Samford University, Cumberland School of Law
The information on this page was provided by the law school.
Official Guide to ABA-Approved JD Programs
ABOUT SAMFORD UNIVERSITY'S CUMBERLAND SCHOOL OF LAW
Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law is located in Birmingham, Alabama, on a beautiful 247-acre campus and is one of the oldest law schools in the nation—established in 1847. At formation, when legal study was conducted by apprenticeship or through lectures, the law school pioneered an instructional method based on intensive trial practice. Today, the law school is one of the smallest ABA-accredited law schools in the nation by design. It continues to focus on teaching practical lawyering skills. Samford is the largest privately supported and fully accredited institution of higher learning in Alabama. Cumberland School of Law has been a member of the Association of American Law Schools since 1952 and has been accredited by the ABA since 1949. In the past 170 years, the law school has produced more than 13,000 accomplished alumni, including two US Supreme Court justices, several governors, a US Secretary of State (Cordell Hull, known as the Father of the United Nations), and numerous federal, state, and local judges.
The JD Program
Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law is nationally recognized for trial advocacy and quality instruction. Our curriculum trains students to practice in all areas of law, including corporate law, trial advocacy, health law, environmental law and public interest law.
There are three components to the law school that combine to create its successful academic environment:
- Collegial, scholarly interaction between its faculty and students
- Lawyering and Legal Reasoning (LLR), a program of two foundational courses, taught in small sections (about 20 students each), that give first-year students practical experience in legal research, analysis and writing.
- Our proximity to downtown Birmingham, one of the legal hubs of the Southeast, offers students an environment rich with opportunities for externships and extracurricular activities that enhance the classroom experience.
Pre-1L Summer Program
Entering first-year students are offered the opportunity to take two summer school courses that give an introduction to the legal process and provide a total of five hours of law school credit.
This introduction to law school has benefits such as establishing early friendships, study habits and relationships with professors. Students also benefit from the experience of creating course outlines and completing two law school final exams. Students who participate in the summer program give high praise to their “readiness quotient” when tackling a full course load in the fall.
Stephen Everett Wells Professor of Municipal Law Michael E. DeBow teaches Legal Process (2 credit hours). Public Law Process is taught by instructor and director of academic support Lynn Hogewood (3 credit hours). These professors coordinate their courses to be complimentary by using a single textbook and aligning the requirements for project deadlines.
Admitted students who wish to register for the summer courses must pay their first seat deposit in full and notify the Office of Admission, email@example.com or 800-888-7213, by May 13, 2022.
*Admitted students who participate in first-year summer courses have their second seat deposit waived.
"Taking the pre-1L summer classes allowed me to start my law school journey more confidently. The curriculum and exams were the perfect foundation to help me understand the framework for my first year of law school. Being out of school for almost two years, I knew the classes would be a great opportunity to experience law school courses before diving into a full load in the fall. The classes also allowed me to meet amazing people that I now consider close friends. I would highly recommend the courses for all rising 1Ls!" - Kiana Kennamore
Advocacy and Skills Training
Cumberland School of Law trains aspiring lawyers to think strategically and tactically, in and out of the courtroom. Samford’s emphasis on teaching students the art and science of advocacy begins with the first-year curriculum. Lawyering and Legal Reasoning is a six-credit, two-semester course that provides students with hands-on, practical instruction in pre-litigation skills, such as client interviewing, counseling, memorandum preparation, and negotiation; pretrial skills, including summary judgment motions and making compelling oral arguments. This intensive course prepares students to work effectively in their first summer clerkships, where they are expected to research cases and write briefs.
At Cumberland School of Law, students have opportunities for realistic jury trial training above and beyond most law schools. The entry-level trial advocacy course is basic skills in trial advocacy. In this class, students master the basics of each component of a trial. A full-time faculty member teaches students how to perform each skill. Extensive hands-on student exercises in classes of eight students taught by outstanding litigators follow each week. Students practice and perform these skills until they are mastered through bench and jury trials.
