The Diversity Institute

The Pre-Law Diversity Institute introduces young people from minority backgrounds to the legal profession, a rewarding career that blends both the theory and practice of justice. Students will attend four Saturday sessions to learn from lawyers, judges, professors, and community leaders about legal careers. They will participate in a group project over the course of the program which will provide a context for law, society, and citizenship. The goal of the program is to increase the number of students from minority backgrounds pursuing a legal education. To that end, students will complete the program with resources to prepare for the LSAT and competitively apply to law school and scholarship programs.

Apply by September 1.

Download the application form

The Diversity Institute

“When the men and women who deliver justice look

more like the communities they serve, there is

greater confidence in our justice system overall.”

– President Barack Obama

Download the application form

The Diversity Institute is open to all rising seniors, recent college graduates, and undergraduate students who are enrolled in two or four-year universities in the United States who are interested in pursuing a legal career. Legal status will not be a factor in the application and decision process.  

The goal of the program is to increase the number of undergraduate students from a minority background pursuing a legal education through focused experiential learning, mentorship, and connecting students with scholarship opportunities and law school admission counselors. The program will cover the themes of Diversity and Public Life, Diversity in Private Practice, Applying for Law School, and Financing Law School. We hope that after our program, alumni will serve as leaders who excite and motivate change in their own community.

The program will be held the following Saturdays during the fall semester: September 17 & 24 and October 1 & 8 from 9 AM – 2:30 PM. Both dates in September will be held at the Law Offices of Bass, Berry, and Sims (The Pinnacle at Symphony Place, 150 3rd Avenue S. #2800, Nashville, TN 37201).The location of the latter October dates will be announced soon. A schedule can be found below.

Speakers of the program will include Vanderbilt and Columbia graduate and former mayor Karl Dean, Nashville City Council Member Fabian Bedne, Nashville civil litigation attorney and former president of the Nashville Bar Association Gregory Ramos, and many more. Explore law and justice as it is practiced in Nashville. We want to educate and train a new, diverse generation of advocates, lawyers, and judges for Middle Tennessee. Apply today.

Diversity, Opportunity, and Justice

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects  of centuries of racial discrimination”
Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez

Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez

“Our workforce and our entire economy are strongest when we embrace diversity to its fullest, and that means opening doors of opportunity to everyone and realizing the American Dream excludes no one.”

Attorney General Loretta Lynch

” We have moved beyond those dark days, but without pain and suffering and an ongoing fight to keep moving forward. Let us write a different story this time. Let us not act out of fear and misunderstanding, but out of the values of inclusion, diversity, and the regard for all that make our country great.”


Hear remarks from former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, current Nashville Councilman Fabian Bedne, and Tennessee Supreme Court judge Honorable Jeff Bivins. There will be a panel discussion between Federal Public Defender Alexis Soler and Federal Magistrate Alistair Newbern and another discussion between Nashville-Davidson County Public Defender Mary Kathryn Harcombe and Nashville-Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Lody Limbird.

Location: The Law Offices of Bass, Berry, and Sims (The Pinnacle at Symphony Place, 150 3rd Avenue S. #2800, Nashville, TN 37201)


Karl Dean served as the sixth mayor of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. He was sworn in on September 21, 2007. From 1999 to January 9, 2007, Karl Dean served as Nashville’s Director of Law under Mayor Bill Purcell. In 1990,1994, and 1998, he was elected the city’s public defender. Karl Dean is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University Law School. He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from Columbia University in 1978 and a J.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1981




B9316918582Z.1_20150414185735_000_GF1AF6GRQ.1-0Fabian Bedne is a council member for District 31 in Nashville. Mr. Bedne was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and in 1983 he received his degree from the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Buenos Aires. He came to the United States 20 years ago as part of Columbus Area International Program and in 1997 he joined a Nashville architectural firm which specialized in commercial design for the public sector. He was a Commissioner with the Davidson County Board of Zoning Appeals for the last two years, is on the advisory board of the Nashville Area Habitat for Humanity, and on the Board of the Housing Fund, and Community Nashville, and the “Leadership Council of the”Communities putting Prevention to Work.



