Center for Advocacy & Clinical Education

Another component of Cumberland School of Law’s advocacy training is its exceptional advocacy competition program. The Center for Advocacy & Clinical Education oversees the intramural legal skills competitions, regional and national legal skills competitions and the externships program.  

Beginning in their second semester of the first year of law school, students may compete in various school-sponsored trial, appellate and other competitions. Second- and third-year students may try out for teams that represent Cumberland School of Law at competitions throughout the country. The law school’s tremendous success at these competitions has contributed to its top law school ranking for trial advocacy.

Coaches and Mentors +

Mike Rasmussen and Judge Jim Roberts lead the efforts of the many faculty and alumni who serve as mentors to students. Each semester, Rasmussen ’75 and Roberts ’94, spend countless hours with students as they prepare for regional and national advocacy competitions.

Rasmussen has coached teams for 26 years and delivered four national titles. Roberts has coached teams for 15 years, winning 11 regional titles and one national tournament.

More about Mike Rasmussen

After graduating from the University of South Florida and then Cumberland School of Law, Mike Rasmussen was a federal prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office where he prosecuted white-collar criminals for nearly 30 years. He then joined the defense side in private practice. Earlier in life, Rasmusssen served in the Navy, where he was stationed on a missile destroyer in Hawaii. He was responsible for advising the ship’s captain regarding court martial trials.

More about Jim Roberts

Jim Roberts worked in the Office of the Public Defender for 10 years after graduating from the University of South Florida and the Cumberland School of Law. He then became a shareholder at the law firm Turner, Webb & Roberts, P.C. until 2011, when he was appointed by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley to be Tuscaloosa County circuit judge. Since 1998, Roberts has worked as an adjunct professor and national trial team coach at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law.

Mike Rasmussen, center left, with students he helped coach

“Trying cases is the most rewarding thing I have done in the law, but teaching students to try cases is a close second. Over the years I have learned as much from my students as they have from me. There is a true give and take in preparing a team for a tournament that occurs almost nowhere else in life, and the growth I see in these students is phenomenal.” Mike Rasmussen

“Mike Rasmussen was my coach for both years I competed on the trial team. It has always seemed as though the advocacy training I got from Mike Rasmussen was a legal education all on its own. While I could not even begin to list all of the invaluable aspects of trial advocacy that I learned from working with Mike, perhaps the most important two would be to (1) think carefully about a case at its most basic level and make the presentation as simple as possible, and (2) always listen to the trial happening in front of you.” Cory Ricci

Judge Jim Roberts, center left, with students he helped coach

“The great thing about coaching is seeing something in the students that they may not see in themselves, helping them understand and appreciate the talent with which God has blessed them, and playing a small role in unlocking their full potential. Winning competitions is a reward itself, but the true reward comes from watching our former students become great lawyers and even better people.” Judge Jim Roberts

“There are few coaches in your life that influence you the way Judge Roberts has influenced my life. He not only taught me how to be a great advocate, he also taught me how to be a great person. I learned more from Judge Roberts than I ever could have imagined. And the great thing is, I will continue to learn from him as I enter my career.” Jennifer Reynolds