Published on August 17, 2020 by Morgan Black
On August 7-8, Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law hosted "Training Advocates Conference 2020: Our Virtual Reality." The conference, held completely virtually, brought together participants and advocacy experts from across the country.
The conference aimed to address the new normal of teaching and coaching advocacy programs online. The conference was spearheaded by Ramona Albin, associate professor of law and director of advocacy programs at Cumberland, Judge Jim Roberts, head coach of Cumberland’s National Trial Team, and Elizabeth Lippy, founder and director of Trial Advocacy Consulting and Training LLC.
More than 240 professors and advocacy coaches from law schools across the country participated in the two-day event. Seventy expert panelists, including those from other prestigious advocacy programs such as Stetson University College of Law, Temple University Beasley School of Law, Baylor Law School and more, joined together to speak on topics ranging from “Teaching Advocacy for Online Competitions” to “How to Use Technology to Maximize Teaching Results” to “An Update on the Judiciary’s Virtual Reality,” and everything in between. The more than 20 virtual sessions also included breakout panels focusing on all areas of competition including moot court, mock trial and alternative dispute resolution.
Judge Roberts said, “When we first conceived the idea for this conference, we knew that there was a need. However, we did not envision almost 250 participants from around the country, which is more than twice the number typically attending similar conferences.”
Conference participant and panelist Cary Bricker shared, “The event organizers created an extremely informative two-day program to assist advocacy educators around the country with current pedagogical and academic issues.” Bricker is a professor of lawyering skills, the director of the mock trial program, and the co-director of the Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution at the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law.
A special session incorporated into the conference agenda was “A Call for Change – A Time to Act: Responding to the Movement for Social Justice,” in response the recent events of racial injustice.
Bricker added, “I had the privilege of participating in the panel on ‘A Call for Change - A Time to Act: Responding to the Movement for Social Justice.’ Before we assembled on Zoom, Professor Albin devised and circulated a national questionnaire which formed the basis of the panel’s presentations. Brittany Gail Thomas, adjunct professor at American University, and A.J. Bellido de Luna, professor at St. Mary’s School of Law, also addressed critical questions about effective steps to encourage diversity and combat racism. My experience as a panelist raised my own consciousness in these areas and did the same, I feel sure, for the hundreds of conference participants.”
In response to the overall success of the event, Judge Roberts added, “I have been a part of many conferences throughout the years on the planning, implementing and attending sides and have never experienced a better conference or one that was better run. Professor Albin's leadership, vision, and dogged determination to enhance our program and grow both our exposure and our reputation has been priceless.”
The conference, hosted by Cumberland School of Law, was sponsored by Trial Advocacy Consulting and Training LLC.