bivens_jeff_0Jeffrey Bivins is a Tennessee Supreme Court Justice. Bivins is a graduate of East Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University. After law school, he practiced law at the firm of Boult, Cummings, Conners & Berry PLC in Nashville, Tennessee. He has also served as a judge on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals and Circuit Court Judge. Bivins has a list of accomplishments that include being President of the Tennessee Judicial Conference, member of the Tennessee Bar Association, member of the Williamson County Bar Association, Fellow of the Tennessee Bar Foundation, and Fellow of the Nashville Bar Foundation. 




Anne-Louise Wirthlin is the Administrative Office of the Courts’ Access to Justice Coordinator (AOC). Wirthlin previously worked as a programs manager at the AOC, where she provided staff support to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission. She also practiced law in Brentwood and worked as a contract attorney with TennCare. Wirthlin earned her law degree in 2004 from the University of Tennessee and a Master of Law from the University of Alabama in 2007.


Hear remarks from Nashville attorney Gregory Ramos about life in law school and in private practice. Mr. Ramos is a civil litigation attorney and has represented clients such as the Dixie Chicks and Faith Hill.

Location: The Law Offices of Bass, Berry, and Sims (The Pinnacle at Symphony Place, 150 3rd Avenue S. #2800, Nashville, TN 37201)


A. Gregory Ramos (“Gregg”) is past President of the Nashville Bar Association, having served in that capacity in 2004. He is a member of the law firm North, Pursell & Ramos PLC in Nashville, TN, where he maintains a general civil litigation practice with an emphasis in the areas of personal injury, workers’ compensation, and employment law. Mr. Ramos received his J.D. degree from Arizona State University College of Law in 1980 and his B.A. degree from Arizona State University in 1977. Upon graduation from law school in 1980, Mr. Ramos started his legal career as an Assistant Prosecutor in Phoenix, AZ, where he tried over forty (40) jury trials in four (4) years. In 1984, he moved from his home state of Arizona to Nashville, Tennessee where he has been very active in the community ever since. In January 2009, Ramos was named “2008 Nashvillian of the Year” by Nashville Scene newspaper.



Miranda Christy is director and counsel for UBS Investment Bank in Nashville after having worked for eight years with Nashville law firm Stites & Harbison in the areas of real estate, conservation, and finance. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School and the University of Tennessee College of Law. She was named “Best of the Bar” in 2016, “Forty under 40” in 2015, and “Women of Influence” in 2014 by the Nashville Business Journal. Ms. Christy is a member of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce Education Committee and serves on the board of directors of Equal Education Opportunity Group and Nashville Charter School.

Andrew Free serves on the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Federal Court Litigation Steering Committee. He is the former Chair of the American Bar Association Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section’s Committee on the Rights of Immigrants. He has also served on the Board of Directors of Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors and chaired the Legal Advisory Board for Dignidad Obrera (Worker’s Dignity). Andrew is a 2010 graduate of Vanderbilt Law School, where he received the Bennett Douglas Bell Memorial Prize. Andrew graduated summa cum laude from Kennesaw State University in 2004. He is a current member of the American, Tennessee, and Federal Bar Associations, the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, the National Police Accountability Project, and the American Association for Justice.


Randy Spivey is the Academic Director for Lipscomb University’s Institute for Law, Justice, and Society. Mr. Spivey began his legal career as a law clerk for Judge David H. Welles on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. He then practiced for seven years at the litigation firm Williams & Prochaska before a stint as disciplinary counsel for the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility. Mr. Spivey is a graduate of Lipscomb University and the University of Alabama School of Law.


Learn from the experts how to become a competitive applicant to law school. Hear from Alberto Gonzales from Belmont University College of Law and Vanderbilt’s Professor Tracey George about her research and insights on what law school admissions offices are looking for when they review a potential student’s application. Hear from current students and recruitment coordinators from Belmont about the admissions process and ways to be competitive in the application process.

