Dear alumni and friends,
Now that the 2017-18 academic year is underway, I offer an update on our school, and thank you for your interest in and support of Vanderbilt Law School.
In August, we welcomed to campus the J.D. Class of 2020 and the LL.M. Class of 2018. Our entering J.D. class, typically between 170-180 students, was selected from 4,756 applicants, and we received 645 applications for the LL.M class of between 50-60 students. We’re grateful to our many alumni who play an important role in helping us identify top candidates by interviewing prospective students and offering us valued feedback. This year, our alumni volunteers conducted more than 1,470 interviews with students who applied to join the Class of 2020. Our LL.M. class includes foreign attorneys from all over the world who come to Vanderbilt to learn how the American legal system works. Their professional experience and global perspectives provide a tremendous benefit to their American J.D. classmates.
Over the summer, I was extremely excited to welcome two new faculty members to campus:
Your support enables us to attract highly qualified new faculty as well as retain world-class legal scholars whose work is important and influential. This past spring, three Vanderbilt professors published notable books. You may have seen the review of Professor Ganesh Sitaraman’s book, The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economin Inequality Threatens Our Republic, on the front page of the March 17 New York Times Book Review. Award-winning legal historian Daniel Sharfstein’s new book, Thunder in the Mountains: Chief Joseph, Oliver Otis Howard, and the Nez Perce War, was also released to acclaim in March, as was Intellectual Property Program Director Daniel Gervais’ book, (Re)Structuring Copyright: A Comprehensive Path to International Copyright Reform. Our faculty also encourage students to author scholarly works. Ben Raker, JD’17, won two environmental law writing competitions in June—the Environmental Law Institute’s national competition and the Tennessee Bar Association’s state competition—for two different articles addressing state and federal environmental regulations.
Deserving VLS students and graduates are now reaping the benefits of major gifts honoring Helen Strong Curry and the late George Barrett, JD’57. This past spring, Samantha Sergent, Class of 2019, became the first recipient of our recently endowed Helen Strong Curry International Law Scholarship. She attended our Vanderbilt in Venice summer study program and worked for Global Rights Compliance, an international legal partnership focused on human rights. Carly Myers, JD’17, and Marian Mikhail, JD’17, became our second class of George Barrett Social Justice Fellows. They will start legal services programs at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) in Berkeley, California, and the Bronx Defenders in New York. And Wesley Dozier, Class of 2019, became our third Garrison Social Justice Scholar in the spring. He received funding to support his living expenses while he worked pro bono for the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.
We continued our historic strength in placing students in leading law firms and prestigious judicial clerkships. The Class of 2017 secured 26 clerkships—23 in federal courts as well as in the Tennessee and Wisconsin Supreme Courts. Since employment statistics are not finalized until 10 months after graduation, it is worth noting that Vanderbilt’s Class of 2016 ranked 13th among American law schools for graduates taking jobs with the 100 largest firms and 12th for the number of students—almost 10 percent of the class—going to federal clerkships. VLS ranked 11th in the country for placing graduates in full-time, long-term, bar-required positions, with 86 percent of the Class of 2016 employed in such positions.
Our alumni Board of Advisors continues to play an important role in the law school by offering vital feedback on key issues surrounding curriculum, academic programs, the legal job market and alumni outreach. They help maintain and promote our collegial culture while also leading by example—each private-sector member gives a minimum of $10,000 to the law school every year they serve.
The Class of 2017 also led by example. They left campus last spring setting a new class gift record with 80 percent participation. This type of generosity is truly inspiring to me, and I hope it is for you too.
I am grateful to you as well as the many volunteers, employers and mentors who are essential to our continued success. Vanderbilt Law School is thriving, thanks to you. Our strong, active and engaged alumni community is a tremendous asset as we continue to recruit highly qualified, motivated and gifted law students and faculty, expand and adapt our academic programs to prepare our students for legal practice in the 21st century, and equip our students with the skills and tools to launch successful legal careers.
The study and practice of law may be rooted in ancient traditions and customs, but every day brings new challenges. Because you are Vanderbilt alumni and friends, you help us meet those challenges head-on. Please show your support today.
John Wade-Kent Syverud Professor of Law