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“The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience.”
-Justice Oliver W. Holmes

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How does one begin to prepare for a life in law?  Preparing as an undergraduate can mean different things for different students.  Unlike other professional school programs, there are no formal pre-requisite courses that all applicants must take.  There is no preferred or required major, or cookie-cutter course of study that will best prepare you for success in law school or as a practicing attorney.  As such, there is no formal pre-law track at Vanderbilt.  The American Bar Association does not endorse, nor does Vanderbilt endorse, formal pre-law curricular requirements for admission to accredited Law Schools. 

Instead, Law Schools and Vanderbilt University encourages you to explore your options, analyze the alternatives, and then choose the path (academic and extra-curricular) that is best for you and your skill set. The law touches every aspect of our lives in common.  The more diverse (academically and otherwise) the bench and bar, the better the law will be (and become!)

Nevertheless, there are things that undergraduate students can do now , regardless of major or time-line, to identify experiences and build skills that are valued in both law students and attorneys.  Specifically, the best attorneys work every day to develop and prioritize: 

  • clear and persuasive communication skills, both in writing and in oral argument;
  • strong analytical reading and writing skills;
  • pragmatic and purposeful problem-solving;
  • coalition building and developing community leadership. 

The information provided via links on this site can be a prudent starting point for thoughtful law school preparation.  Indeed, taking the time to click on each of these links (and the links embedded therein) will answer the majority of your general questions about preparing for law school as an undergraduate student. 

However, these are only starting points, guideposts and suggestions, *not* a required curriculum.  Law Schools prefer to admit and teach students who bring with them integrity, intentionality, maturity and a truly interdisciplinary, well-rounded  skill set.  As such, it is imperative that you understand, the majority of the application process depends on YOU.

YOU should major in a subject you love to read, write and talk about; take courses that best suit you, your skills and your goals.  Doing so will help ensure that you are engaged with the material, which will lead to greater effort, better attendance, connections with instructors.  And these things will lead to better grades and stronger letters of recommendation, which are things Law Schools do consider when reviewing your application. 

YOU are in charge of creating experiences in and out of the classroom that will prepare you for a life in law; and of course, YOU are responsible for achieving your best GPA and doing well on Law School entrance exams such as the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) or GRE. 

Meet the Pre-Law Advising Team

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Dr. Carrie Archie Russell, JD, PhD, Director of Pre-Law Advising 

Carrie Russell earned her bachelor’s degree from Rhodes College in Memphis, her law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law and her PhD from Vanderbilt University. She has served Vanderbilt in the roles of Program Director for the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Pre-major Academic Adviser for the College of Arts and Science and as the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Political Science. Carrie currently serves as a Vanderbilt Visions leader, Faculty Adviser to mulitple student organizations, Faculty member in the Department of Political Science, and Assistant Dean in the Office of Undergraduate Education for the College of Arts and Science.  Before earning her PhD from Vanderbilt, Carrie worked as a Judicial Clerk for Davidson County Tennessee’s Twentieth Judicial District and she continues to remain active in the Nashville and Tennessee Bar Associations.

mt Madeline Tallo, J.D

Pre-Law Career Coach and  Coach   for Vanderbilt in the    Public Sector,  Madeline joined the Vanderbilt Career Center in the Fall semester of 2023.  Madeline earned her Bachelor of Arts in History, Political Science, and African and African American Studies from the University of Arkansas and her Juris Doctor from New England Law in Boston, Massachusetts.  Madeline hosts the Pre-Law Clinic on Fridays and looks forward to helping Vanderbilt students navigate their journeys to Law and Public Service.