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Vanderbilt University Law School

Dream Big

Since our founding in the fall of 1874, our graduates have been considered among the nation’s best. Although nearly 150 years have passed since we opened our doors, the same is true today. Bright and talented students flock to Vanderbilt because we offer a different type of legal education: one that is as supportive as it is challenging, collegial as it is academically rigorous.

As we chart our goals and ambitions for our next 150 years, we turn to our philanthropic partners to dream big with us as we imagine a school even greater than the one we know today.

Photo of Jessica Wilson


Class of ‘18 Charles W. Gerdts III Scholarship

If she had taken another airplane. Sat in a different seat. Put on her headphones and not talked to her neighbor. Jessica Wilson’s life would be very different.

But nearly 40,000 feet above the ground, a conversation with a law school alumnus put Vanderbilt on her radar. Around 20 law school applications later, mostly to elite schools, Wilson chose Vanderbilt.

The Charles W. Gerdts III Scholarship played a key role in her success story. “My scholarship tipped the scale in favor of Vanderbilt. Without it, I may have decided to go somewhere else. And I’d be worse off for not having my Vanderbilt experience to prepare me for the rest of my life and career,” Wilson says.

Points of Pride

RANKING 17 & 12 from U.S. News and Above the Law
NO. 10 FACULTY’S SCHOLARLY IMPACT RANKING according to a 2018 study conducted by University of St. Thomas professor Gregory Sisk and colleagues
13 LAW.COM RANKING for alumni placement at the largest 100 firms
AMONG THE BEST How our law students polled by The Princeton Review consistently rank us for OVERALL QUALITY OF LIFE AND CLASSROOM EXPERIENCE

Our Priorities


Prospective students recognize and value our student-centered approach, which balances first-rate academics with quality of life. But scholarships are often the deciding factor when a student chooses law school.

Currently, 91 percent of our students receive financial aid, with a median award of $25,000 per year. However, more and more, our peers with larger endowments are attracting students with bigger scholarship offers than we can currently provide with our smaller endowment. To remain a top national school, we must bolster our scholarship endowment to compete with our peers for the next generation of legal talent.


Like our school itself, our faculty stand out among law professors as top-tier scholars and teachers.

From Ganesh Sitaraman, whose recent book on democracy and the middle class was listed as a New York Times notable book, to Nancy King, who plays a vital role in shaping the criminal justice system at both the federal and state levels—these scholars are changing the world and our students’ lives. Philanthropic support helps us retain these stellar faculty members as well as recruit new scholars who fit our singular mold. In turn, this helps us raise the bar for everyone, attract outstanding students, mentor the best rising stars among our faculty and help recruit other leading legal minds.


Our students choose many different career paths, but those who pursue public interest careers often need additional support to ease the financial pressure of a legal education.

By reducing the amount of debt students face after graduation, public interest funding allows students to pursue the best career options for them, rather than simply the ones most likely to maximize their short-term compensation. Thanks to this support, students such as Vidhi Joshi, ’15, have fulfilling and impactful careers. Joshi received the prestigious Skadden Fellowship, which provided her with two years of salary benefits to work with Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee to extend services to people reentering society after incarceration.


The law school’s academic programs bolster our supportive culture by providing students with an in-depth education tailored to their particular interests and passions.

Over the next several years, we hope to grow our academic programs, such as the ones in law and business; law and innovation; energy, environment and land use; and the George Barrett Social Justice Program.



Annual gifts go to work immediately, and allow us to offer innovative opportunities to current students while maintaining our collegial environment. When you invest in the law school by making an annual gift, you provide:

  • Additional scholarships for students who otherwise may choose to attend a peer school or be unable to afford a legal education

  • Contemporary programs, such as on-campus lectures by national government leaders, that extend educational growth beyond the classrooms

  • Funds for students to travel to job fairs and receive summer stipends while doing pro bono legal work at nonprofits or the government


Planned gifts, including bequests and life income gifts, are designed to help you meet your financial and charitable goals while supporting the law school in the long term. Donors such as Jean Curry Allen, BA’44, have made a lasting impact on students and faculty through bequests. A pathbreaking lawyer, Allen’s bequest established the Helen Strong Curry Chair in International Law as well scholarships for students interested in international law.

“We are not a one-size-fits-all school. As the smallest among the top 20 law schools in terms of student and faculty size, we have a unique advantage over our peers. We are cooperative not cutthroat. Our faculty are invested in our students’ future. So are our alumni—who span a network across the globe. This is what makes us distinct and what makes a Vanderbilt Law education so valuable.”

– Chris Guthrie, Dean and John Wade-Kent Syverud Professor of Law

Financial Snapshot

How the Law School’s $137.9 million endowment is used

Chart: How the Law School’s $137.9 million endowment is used

Endowment peer comparison

Chart: Endowment Peer Comparison *These figures are calculated using fiscal year 2017 endowments and fall 2016 full-time equivalent students, as reported by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

For more information about how you can join us in strengthening the law school’s next 150 years, please contact (615) 322-2606 or