Location: The Law Offices of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP (1600 Division St #700, Nashville, TN 37203)

SCOTUS-george_fmtTracey George is a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University. She also serves as Director of the Cecil D. Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program. At Vanderbilt, George primarily interacts with first year students, teaching an introduction to law school course and a Contract law course. She has even co-authored an award winning casebook on contract law with UCLA Professor Russell Korobkin. She has also taught at Northwestern University Law School prior to coming to Vanderbilt in 2004. George pushes for better minority representation, saying, “we need a judiciary that reflects the population and we do not have it right now.”



al-gonzalesJudge Alberto R. Gonzales presently holds the Doyle Rogers Chair of Law at Belmont University. Gonzales attended the United States Air Force Academy, graduated from Rice University (B.A.) and Harvard Law School. He was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the United States Senate as the 80th Attorney General of the United States on February 3, 2005 and served in that capacity until September 2007. He has worked as a partner at a major Houston law firm (Vinson & Elkins) and held positions as Justice on the Texas Supreme Court, Texas Secretary of State, General Counsel to the Governor of Texas and Counsel to the President of the United States. Judge Gonzales has also served as a Visiting Professor and minority/veteran recruitment consultant at Texas Tech University.



Amanda Moore stocks the toolboxes of advocates around the country by planning, editing, and publishing the content on the Shriver Center’s Clearinghouse Community. She was an Equal Justice Works Fellow and then a staff attorney at the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center in eastern Kentucky, where she represented low-income clients and community groups on coal mining issues. She now serves on the Law Center’s board of directors. Before working in coal country, Amanda clerked for the Hon. Boyce F. Martin, Jr., then Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. She has taught legal writing and research at Middle Tennessee State University and administrative, bankruptcy, and family law courses for paralegals at Morehead State University and was appointed the Rowan County (Ky.) Trial Commissioner. She received her J.D. from Yale Law School and graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from Western Kentucky University.



Law school can be expensive, but there are ways to finance your education or follow your passion that leads to loan forgiveness in some cases. It’s important to be prepared with the knowledge that can keep you from having to stress about money while you should be focusing on your course of study. Learn from scholarship coordinators in Nashville about the options that are available to students during a panel discussion with attorneys from two prestigious law firms with offices in Nashville – Bone, McAllester, Norton and Baker Donelson. Hear from the Dean of Vanderbilt School of Law Public Interest program Spring Miller about public interest careers, making a difference in the world, and receiving loan forgiveness for passing on a corporate gig.

Location: The Law Offices of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP (1600 Division St #700, Nashville, TN 37203)

Spring Miller creates public interest law opportunities for Vanderbilt Law students and facilitates entry into public interest law careers for students and recent graduates. In addition to mentoring and advising students seeking careers in public interest law, she is responsible for outreach to public-interest and public-sector employers and for developing pro bono projects and externship opportunities for students. Dean Miller also teaches the Immigrant Advocacy Practicum clinic. A former farmworker legal services attorney, Dean Miller joined Vanderbilt Law School as a social justice placement specialist in summer 2014 and was named assistant dean for public interest in July 2015. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brown University, Miller received her J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. She began her legal career as a Skadden Fellow with Southern Migrant Legal Services, a project of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, and remained with the organization as a staff attorney when the two-year fellowship ended. She later served as the managing attorney for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid’s practice area dedicated to the representation of trafficking victims.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I apply if I am a college graduate?

Yes, if you are a recent graduate seeking a professional career in law you are eligible for applying.

Can I apply if I am in high school?

Yes, you can apply if you are a rising senior in high school.

Is the program free?

Yes, if you are selected to attend the institute it will be free of cost.

Will breakfast and lunch be provided?

Yes, breakfast and lunch will be provided each day at no cost.

Is the program only open to Tennessee residents?

No, anyone is welcome to apply to the program!

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