Students who want to take their trial skills to the next level and incorporate the latest courtroom technologies take advanced skills in trial advocacy. Enrollment in this advanced course is limited to 12 students per semester, with selection based on merit. The course is the ultimate in realistic trial skills training. Everything is performed in the most realistic manner possible, including performing direct and cross examinations of actual physicians, forensic accountants, document examiners, and arson experts. Throughout the semester, students master the use of technology while presenting a case in the law school’s state-of-the-art Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton Advanced Advocacy Courtroom. All classes are videotaped so the student and the instructor can review the performance by logging on through any Internet connection. Advanced skills in trial advocacy culminates in a jury trial tried before real judges and juries of local citizens. Each student uses technology to present evidence. Witnesses include actual law enforcement agents and forensic chemists. The student attorneys watch juror deliberations via cameras.
Additional courses are offered for every aspect of advocacy: mediation, negotiation, drafting, complex litigation and client counseling. With each skill, Cumberland School of Law also offers competition opportunities for students who want that opportunity to practice. Unique among law schools, Cumberland students can participate in trial and appellate advocacy competitions in their first year. Moreover, selected students can participate in one of Cumberland’s many national advocacy teams. Cumberland has an exceptional record of regional and national advocacy competition victories, including three championships in the Fall of 2017 at the National Civil Trial Competition, the Michigan State National Trial Advocacy Competition, and the Florida National Advocacy Tournament. Cumberland has built a tradition of excellence in advocacy with 7 National Trial Competition (NTC) and American Association for Justice (AAJ) Student Trial Competition national championships, 39 NTC and AAJ regional titles, 24 competition finalists, and 7 national invitational victories. Cumberland has also won regional negotiation competitions, and the ABA Student Tax Challenge, in addition to the coveted American College of Trial Lawyers’ Emil Gumpert Award for Excellence in Teaching Trial Advocacy.
Clinical education includes externship opportunities in judicial, litigation, corporate, government and public interest placements. These externships allow students to practice their skills in real-world settings. In addition, Alabama law allows third-year students to handle real cases under supervision. Cumberland School of Law’s comprehensive advocacy training approach equips students with the lawyering skills needed to be prepared advocates for every legal career.
Birmingham, Alabama, has a thriving legal community with more than 5,000 practicing attorneys, and is home to both federal and state courts, as well as numerous government agencies and nonprofits. Externships allow students to work with experienced lawyers and apply what they have learned. These opportunities provide a firsthand view of a particular area of practice. Students can enhance their advocacy skills through real-world practice in prosecutors’ offices, legal services programs, judges’ chambers and private law firms. Networking for future career options is also a vital aspect of these experiences.
Externships are open to all second- and third-year Cumberland School of Law students. The director of the Externship Program assists students in identifying appropriate placements. Students may also secure their own placements and present them to the director of the Externship Program for approval. As an extern, students are required to work 120 hours during a semester and will receive two credit hours (pass/fail) for each placement. Cumberland students are permitted to receive pay for approved externships. In addition, students who have successfully completed the Basic Skills in Trial Advocacy course and are certified under the Alabama Rule for Legal Internship may appear in court as trial counsel in some externships.
Students who are approved for an externship placement for the first time must also register to take Externship I. The course, combined with the externship placement, allows students to earn a total of three credit hours. Students can earn two additional credit hours through a second externship placement.
"My judicial externship with Judge Martha Cook was great. It provided me with experience as well as comfort and familiarity within a judicial setting. The continuous opportunities to grow my network were also very beneficial. I think everyone should consider enrolling in the externship seminar. Not only do you receive class credit for gaining experience and boosting your resume, but you also receive valuable guidance and career advice from Professor Davey. All students should think about doing an externship, especially a judicial clerkship." - Zachary Kervin
The Center for Children, Law and Ethics
The Center for Children, Law and Ethics combines the interest and involvement of law students, local, national and international advisers, and the well-known scholarship of Director David Smolin. The center facilitates the production of meaningful, influential scholarship, projects and advice in the field of children’s issues.
The mission of the center is to further the welfare and best interests of children locally, nationally and internationally, through working collaboratively with organizations and persons engaged in furthering those ends, and by training students to contribute substantively to the field of children’s issues.
- Family Law
- Child Abuse and Neglect
- Juvenile Justice
- Child Labor
- Orphans and Vulnerable Children
- Child Trafficking
- Pediatric Bioethics
- Children’s Rights
- Reproductive Bioethics
- Advocating for children and families
- Consulting on best practices concerning children
- Training tomorrow’s child advocates
- Producing cutting-edge scholarship and media on children’s issues
- Proposing policy and practice changes that will benefit children and families
Persons or organizations seeking assistance, or interested in partnering with or assisting the center can contact Director David Smolin, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com.
