J.D. Curriculum

First-year requirements provide the intellectual foundation on which to build a legal education that is tailored to meet individual needs and interests in the second and third years. A deep dive into the study of law and reasoning in the first year provides the framework for continued development of high-level skills in analysis, problem-solving, advocacy, speaking, and writing, and also helps students identify areas of law that interest and inspire them.

Required First Year Courses

  • Civil Procedure

    An introduction to federal and state court organization, jurisdiction, and procedure, including pleading, joinder of parties and claims, pretrial discovery, pretrial disposition of cases, judgments, res judicata, collateral estoppel, and other subjects. Primary emphasis is on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and its counterparts which have been adopted by many states.

  • Contracts

    The agreement process; interpretation; consideration and its equivalents; illegal bargains; the statute of frauds; remedies for breach of contract; failure of condition; impossibility of performance and frustration of purpose; third-party beneficiaries; assignment of rights and delegation of duties; and discharge. Relevant sections of Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code are included in study of each topic.

  • Criminal Law

    A basic study of specific crimes at common law and under modern statutes; general principles of criminal liability; defenses; selected problems in criminal law administration from investigation and arrest through trial.

  • Legal Writing I - Fall Semester

    The fundamentals of written legal analysis, citation, and written and oral advocacy.

  • Legal Writing II - Spring Semester

    Continuation of Legal Writing I.

  • Life of the Law

    An introduction to the study of law, designed to give students the knowledge and skills that will prepare them for their other first-year courses. Topics covered will include a review of American history and civics, the place of law among methods of ordering behavior, an overview of the American legal system, legal methodologies, legal concepts, theoretical frameworks for law, and the role(s) of law students and lawyers. Pass/Fail.

  • Property

    A basic survey of the law of property, with emphasis on real estate; estates in land; divided interests; adverse possession; introduction to future interests; landlord-tenant; commercial transfers of land, including the real estate contract, the deed, the recording system, and title insurance; restriction of land use through private arrangement and public regulation.

  • Regulatory State

    An introduction to statutes and agency decisions and the central role they play in modern government. The course covers the nature of statutes and agency regulations, how they are generated, and how they are interpreted.

  • Torts

    Liability for intentional harm to person or property and for similar harm caused by negligent conduct.

  • First Year Elective

    In the spring semester of the first year, students will select one elective course from the list of available qualifying courses.

Legal Research & Writing

Each Vanderbilt Law School first-year J.D. student must complete a graded, 2-semester Legal Research and Writing course. The course primarily teaches students to plan, research, organize, and write legal analysis and advocacy. The second semester also introduces oral advocacy.

Elective Courses

Upper-level offerings are almost entirely elective, allowing students to choose from a broad curriculum, combining courses, clinics, externships, independent work, and courses outside the law school to accomplish career goals. Second- and third-year students also have the option of pursuing specific areas of interest through the law school's special academic programs.

* Please note: The list below is not exhaustive, and not all classes are offered every year.

Litigation and Dispute Resolution Electives

Criminal Procedure: InvestigationCorporate LitigationCommercial Litigation Finance

Criminal Law Electives

Actual InnocenceAppellate Practice and Procedure Comparative Perspectives on Counterterrorism
Health Care Fraud and Abuse International Criminal Law Juvenile Justice
Mental Health Law: Deprivations of Life and Liberty Policing in the 21st Century Short Course White Collar Crime Seminar

Environmental Law Electives

Energy Law Environmental Law I: Public Environmental Governance Environmental Law II: Private Environmental Governance
Land Use Planning Energy & Environmental Federalism Sustainable Cities
Water Law Local Government Law Climate Law & Policy Lab
Climate Change Governance Seminar Clean Energy Transition Seminar

Intellectual Property Law Electives

Antitrust Law Copyright Law Entertainment Industry Transactions: Negotiation and Drafting
First Amendment Constitutional Law Intellectual Property and the Arts Clinic Intellectual Property Licensing
International Intellectual Property Patent Law Trade Secrets
Trademarks Short Course

International Legal Studies Electives

Comparative Perspectives on Counterterrorism Human Trafficking: Law, Policy, and Litigation Immigration Law and Policy
International Labor Migration: Lawyering for Social Justice in Comparative Contexts International Law Practice LabInternational Mergers and Acquisitions
International Protection of Human Rights International Renewable Energy Development and Finance Islamic Law: from Mecca to Modernity
Public International Law Transnational Litigation United Nations Law and Practice

Law & Business Electives

Advanced Securities RegulationAlternative Business Entities Short CourseBankruptcy
Business and Securities ResearchContractsCorporations and Business Entities
Disruptive Technologies and the Evolution of Corporate Law Short CourseEconomic Regulation of Finance SeminarEntertainment Industry Transactions: Negotiation and Drafting
Federal Tax LawGovernment Contract LawHealthcare Mergers & Acquisitions
Hedge Fund Regulation and Compliance Short CourseIntroduction to AccountingIntroduction to Corporate Finance for Lawyers
Mergers and AcquisitionsPrivate Mergers and Acquisitions - Drafting and NegotiationReal Estate Transactions
Role of In-House CounselSecurities RegulationVenture Capital Seminar

Law & Government Electives

American Legal HistoryAppellate Practice and ProcedureConstitutional Law I - Structural Questions, Federalism, and Separation of Powers
Constitutional Law II - Individual RightsFamily LawFederal Courts and the Federal System
Federal Indian LawFederalism SeminarFirst Amendment Constitutional Law
Gender and the LawGovernment Contract LawInternational Protection of Human Rights
Marijuana Law and PolicyPolicing in the 21st Century Short CourseReproductive Rights and Justice
Stanton Foundation First Amendment ClinicTextualism and Originalism Seminar

Law & Innovation Electives

Design Your Life in the LawLaw as a BusinessLaw Practice 2050
Legal Practice TechnologyLegal Problem SolvingLegal Project Management
Robots, Artificial Intelligence, and the Law

Social Justice Electives

Actual InnocenceAdvanced Evidence & Trial Advocacy: Civil Education Law
Employment LawEmployment Discrimination LawFamily Law
Immigration Law and PolicyJuvenile JusticeMental Health Law: Deprivations of Life and Liberty
Poverty Law Trial Advocacy

Non-Law Elective Courses

Each semester, a limited number of non-law courses at other schools within Vanderbilt University are approved as electives eligible for credit toward the J.D. degree.

Students not participating in an approved dual degree program may receive credit for up to 6 credit hours of graduate-level study in non-law courses taken from other schools within Vanderbilt University.

Students participating in a dual degree program are eligible for permitted non-law elective credits determined by the program.

Clinics and Experiential Learning

Vanderbilt's eight legal clinics allow students to learn both the theory and practice of law in context. Clinic students gain real-world legal experience by assuming the role of the lawyer under the expert guidance of members of the law faculty, working with actual clients and on real cases. The Externship Program allows students to choose and design placements tailored to their individual goals and interests.

Have Questions?

If you have any questions about the application process, please contact the Admissions Office at 615-322-6452 or admissions@law.vanderbilt.edu.