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.
Academic and Graduation Requirements
Each candidate for the Juris Doctor must:
- Complete ninety (90) credit hours of acceptable coursework with a passing grade in each course and cumulative grade point average of 2.0 or higher (at least 65 of which must be earned in regular law school classes).
- Complete and earn a passing grade in all required courses, which include:
- All first-year courses (Civil Procedure I&II, Contracts I&II, Criminal Law, Evidence, Lawyering & Legal Reasoning I&II, Real Property, and Torts);
- Business Organizations; Constitutional Law I&II; Criminal Procedure; Professional Responsibilities; Secured Transactions; and Wills, Trusts & Estates.
- Complete and earn a passing grade in six (6) credit hours of courses designated as “experiential learning” courses.
- Complete and earn a passing grade in a course or seminar designated as satisfying the upper level writing requirement.
- Complete and earn a passing grade in all required courses, which include:
- Be of good moral character, according to the standards of personal and professional integrity traditionally associated with the profession of law.
- Receive the favorable recommendation of the faculty for the degree.
- Pay all financial obligations due to Samford University.
For details regarding required courses and their sequence, time limits for completing the degree, grades, and courses that satisfy experiential learning and upper level writing requirements, please consult the Cumberland School of Law Student Handbook and Faculty Policies on Academic Standards.
At Cumberland School of Law, students put into practice the knowledge and skills they’ve learned in LLR and their doctrinal classes. In addition to classroom instruction in each area, students will conduct an average of 12 hours per week of out-of-class casework for four to five credits, depending on the clinic and semester it is offered. Cumberland’s clinics also engage core pillars of its mission: public service, professionalism and community.
During your first year at Cumberland School of Law, you will examine fundamental legal concepts applicable to all areas of practice— with an emphasis on legal analysis, legal writing, research and lawyering skills. (See Required First-year Classes)
Second- and Third-year Classes
Second- and third-year students typically take 15–16 hours each fall and spring semester. Course selection offers more flexibility, allowing for selection of elective courses in specialized areas. (See Required Second-year Classes)
Areas of Specialization
- Business and Commercial Law
- Civil Litigation
- Civil Rights Law
- Criminal Defense and Prosecution
- Environmental Law
- Family Law
- Health Law
- Intellectual Property
- International Law
- Municipal Law
- Skills Development
- Sports Law
- Trusts and Estates
Legal offices, banking, construction, health, real estate and patent offices participate in this program.
Placements include government agencies such as the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Internal Revenue Service, National Labor Relations Board or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Many judges and magistrates in the Northern District of Alabama participate in this program.
Students may be placed in the district attorney’s office, public defender’s office, Legal Aid Society and Legal Services of Metro Birmingham.
Organizations such as Coalition Against Violence, Birmingham Volunteer Lawyer Program and the YWCA Domestic Violence Clinic participate in this program.
*The Office of Clinical Education also works with students to set up externships outside of the Birmingham area to help them network and broaden their experience in their field of interest. Previous places of participation have included the United Nations, The Hague; Department of Justice, Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Section, Washington, D.C.; FBI, etc.
Learning Outcomes and Performance Criteria
The law faculty has established the following student learning outcomes and performance criteria for Cumberland’s Juris Doctor (J.D.) program of legal education. Upon successful completion of a J.D., Cumberland’s graduates will demonstrate the following skills, knowledge, and values at the level needed for effective and ethical participation in the legal profession.
Learning Outcome 1: Graduates will demonstrate competent knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law.
Graduates will demonstrate competent knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law by
- Identifying and applying foundational concepts of business organizations; civil procedure; constitutional law; contracts; commercial law; criminal law; evidence; property; professional responsibilities; torts; and wills, trusts, and estates.
- Identifying and applying legal doctrine and theory in other areas of law not otherwise required by the law school curriculum so that graduates can productively apply the law in practice.
