The Legal Careers that Vanderbilt Law Students Pursue

By Rachael Perrotta

It’s often assumed that all J.D. students become lawyers upon graduation from law school. There are, however, a variety of legal paths from which they can choose after graduating. We spoke with Vanderbilt Law School’s Career Services team to learn about the types of legal careers that law students have at their disposal.

Assistant Dean Elizabeth Workman explained that many students who attend Vanderbilt go on to work for large law firms. Vanderbilt Law School’s Career Services helps students with the recruiting process for these organizations. “We compete very well with our peers in that industry,” Workman said.

Students can also pursue judicial clerkships for judges around the country, which can often lead to attractive roles in the private and public sectors.

Opportunities in public service and the federal government are available for graduates too.  Vanderbilt Law students are well-poised to be selected for federal honors programs. Rachel Kohler, Associate Director and Government Advisor, stated that these programs allow “high-achieving, dedicated, public service students” to enter large federal departments without having to work in private practice first to gain experience.

“The conventional wisdom is that they are very competitive,” Kohler added.

Associate Director Nick Alexiou explained that federal honors programs are ideal avenues for students who are looking to pay off loans but not necessarily interested in private practice.

“There are some students who go to big law, and they want to stay there for 30 years, and they would be happy with that as their permanent path. But most, or at least a lot of them, view big law as taking time to pay your dues,” Alexiou said. “Honors programs sort of skip that process.”

Kohler emphasized that, although Vanderbilt is not as central to Washington, D.C., as other law schools may be, students still earn job offers from firms and public service employers on The Hill every year.

Law students also have the option to work at smaller, midsize private firms, as a public defender, in litigation, transactional work for agencies, jobs in criminal law – such as those with district attorneys, and more.

Alexiou also mentioned that fellowships are available for students to receive funding and scholarships to engage in public service and philanthropic work.

“That’s the best of both worlds – you get the big law salary and work that you may want to do more,” Alexiou said.

Check out our Employment Report to see the latest Vanderbilt Law School outcomes.