Capital Defense Clinic
The Capital Defense Clinic allows students to work with the Jefferson County Public Defender’s Office to assist in representing defendants who face capital charges. Students will assist public defenders on a variety of legal issues facing persons charged with capital murder or already convicted of capital murder. In the Capital Defense Clinic, students will assist public defenders in capital cases with tasks including research, case management, client and witness interviewing, investigation, draft motions, hearings, pleas, jury selection, trial and preparing mitigation for the capital sentencing phase of a trial. The course has a classroom component of law, procedure, and legal writing and a fieldwork component.
Criminal Appeals Clinic
In the Criminal Appeals Clinic, students work with appellate attorneys in the Jefferson County Public Defender’s Office, assisting in all aspects of criminal appeals including drafting briefs and related pleadings.
Students will learn advanced appellate advocacy skills and get practical experience with real clients. Students will attend a weekly seminar at the Public Defender’s Office focusing on Alabama criminal appellate law and practice. Those sessions will provide classroom instruction on criminal appellate practice, including instruction in the “fact-centered” method of brief-writing; reviewing trial documents, exhibits, and transcripts; legal research and analysis; and oral argument.
The Cumberland Innocence Clinic helps investigative and secure counsel in cases of factual innocence resulting from Alabama convictions.
In this four credit clinic, students work on potential innocence claims of several Alabama prisoners. Students will review case records, investigate facts and interview witnesses, draft legal claims, and research avenues of relief. Students may also have opportunities to draft pleadings and pitch cases to pro bono counsel. Innocence claims in noncapital cases are largely unexamined in Alabama, even with the availability of DNA testing, and thus, there have been only a handful of Alabama prisoners who have been granted postconviction DNA testing. This clinic is a start in assessing credible claims of innocence and helping applicants get their cases heard.
"I could go on forever about the Innocence Clinic and the clinics in general. The Innocence Clinic was the highlight of my time at Cumberland. Participating in this clinic allowed me to learn practical skills and become a stronger advocate while working to (hopefully) reverse a wrongful conviction." - Jennifer Townsend, class of 2021
Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic
The Cumberland Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic (C-VETS) provides free legal assistance to veterans and their families in the state of Alabama. The clinic is supervised by Judge John L. Carroll, former federal judge and U.S. Marine Corps veteran.
At its core, C-VETS is a classic legal problem-solving clinic. A legal problem is presented, possible solutions are discussed and then the director and the students decide on a course of action. Students may contact someone on the veteran’s behalf, write a letter, refer the matter to another legal assistance program or outside attorney or be involved in the representation of the veteran because the clinic has decided to take the veteran’s case.
Since the clinic began operations, students and attorney supervisors have been involved in a wide variety of matters including landlord-tenant disputes, driver’s license issues, insurance claims, consumer credit and family law issues. The clinic has also assisted veterans in municipal and district courts and represented veterans in getting criminal charges which have been dismissed expunged from public records. Students in the clinic have drafted pleadings, letters and memoranda. They have also drafted wills and estate documents such as power of attorney forms and the pleadings for uncontested divorces.
Students in the clinic will have a significant amount of contact with real and potential clients and will be closely involved with their cases. C-VETS also includes a classroom component to train students in assisting veterans.
The clinic offers students the opportunity to do what lawyers do–solve client problems. Students also receive a unique opportunity to give back to veterans who have served our country while at the same time gaining valuable legal training.
"We learned the theory in our classes. Through C-VETS, we were able to apply that theory in a practical way to see what legal outcomes really look like. Cumberland already does a great job of providing real-world opportunities, but this experience takes it to a whole new level. It was a truly humbling and gratifying experience to be able to be a source of comfort for our country’s veterans while helping them with their legal issues. I look forward to supporting the clinic in any way that I can after graduation." - Gabe Tucker, class of 2021
Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law Public Interest Program
Cumberland has enjoyed a commitment to Public Interest and Pro Bono programming for many years. The focus of the Public Interest Program is to provide law students a myriad of opportunities to participate in public interest, pro bono, and community service projects during their law school matriculation. Several opportunities are available through the law school, state and local bar associations, and community organizations.
