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VOL. 41 | NO. 8 | Friday, February 24, 2017

Nashville lures lawyers of all specialties

By Joe Morris | Correspondent

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Area snags Top 10 ranking as best spot for law-school grads

The area including Nashville/Murfreesboro/Franklin metro area has been ranked as the No. 8 place in the country for law school grads to live and work in the “2016 Best Places for Law School Graduates” report released by college and careers website GoodCall.com.
Middle Tennessee fared well thanks to high lawyer salaries, affordable housing, plentiful job opportunities and amenities, according to the site. Additional details were provided by way of expert commentary from law professors from law schools around the country.
To see the full report, visit: https://www.goodcall.com/data-center/2016s-best-places-law-school-graduates/.

Henry VI, at least Shakespeare’s version of him, would be appalled. He suggested killing all the lawyers, but instead Nashville is snatching up as many as it can.

In fact, Nashville’s legal community is growing right along with its corporate and residential populations, and not just in the tried-and-true areas of healthcare and entertainment, either.

With hundreds of people moving to Music City every week – not to mention corporate relocations and expansions of all shapes and sizes – an uptick in attorneys makes sense. Nashville is said to be one of the nation’s top growing legal markets.

And given that the practice of law has multiple branches, that also means both a broadening and deepening of Nashville’s legal bench.

Some attorneys are coming as part of corporate relocations or expansions, while others are landing here thanks to local law firms’ adding new service lines, or just padding their ranks in anticipation of new business.

Whatever the case, Nashville’s lawyer boom has meant that the state’s law schools are seeing more interest in Music City from their current student population. They are even able to use Middle Tennessee’s growth as a recruiting tool for new enrollees.

“Nashville is more of a focus for our students than it has been in the past,” says Peter Letsou, dean and professor of law at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis.

“We are getting more students from the Nashville area, and we also are diversifying our student base, which means more of them are looking for careers in that area than may have before.”

The school keeps about 60 percent of its graduates in the Memphis area, but in the last year has seen upwards of 18 percent head to Nashville and its environs.

“That’s a non-trivial number, because it’s quite a climb,” Letsou explains. “I think we’re going to see even more of our graduates headed that way as the growth in Middle Tennessee continues.’’

Migration will continue from the east as well, as University of Tennessee College of Law grads eye Music City.

“Nashville is one of the fastest-growing legal markets in the country, so it’s going to get a lot of focus,” says Brad Morgan, interim director of the Bettye B. Lewis Career Center at UT and associate director of its Institute for Professional Leadership.

“It has strong and growing healthcare, IT, tech and manufacturing sectors, and it’s strategically located in the Southeast with access to other markets. It’s full of bright and educated people, is fairly energetic and so is very much a draw.”

That said, he says the university advises students to “think intentionally and purposefully” about their professional careers, not just about what city would be the most fun to live in.

To that end, UT is working to embed itself more deeply in the state’s capital in terms of meaningful opportunities.

“We are working diligently to equipment them with the knowledge, tools and connections to be successful in any market, including Nashville,” Morgan points out.

“The university enjoys tremendous relations with a wide variety of business and law firms in Nashville, and we’re working to understand the burgeoning market and needs there.

“We anticipate growing and evolving over time in terms of working with employers and organizations to connect them with the right talent to achieve their business goals, and that will benefit the students that have an interest in that market.”

On the ground in Nashville, law schools also say they are feeding the growing appetite for legal talent more than in years past, but are equipped to meet the challenge.

“Our students come almost exclusively from Tennessee, and stay in Tennessee to practice,” says Michele Wojciechowski, director of communications and engagement for the Nashville School of Law.

“Some travel from other parts of the state to come to school here, but they retain ties to their local communities. They’ll stay here one or two nights a week, commute or move here temporarily, and some do wind up finding a job in Nashville.”

Over at the Belmont University College of Law, there is a two-pronged effort to support students while also forging connections in a growing business community, says Andy Matthews, associate dean for student services.

“Law firms see the growth here, and so see the potential to have more business clients,” Matthews points out. “That means one specific area for smaller, boutique firms, while others cover a whole host of business types.

“You have Nashville-focused industries like healthcare, which is not going to slow down or stop growing, and health law-related practice is growing accordingly and in all directions. We also have entertainment and music here, which is everything from basic business to online issues like social media, branding and reputation management.”

Even though its law school is fairly new, having opened its doors in 2011, Belmont itself benefits from being a well-known name throughout the Southeast. It’s also a highly regarded educational institution here at home, which helps its graduates when they dive into the local talent pool, Matthews adds, saying that the city is a marketing tool for the school.

“Most of our students have an interest in practicing here, and the majority of our grads take the Tennessee bar [exam],” he adds.

“Our students are going to have three years to network with and be in close proximity to lawyers and judges in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, which would be hard to do if you were going to a university elsewhere.”

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