The Best Law Schools in Tennessee

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Aspiring legal professionals or students interested in the political system benefit from attending the best law schools. How do you determine which is the best? The question is subjective. The definition of “best” depends on your overall goals. If you plan to specialize in a specific area of law practice, a school that offers programs dedicated to that discipline is best. If you’re a graduate student, a school that offers master’s and doctoral level programs is necessary. When looking for the best opportunities, weigh your options. Choose schools with a track record for high bar exam pass rates. Look for schools with ample exceptional resources for study. Unfortunately, there are only six law schools in the state of Tennessee, so your options are limited if you plan to stay local. If your goal is to practice law in the State of Tennessee, here are the five best-rated law schools in the state, ranked according to their bar exam passage rates.

6. Lipscomb University College of Education Fred D. Gray Institute for Law, Justice & Society

Bar exam passage rate: Not available

The Fred D. Gray Institute for Law, Justice & Society launched its operations in 1891. It is a private school with a small undergraduate enrollment of 2,997 students. The campus sits on 113 acres. The annual tuition rates and fees are $35,752. It costs $26K per year after aid. We found no public posts about the bar exam passage rates. As a result, we placed it in the sixth position. We learned that the school has a solid record for its Pharma students. They are currently celebrating a 94 percent passage rate for two major certification exams. The Fred D. Gray Institute for Law, Justice & Society is a liberal arts school. The campus is in a suburban location. There is a residential hall for students to live while attending classes. The school offers various certificate, associate, bachelor’s master’s, and doctoral degree programs. The competition for acceptance is less than in most other law schools in Tennessee. Sixty-three percent of all students who apply are accepted. The requirement for being accepted is an SAT score between 1080 to 1290 or an ACT score in the 23 to 20 range.

5. Lincoln Memorial University (Duncan)

Bar exam passage rate: 72.2%

Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan Law School is in Harrogate, Tennessee. The Duncan Law School is on a 1,000-acre campus in a lovely location at the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. Its history goes back to 1897. This is the date the founders first launched the program. The school gained accreditation from the American Bar Association in March 2019 and is also accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Students enjoy browsing through the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum, packed with Civil War and Lincoln memorabilia. It is a private school with 1,975 undergraduate students and 2,892 graduate and professional students in an average year. Lincoln Memorial’s Duncan Law School is the fifth-best law school in the state of Tennessee, out of the five currently in existence. The school is known for its comfortable and friendly environment. Students also value it for its historical significance.

The school has a bar exam pass rate of 72.2 percent for first-time test takers. It’s a competitive law school with just 48 percent of applicants accepted for admission. It is higher than many of the other law schools. 76.5 percent of graduates gain employment The tuition rates are affordable, yet it’s not cheap to attend. Full-time law school students pay $36,420 per year. It’s expensive, but the quality of education at the school is high with ample research facilities and resources. 76.5 percent of students are employed at the time of graduation. The percentage of graduates employed ten months later is about the same, at 76.5 percent. The rates suggest that most students attending the school are employed when they enter the program. Most remain employed, perhaps gaining upward mobility within their professions. Some move forward to better-paying jobs after earning their degrees. The Duncan School of Law is not hard to gain acceptance. For more information about the Duncan School of Law, and its admissions requirements, visit the official website.

4. The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphrey’s School of Law

Bar exam passage rate: 81.1%

Universities.com recommends the University of Memphis as one of the top six schools in Tennessee for law students. The school was founded in 1962 and is a public school. It is also known as the Memphis Law School, U of M Law, and Memphis Law. The school is small. It has approximately 314 students per year and a full-time faculty workforce of 26 professors. Eighty-three percent of graduates are working within ten months of graduation. Over 5,000 law school students have graduated since the initial class marched at commencement ceremonies. The school has received numerous recognitions for being among the best schools in the nation with impressive facilities and for offering students among the best values in education. Admission rates are competitive, but it’s among the easiest to get into. The acceptance rates for admission are 62.05 percent of all applicants, however, just under 21 percent become matriculated.

The law school offers students many exceptional opportunities including a moot court, its celebrated University of Memphis Law Review, which is the law journal of the school. Moot court teams have performed well in competitions. The school also has a diverse student population, welcoming students from all cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds. The estimated cost of attendance after aid is $15,000 per year for undergraduate students. The graduation rate is 45 percent. It’s ranked as one of the best schools in the nation for aspiring attorneys. The school offers a diverse range of legal and law degree programs with nine to choose from. The 2019 graduating class included 226 bachelor’s level graduates, 88 at the doctoral level, and 14 earning their master’s degrees. The bar passage rate for first-time test-takers was 81.1 percent. This tops the state averages by nearly seven percent. The University of Memphis is a large university with large libraries both online and brick-and-mortar, where students can find the resources needed to gain solid working knowledge in their courses of study. The bar exam is a difficult test that requires ample preparation. The pass rate attests to the school’s ability to prepare students for taking the next step to becoming professionals in the legal arena. You can learn more about admissions requirements at the school’s official website.