First Year Law Student Service Project
Every fall the entire first-year class concludes orientation week with a countywide service project. Our community is better for the volunteer work that our students provide, and the host sites are often surprised that future lawyers are starting their legal careers by serving others.
Alabama Pro Bono Month/ABA Celebrate Pro Bono
Cumberland has become a statewide leader in this event. ABA Celebrate Pro Bono week is held the last week of October. However, in the state of Alabama, the focus on celebrating pro bono spans the entire month of October. Cumberland hosts free clinics, CLE’s, speakers, and other events to highlight pro bono.
Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program
Each summer, students willing to volunteer their time working at a public interest/pro bono program can apply for a summer fellowship. The fellowship award levels are based on the number of weeks a student volunteers, and the grant is expected to assist the students with covering their living expenses during the summer.
Project Homeless Connect (PHC)
Annually, in the spring, law students provide assistance at Project Homeless Connect. Those persons who are homeless/near homeless are provided free legal assistance. Law students conduct on-the-spot research for outstanding warrants and interview clients about legal issues they need to discuss. Volunteer lawyers are onsite to speak with the individuals, and judges are available to recall warrants and dispose of the legal issue, if possible.
Spirit of Service Award
Cumberland annually recognizes students, faculty, and staff who have completed 30 hours or more of public interest legal work, community service, or public service during the academic year.
Dean’s Award for Commitment to Public Interest Law & Public Service
This award was created to recognize a student who has demonstrated exceptional personal commitment to public service. The law profession sets an example for service, and it is fitting that the school recognizes those qualities in its students.
International Law - Study Abroad
Samford conducts an ABA-approved international summer program that is offered at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, England. There are also cooperative arrangements between Samford University and NALSAR University of Law in Hyderabad, India, and the University of East Anglia (UEA) in England. In addition to student exchange opportunities, two Samford law graduates each year are awarded full-tuition scholarships for studies toward an LLM degree at UEA.
Joint Degree Program
Students will apply to the secondary institution housing the selected joint degree in the spring semester of the first year of law school. To be admitted to a joint degree program, students must have completed their first year of law school, earned a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5, and satisfied the particular secondary program’s admission requirements. Students must also complete the joint degree form and meet with the director of Cumberland School of Law's Office of Student Records.
Each institution offering a joint degree has advisers to help you schedule your course work so that you can complete your secondary degree in the same three years as you would a traditional Juris Doctor, with the exception of the two programs offered in conjunction with Beeson Divinity School.
Joint degrees are awarded when the student has completed both degree programs.
To broaden their perspective and prepare them for careers in special fields, Samford law students may pursue a number of different joint-degree programs:
- JD/Master of Accountancy
- JD/Master of Business Administration
- JD/Master of Public Health
- JD/Master of Public Administration
- JD/Master of Divinity
- JD/MA in Theological Studies
- JD/Master of Laws
- JD/MS in Environmental Management
Some of these joint-degree programs can be completed in three years.
The Student Bar Association provides a form of government for the supervision of student activities and concerns. It also provides a forum for the expression of student views and interests as well as encouraging broad participation. It creates, promotes, and preserves student honor, academic responsibility, and student rights; improves and promotes the students’ social and physical welfare and intellectual development; and fosters the recognition of the ethical principles and responsibilities of students to their profession, community, nation, and humanity.
Cumberland School of Law has over 25 active student organizations. Some of the most popular organizations include Phi Alpha Delta, the world’s largest international legal fraternity; the Cumberland Law Review; and American Journal of Trial Advocacy.
Birmingham - the Magic City!
“Smack-dab in the middle of Alabama is where the ‘Magic City’ has come to rise. Right in a valley, surrounded by forested mountain ridges, Birmingham is riding an alluring evolution. Young people are flocking home to open up restaurants, bars, hotels, shops, and startups—and it’s as if this Southern city has been waiting just for them.” — Vogue
Nicknamed the “Magic City” because of its rapid growth after the city was founded in 1871, the metro Birmingham area has a population over one million people. Birmingham boasts incredible opportunities for career, service, community and fun.