Learning Outcome 2: Graduates will be able to engage in legal analysis and reasoning to resolve legal problems.
Graduates will demonstrate competency in legal analysis and reasoning skills by
- Critically reading applicable authorities, identifying key rules within each authority, and synthesizing multiple authorities into a cohesive rule.
- Applying rules to relevant facts to support a clear conclusion, by analogizing and distinguishing cases and by analyzing all sides of an issue.
- Using legal, policy, and practical considerations to determine and explain how case-based or hypothetical fact scenarios will likely be resolved.
Learning Outcome 3: Graduates will be able to undertake effective legal research.
Graduates will demonstrate competency in legal research skills by
- Identifying relevant legal issues raised by clients’ legal problems.
- Identifying and effectively employing legal research tools.
- Distinguishing binding authorities from persuasive ones and appropriately assessing their weight.
Learning Outcome 4: Graduates will be able to communicate effectively in the legal context in both written and oral forms.
Graduates will demonstrate competency in written and oral communication by
- Writing documents that are clear, concise, well-reasoned, organized, professional in tone, appropriate to the audience and the circumstances, and if appropriate, contain proper citation to authority.
- Speaking in a clear, concise, well-organized, and professional manner that is appropriate to the audience and the circumstances.
- Actively listening to clients, colleagues, judges, and others.
Learning Outcome 5: Graduates will be able to advise clients appropriately, with a focus on problem solving.
Graduates will demonstrate competency in advising clients appropriately by
- Identifying a client’s legal and practical problems, including non-legal interests and effects on other people, through attentive listening.
- Determining the steps necessary to obtain and investigate facts relevant to their client’s case.
- Selecting and using legal research tools, strategies, and methods to identify legal authority that is relevant to actual or hypothetical fact scenarios.
- Using basic professional skills employed by lawyers, in actual or hypothetical fact scenarios, such as interviewing, counseling, analyzing data, negotiating, or drafting formal or technical legal documents, legislation, or policy positions.
- Advocating persuasively to achieve a client’s objectives or otherwise solve a problem in a legal context or advance a legal position in actual or hypothetical fact scenarios.
- Generating alternative solutions and strategies to solve clients’ problems within legal and ethical boundaries.
- Informing and counseling clients about the legal and non-legal ramifications of a decision.
Learning Outcome 6: Graduates will be able to exercise proper professional and ethical responsibilities to clients and the legal system.
Graduates will demonstrate competency in fundamental skills in exercising their professional and ethical responsibilities by
- Demonstrating knowledge of the rules and canons that govern lawyers.
- Using and applying the laws governing lawyers to recognize ethical and other professional dilemmas.
- Exercising professional judgment through conduct consistent with the legal profession’s values and standards, including exhibiting civility and treating others with respect.
Learning Outcome 7: Graduates will demonstrate competency in other professional skills and values needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession.
Graduates will demonstrate competency in other professional skills and values by
- Conducting themselves in a professional manner.
- Collaborating with others in legal settings.
- Recognizing practical considerations, such as costs and effects on other people, of a chosen legal resolution and considering alternative dispute resolutions when appropriate.
- Participating in opportunities to increase their professional knowledge and skills.
- Exhibiting self-directed learning skills that will allow them to understand areas of the law and legal practice with which they were previously unfamiliar.
- Identifying ways to meet clients’ goals and interests while adhering to the basic economics of law practice.
With more than 9,000 accomplished alumni in 50 states and abroad, Cumberland School of Law has produced a long list of distinguished graduates, including two United States Supreme Court justices, several governors, U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and numerous federal, state and local judges.
Cumberland alumni practice law, serve as judges and elected representatives, prosecute crimes as district and U.S. attorneys, teach and perform research, etc. Our alumni achieve great success such as working as director of the White House Office of Management and Budgeting, working with DiamlerChrysler AG or receiving the state of Florida Pro Bono award.
Learn more about our alumni and ways they stay involved.