Alberto R. Gonzales, Dean and Doyle Rogers Distinguished Professor of Law
Timothy P. Chinaris, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law
Mitchell E. Counts, Associate Dean for Information Resources and Associate Professor of Law
Andrew R. Matthews, Assistant Dean for Student Services
Tracey B. Carter, Director of Academic Success and Assistant Professor of Law
Ellen Black, Director of Field Placements and Assistant Professor of Law
Lisa Doster, Director of Career and Professional Development
Kristin Hazelwood, Harry Hutchison, Amy Moore, Harold See, Elizabeth Usman, Jeffrey Usman
Mission and Objectives
The Mission of Belmont University College of Law is to prepare qualified students with an excellent understanding of the law that will equip them to become professional counselors, advocates, and judges; researchers, teachers, and philosophers of the law; entrepreneurs; and thoughtful citizens. Belmont University College of Law is committed to the Christian tradition. We believe that instilling the highest standards of personal and professional conduct is our ethical and communal responsibility. We seek to ensure that the knowledge and values that we transmit to our students serve the ends of justice.
The Objectives of Belmont University College of Law are as follows:
- The College of Law shall offer an innovative curriculum that integrates traditional legal analysis and practical skills.
- The College of Law shall instill ethics, professionalism, and integrity into curricular and co-curricular activities.
- The College of Law shall graduate practice-ready attorneys and community leaders.
- The College of Law shall make legal education available to diverse and non-traditional law students.
- The College of Law shall offer specialty programs that complement Belmont University’s areas of expertise and that are suited to the Nashville area.
- The College of Law shall offer legal education in a global context.
- The College of Law shall appoint a local attorney as a mentor for each new law student.
An applicant to the College of Law must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university and a satisfactory undergraduate record. An application for admission filed during the final year of undergraduate studies, prior to receiving a baccalaureate degree, can be approved by the College of Law, subject to the applicant’s receipt of the baccalaureate degree prior to matriculation in the College of Law.
An applicant must present a satisfactory score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). If taken multiple times, the highest score will be used.
The selection process is based on a number of different factors. The two principal factors are the applicant’s cumulative undergraduate GPA and LSAT score. Other factors that may be considered include: undergraduate and graduate institutions; cumulative graduate GPA; majors and/or disciplines; activities in school and professional organizations; community service; and employment experiences.
Transfer Credits for Law Students
All academic credits accepted for transfer must have been completed at an ABA-approved law school. No more than one-third of academic credits required for graduation at the College of Law shall be accepted for transfer (i.e. 29 academic credits). The College of Law shall accept transfer credit only for courses in which the grade received is equal to or higher than the grade point average required for graduation at the other law school. Credit for any course required for graduation from the College of Law shall be accepted for transfer only when the course was comparable to the course offered at the College of Law.
All grades for which credit is transferred shall be entered as “Pass” on the student’s records and shall not affect the student’s cumulative grade point average.
Status of Law Students
All students must be full-time students, except those who have received special permission from the Dean. Full-time students must enroll in a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 17 credit hours each semester. Full-time students must enroll in the complete prescribed sequence of courses for each semester in which they are enrolled. No full-time student may work more than twenty hours per week during any week in any term or semester for which the student is enrolled. The student bears the burden of proving compliance with this work limitation, and the College of Law, at its sole discretion, may at any time require the student to provide proof of compliance. This standard is not subject to waiver.
Students are expected to maintain a cumulative GPA of least 2.50 to be in good standing. Students’ academic progress will be reviewed at the end of each semester. Upon completion of the first semester of law school, any student who has a cumulative GPA below 2.65 will be placed on Academic Warning during his or her second semester of law school. Students on Academic Warning are required to participate in the Academic Success Program and may be subject to other conditions prescribed by the Dean or Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. A law student will be dismissed from the program and excluded from further study for failure to maintain a cumulative average of 2.50 or above at the end of the student’s first two semesters or at the end of any subsequent semester.