More than 5,000 practicing attorneys are located in the metropolitan area, with a large number of major law firms making their headquarters in Birmingham. A majority of the largest law firms in the state of Alabama, including eight out of the top 10 private law firms, call Birmingham home. Midsized and smaller firms, as well as solo practices, round out Birmingham’s lively legal landscape, providing a multitude of convenient job opportunities for Cumberland School of Law students and graduates.
Birmingham pairs a vibrant foodie culture with an outstanding music and performing arts scene. Not to mention, it’s home of the James Beard Foundation’s most outstanding restaurant in America, Highlands Bar & Grill, awarded in 2018, and other restaurants hailing chefs with prestigious James Beard recognitions.
Career Placement and Bar Passage
The Office of Career Development provides the training, resources, and guidance to enable law students to make well-informed career choices, secure employment as quickly and efficiently as possible, and forge rewarding careers. To help students and graduates achieve these goals, the office provides career counseling, résumé editing, practice interviews, on-campus interview programs, job fairs, job listings, instructional handouts, a resource library, and extensive educational programming. In addition to educational programs on résumé drafting, interviewing skills, networking, and job searching, Career Development also presents a “Lunch with a Lawyer” series, in which practitioners and other legal professionals come to the law school to discuss the practical aspects of their work in a variety of traditional and nontraditional legal jobs.
Tuition and Aid
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Every student admitted to Cumberland School of Law is considered a possible scholarship student. Those found most deserving by the dean and the scholarship committee will be offered financial assistance in the form of full or partial tuition scholarships.
Outside scholarship funding may be available to entering students through several organizations. Consider contacting some of the following sources:
- fraternities and sororities
- religious groups
- professional organizations
- bar associations
- law firms
- judges’ scholarships
What kinds of scholarships are available for entering law students?
Merit scholarships are awarded to entering students on the basis of LSAT scores and undergraduate GPA. Award amounts vary and range from a few thousand dollars to full tuition.
How do entering law students apply for scholarships?
All applicants who are admitted as full-time students are automatically considered for scholarships. (No scholarships are available for flextime program participants.)
The money you borrow to finance your legal education is an investment in your future. Please be assured that you are in good company. Nearly 80% of Cumberland School of Law students receive some form of financial assistance, and you have very helpful financing options available to you.
By completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, you are eligible to receive Stafford law school loans from the federal government in the amount of $20,500. To cover the rest of the cost of attendance, our students obtain the Graduate Plus Loan, which covers the full cost of your Cumberland School of Law education, minus any scholarship you may receive. With these two federal loans, you will be able to cover the full cost to attend our institution.
Important to the financial aid process is a financial budgeting commitment. It boils down to two simple rules. Rule number one, create a reasonable budget. Rule number two, stick to it.
First-year students are considered for scholarship upon application and will be notified of an award upon acceptance to the full-time program. However, the Jere F. White Jr. Fellowship, the top scholarship for entering first-year students, requires completion of a separate application and essay.
At Cumberland School of Law, there are many ways to turn your dream of attending law school into reality and manage your financial assistance, via internal and external scholarships and/or federal loans.
Admission Decisions: Beyond the Numbers
The law school seeks a diverse student body that will make a contribution to the law school and the legal profession. To that end, every applicant’s file is thoroughly reviewed for admission. In addition to the LSAT and GPA, difficulty of major, personal challenges overcome, graduate work completed, scholarly achievements, and volunteer and work experience are also considered. Applications are evaluated on a rolling basis, so it is important to apply early. Applications for fall admission are accepted from September 1 to May 1.
Transfer students are accepted for the fall semester. Once a transfer student is admitted, the associate dean for academic affairs will confirm the number of law school credit hours that will transfer to Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. In most instances, all credit hours for regular first-year law courses earned at an ABA-approved law school with a grade of C or better will transfer, up to a maximum of 40 credit hours.
Visiting students are accepted for summer, fall, and spring semesters.
Admitted Applicant Profile
25-75% UGPA Range at Samford:
3.36 to 3.84
25-75% LSAT Score Range at Samford:
152 to 157
25-75% UGPA Range at Samford:
3.36 to 3.84
25-75% LSAT Score Range at Samford:
152 to 157
25-75% UGPA Range at Samford:
3.36 to 3.84
25-75% LSAT Score Range at Samford:
152 to 157