3. University of Tennessee Knoxville

Bar exam passage rate: 86%

The University of Tennessee Knoxville is a top-performing school that offers law students a low student-to-faculty ratio and strong resources for transitioning from learning about the law to applying the knowledge in real-world situations. The school has an employment rate of 85% for graduates achieving meaningful employment within ten months of graduation. Many students find jobs before they leave school. The median GPA for undergrads is 3.62 with 86 percent of first-time test takers passing the Tennessee State bar exam. It beats the state average by more than eleven percent. It’s not the most difficult school to get into, but there is competition. The admissions acceptance rate for 2020 was just 37.3 percent of all students who applied. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has a huge library. It contains nearly half a million volumes or equivalents accessible to students. You can learn more about admissions requirements by visiting the school’s official website.

2. Belmont University College of Law

Bar exam passage rate: 92.6%

The Belmont University College of Law is in Nashville, Tennessee. It has a bar exam passage rate that sets the bar high. One-hundred percent of the graduates taking the exam passed in 2018. It has a national ranking of T-138 with an overall bar passage rate of 92.6 percent. The competition for gaining acceptance and full admission to this law school is a little stiffer than a few of its competitors, with 52.4 percent of applicants getting accepted. The cost of tuition, however, is high. Full-time law students at Belmont University College of Law pay $44,470 per year. The school maintains impressive statistics that make it worth the additional expense of attendance. Ninety-six percent of law graduates gain full employment within a year of graduation. Graduates like to stay close to home. Eighty-nine percent of them remain in the state of Tennessee to work and develop their careers. It’s a law school that caters to Tennessee’s homegrown law system.

Belmont has a consistent track record for high bar exam pass rates. In 2019, ninety-seven percent of graduates taking the bar exam for the first time passed. Belmont is a distinguished school rated as the twelfth highest of all universities in the United States. Belmont is one of the nation’s most attractive law schools for aspiring lawyers. The law component of this school has been in operation since 2011. It has achieved a high level of excellence and set the bar high for all other universities offering law programs. The private law school became fully accredited by the American Bar association in 2013. Students may choose between several law specializations including entertainment law, health, and criminal law certificate programs. The university sponsors four academic journals, board of advocates programs, and externships providing hands-on experience for aspiring attorneys.

1. Vanderbilt University School of Law

Bar exam passage rate: 95.7%

Vanderbilt University is ranked as the number one law school in the state of Tennessee. The school has a consistent history of bar exam pass rates that range in the ninety-something percent range. The current passage rate for all bar exam takes is 95.7 percent. The drawback to applying to Vanderbilt University’s law school is that only 23.7 percent of applicants get accepted into the program. Vanderbilt is the most expensive law school in Tennessee. The cost of tuition for full-time law students is a staggering $57,558 per year. Vanderbilt is a school categorized in the Southeastern Conference, but it has a strong reputation that is equal to an Ivy League institution. Vanderbilt is also one of the oldest law schools in the southern region of the United States. Its Law School first opened its doors in the year 1874. The program served seven students with a faculty of eight professors.

Student enrollment numbers remained low for years with a maximum limit of 70 students, often less. Today the school welcomes a student body of 640 students. It offers Master of Laws and Juris Doctor degrees in several areas including Law & Business, land use, criminal law, environmental law, energy, international law, social justice, litigation and dispute law, and intellectual property. Vanderbilt University also offers students access to its study abroad program in Venice, Italy. 85.9 percent of students are employed upon graduation. Just 6.3 percent were underemployed. The employment figures are impressive, but the school has a stellar reputation, so it’s not surprising.

Final thoughts

The State of Tennessee doesn’t have many law schools to choose from. This aside, a few of them are ranked as the top schools in the nation. Vanderbilt University is the equivalent of an Ivy League school, but it’s one of the most challenging to get in. Belmont has one of the highest bar exam pass rates of all schools in the nation. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, comes in third place. It has an eighty-six percent pass rate for first-time bar exam takers. Even the two lowest-rated schools are nothing to shy away from. The worst-ranked law school has a bar pass rate of more than seventy-two percent, which shows that there isn’t a bad law school in the state. Tennessee’s academic offerings may fall short in variety and choices, but they make up for the quality of education delivered for aspiring law students.

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