer students the opportunity to experience social justice lawyering first hand by working directly with clients, lawyers, and judges, always under the supervision of a member of the clinical faculty. Current clinical courses serving low-income clients include:

More information about Vanderbilt Law School's Clinical Legal Education Program


Students can earn credit by participating in a rich variety of supervised externships, not only in Nashville but also in other parts of the country and around the world. The Social Justice Program encourages students to seek out externships in areas related to social justice, and the program faculty is well-situated to help students find suitable placements.

More information about Vanderbilt Law School's externship program



Each Vanderbilt Law student is required to take a seminar and prepare a substantive research paper as a condition of graduation. Enrollment in each of these seminars is limited to 16 students. The Social Justice Program offers a number of seminars that satisfy this requirement, including past offerings such as:

  • Professor Daniel Sharfstein teaching the Legal History of Race in the U.S. seminarJuvenile Justice Seminar
  • Law and the Emotions Seminar
  • Legal History of Race in the United States
  • Legal History of the Voting Rights Act Seminar
  • Race and Law

More information about Vanderbilt Law School's seminar requirement


The great majority of law school courses will be valuable to at least some public service lawyers. The elective courses listed below have a specific focus on client groups that are likely not to be well served by the existing fee-for-service system, and may therefore be particularly of interest to students interested in social justice:


Skills courses provide the opportunity to apply your knowledge to hypothetical disputes using exercises, writing assignments and moot arguments.

Directed Research

Vanderbilt law students may take advantage of a variety of opportunities to conduct research with Social Justice Program faculty, either by assisting faculty members with their research or by conducting their own research under faculty supervision.

Social Justice Reading Group

Social Justice Reading Group discussion with Professor Christopher Slobogin

Students interested in social justice issues may join a spring-semester non-credit reading group sponsored by the Social Justice Program. The group provides a forum in which students and faculty can explore together topics related to public interest law and lawyering through legal scholarship and work from other disciplines.

Discussions focus on substantive areas of social justice practice—including civil rights, poverty law, and the rights of defendants and prisoners—as well as the challenges that lawyers encounter when representing vulnerable or marginalized clients and causes.