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Public Interest Law at Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt is committed to cultivating a culture of public service and to facilitating opportunities for students to use their legal training in service of the greater good both during and after law school.

Financial Support

Summer Stipends & Fellowships

In 2016, 84 law students received stipend awards for summer pro bono work serving as interns in judicial chambers, U.S. Attorney offices, governmental agencies, NGOs, non-profit legal aid organizations and federal public defender offices. Read more

In 2016, 84 students received stipends to support their summer pro bono work

Garrison Social Justice Scholarship

Amy Price Garrison (BA'79) and Frank M. Garrison Jr., '79 (BA'76) generously established the Amy and Frank Garrison Social Justice Law Fund to support Vanderbilt Law students providing services to or for the general benefit of individuals who may have been disenfranchised, dispossessed, discriminated against, or economically disadvantaged. The Fund also supports students interested in serving the broader public interest in positions such as interns in judicial chambers, U.S. Attorney's Offices, government agencies, or non-governmental organizations. Read more

Class of 2017 Garrison Scholar, Abby Moskowitz

Class of 2018 Garrison Scholar, Alana Seixas

George Barrett Social Justice Fellowship

The Barrett Social Justice Fellowship honors the legacy of renowned Nashville civil rights attorney George Barrett ’57 by enabling a Vanderbilt Law graduate to carry out a one-year public interest project under the supervision and sponsorship of a host organization. Read more

Nathan Walsh ’16 named Vanderbilt Law’s first George Barrett Fellow  

Gideon's Promise Law School Partnership Program

In 1963, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Gideon v. Wainright that state courts are required under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to provide counsel in criminal cases to represent defendants who are unable to afford to pay their own attorneys. That same year, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place in our nation’s capitol. Both occurrences marked a monumental shift towards equality in the justice system and social infrastructure in our country. The Gideon's Promise mission is to transform the criminal justice system by building a movement of public defenders who provide equal justice for marginalized communities. Read more

2015 graduates Clarke Agre and Nakeisha Jackson named Gideon’s Promise Fellows

2014 graduates Leo Costales and Will Howell named Gideon's Promise Fellows

Loan Repayment Assistance Program

Public service law is challenging, rewarding, and, all too often, low-paying. Most law graduates need to repay student loans, which can provide an additional challenge to taking public service employment upon graduation. To help ease the burden for graduates who take public interest employment, Vanderbilt Law offers a Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) that pays from 20 to 50 percent of your annual loan repayment obligation for up to ten years. Read more


Practice Opportunities

Clinics and Practicums

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. Read more

Externships

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. Read more

Pro Bono Opportunities

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. Read more

See where current and former students have served


Curricular Offerings

Social Justice Program

Criminal Justice Program

Clinical Legal Education


Specialized Career Advising

Careers

Vanderbilt offers students seeking public interest careers – whether in government service, indigent defense, legal aid offices, advocacy organizations, or their own brand of social justice entrepreneurship – expert advice. The assistant dean for public interest works closely with the Career Services Office to support students who aspire to public service work during and after law school. Read more

Post-Graduate Public Interest Fellowships

Fellowships are time-limited employment opportunities that serve as an important pathway into the public interest legal sector for recent law graduates, including judicial clerks. The universe of public interest fellowships is vast and dynamic. Some fellowships fund recent law graduates to carry out innovative legal advocacy projects, while others are essentially endowed entry-level attorney positions at non-profit organizations. Read more