A student excluded from the program whose cumulative GPA is lower than 2.30 may not petition for readmission or be allowed to continue in the program. A student whose cumulative GPA is below 2.50 but at least 2.30 may petition to be allowed to continue in the program on academic probation by writing a letter to the Dean indicating why the student should be allowed to continue and the Dean will forward the request to the Academic Standards Committee (referred to in this section as “the committee”). The committee will determine whether to grant the request and will report its decision to the Dean. If the request is approved, the committee may fashion appropriate requirements for continuation, including but not limited to requiring repetition of a particular course or series of courses, requiring a remedial semester or semesters of academic work in the College of Law, requiring participation in the Academic Success Program, limiting involvement in co-curricular activities, and prohibiting employment during the academic year. The committee also may set certain performance standards, such as a minimum grade in a course or minimum GPA for a semester, for continuation in the program.
If a student in his or her final semester prior to graduation fails to maintain a cumulative GPA at or above the required GPA for good academic standing (at or above 2.50), the student will be permitted to file a petition for review with the committee, requesting an evaluation of his or her academic performance and asking to be allowed to continue as a student on academic probation until the requirements for graduation are met.
In 2007, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching issued a landmark report on legal education in America. In that report, the Carnegie Foundation concluded that law schools suffer from two deficiencies: lack of attention to the skills necessary to practice law and inadequate concern for ethics, professionalism, and integrity. Belmont University College of Law’s curriculum is designed to address the concerns raised by the Carnegie Foundation. In particular, the College of Law’s curriculum integrates traditional core legal subjects, practical skills (both litigation and transactional), ethics, and professionalism. Students are required to take a practical skills course each semester and must complete a live-client experience (e.g., clinic or externship) before graduation. Students also are required to complete an ethics/professionalism course each year. In addition, students are required to complete two semesters of legal research and writing, one semester of client communication (oral and written), and a rigorous writing requirement. In short, the curriculum is designed to fulfill the College of Law’s mission: “to prepare qualified students with an excellent understanding of the law that will equip them to become professional counselors, advocates, and judges; researchers, teachers, and philosophers of the law; entrepreneurs; and thoughtful citizens.”
In order to graduate, students must satisfactorily complete and receive course credit for all required courses, including an upper-level rigorous writing requirement, and enough electives to reach the 88 hours required for graduation. A cumulative grade point average of 2.50 or higher is required for graduation. Graduates of the College of Law will be awarded the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree.
All coursework credited towards the completion of the J.D. degree must be completed no sooner than 24 months and no longer than 84 months after a student has commenced law study at the College of Law or a law school from which the College of Law has accepted transfer credit.
The College of Law offers certificate programs in Health Law and Entertainment and Music Business Law. The details of such programs may be found on the College of Law’s website.
Belmont University College of Law is approved by the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners, which makes its graduates eligible to sit for the Tennessee bar examination.
Belmont University College of Law will seek accreditation from the American Bar Association as soon as possible. Graduates of ABA-approved law schools may sit for the bar examination in all U.S. states and jurisdictions.
ABA accreditation is a two step process. The first step for all new law schools is provisional approval. Under ABA rules, no new law school may be considered for accreditation until it is in its second year of operation. It is our intention to apply for provisional approval in our second year (fall 2012), and our hope is to be provisionally approved at the end of that academic year (spring/summer 2013). Students at provisionally approved law schools are given the same recognition as students at fully approved law schools (ABA Standard 102, Interpretation 102-4). Upon the award of provisional approval, students enrolled in the institution and who subsequently graduate are deemed graduates of an ABA-approved law school (ABA Standard 102, Interpretation 102-10).
The second step is full approval, which requires full compliance with all ABA Standards after having been provisionally approved for at least two years. If awarded provisional approval in 2013, the earliest Belmont University College of Law may apply for full approval is 2015.
Belmont University officials have met with representatives of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, and it is important to note that:
The Dean is fully informed as to the Standards and Rules of Procedure for the Approval of Law Schools by the American Bar Association. The Administration and the Dean are determined to devote all necessary resources and in other respects to take all necessary steps to present a program of legal education that will qualify for approval by the American Bar Association. Belmont University College of Law makes no representation to any applicant that it will be approved by the American Bar Association prior to the graduation of any matriculating student.