Vanderbilt students may pursue a range of public interest practice opportunities through an array of clinics, practicums, externships, and student-led pro bono programs and projects.
Within the clinical program, students have the opportunity to represent clients in state and federal court, to represent clients in transactions or to complete substantive research in support of international institutions, domestic government agencies or international tribunals. All students work under the close supervision of a faculty member.
Students may engage in externships in Nashville during the school year or during the summer. Also during the summer, students may engage in externships anywhere in the U.S. or the world. The Externship Program allows students to choose and design placements tailored to their individual goals and interests, typically by working with federal or state judges, prosecutors, defenders, or agencies; state attorneys general or legislative offices; corporate legal departments; or legal aid or other non-profit or non-governmental organizations.
Vanderbilt Law School provides students a diverse array of opportunities for engagement in pro bono service. Students may engage in community legal education through one of the student Legal Aid Society’s pro bono projects, or they may participate in legal clinics hosted by the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands.
Commitment to public service animates many of the student groups that make Vanderbilt a dynamic place. The Vanderbilt Legal Aid Society funds summer stipends through its popular Public Interest Stipend Auction. Student organizations such as Law Students for Social Justice, Law Students for Reproductive Justice, La Alianza, the Black Law Students Association, the Women Law Students Association, and OUTLaw sponsor lectures on timely issues ranging from mass incarceration to reproductive rights, and support law-related community initiatives.
Students worked for legal employers in 15 states, Washington, D.C., and for legal nonprofits in London, U.K., The Hague, Netherlands, and Kyiv, Ukraine. They receive stipend support to help defray their living expenses or earn course credit for their unpaid legal work.
Judge Jane B. Stranch ’78 (BA’75) of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit discussed her career as a labor lawyer and her work as an appellate judge in a Q&A moderated by Joey Vettiankal ’24 and sponsored by the VLS student chapter of the American Constitution Society.
Ten VLS students worked for three legal nonprofit organizations to support their missions of providing vital legal services to indigent and low-income clients. Teams worked at North Mississippi Rural Legal Services, the Tennessee Innocence Project, and Free Hearts.
Email our Public Interest Office Program Coordinator