Vanderbilt Law School met a number of criteria Tom Johnson identified as important when he began applying to law schools as a senior at the University of Richmond. “I was interested in Vanderbilt’s Energy, Environmental and Law Use Program, it was located in the South, and it was very competitively ranked,” Johnson recalled. “I had also heard the student body cultivated a friendly atmosphere. That’s proved to be true in my experience.”
An interview with a VLS alumnus who had also earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Richmond cemented Johnson’s decision to choose Vanderbilt. “I remember feeling impressed that the school matched us, and I also liked knowing that others from my undergrad had attended VLS and enjoyed their experience,” he said.
Johnson plans to join the law firm of Locke Lord in Houston, where he will focus on corporate and energy law, after taking the Texas bar exam. He believes Vanderbilt has done a good job of preparing him for legal practice. “I’ve had the opportunity to learn a broad array of legal topics here, and the curriculum permits enough space to enroll in intellectually interesting courses, practical courses like document drafting or trial advocacy, and courses that help familiarize students with bar topics,” he said.
Although Johnson knew he wanted to focus on energy law, he chose to work on the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law because he was interested in the subject matter: the journal focuses on intellectual property law as well as administrative, sports, art, science and entertainment law. “I developed an interest in IP law after taking a couple of IP courses,” he said. “I have enjoyed increasing my understanding of IP concepts and emerging technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. The journal covers a big umbrella of topics, but the pieces that get cited most often focus on technology and patent law.”
He has found working on the journal one of the most rewarding aspects of law school. “I’m drawn to academia, and participating in the journal exposes students to a great deal of academic literature and provides a window into the life of a law professor,” he said. In his third year at the law school, Johnson accepted an invitation to join Vanderbilt’s Legal Academy Scholars Program and hopes to teach law classes as an adjunct professor after gaining practical experience. He also holds a position on the law school’s Honor Council because “that organization helps to ensure the academic credibility of our student body and allows students to seek clarification of the student honor code without having to ask a faculty member.”
Johnson credits Vanderbilt’s Career Services department with helping him format his resume and cover letter and apply for a summer clerkship with a federal judge, which he believes helped him secure a summer position with Locke Lord in 2017. “During our 1L year, we learn that the point of law school has less to do with mastering one select area of the law and more to do with learning the skills to master any area of the law,” he said. “I also learned just how much attending a top-tier law school improves your likelihood of employment. Large law firms and government agencies directly seek to hire Vanderbilt students.”