Practice Ready: We Set the Trend

Established in 1847, Cumberland School of Law is one of the oldest law schools in the country. The school was founded by Judge Abraham Caruthers, an innovator in legal education. In a time when legal study was conducted by apprenticeship or through lectures, the law school pioneered an instructional method based on intensive trial practice. This laid the foundation for what is today widely acclaimed as one of the nation's finest programs in trial advocacy.

U.S. News & World Report ranked Cumberland School of Law 4th (2024) among all U.S. law schools for its trial advocacy program.

Cumberland School of Law trains aspiring lawyers to think strategically and tactically, in and out of the courtroom. Unique among law schools, Cumberland School of Law students can participate in trial and appellate advocacy competitions their first year.

From Evidence in the first year of law school to the capstone class of Advanced Skills in Trial Advocacy, Cumberland offers an outstanding curriculum in advocacy. 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. Advanced courses ensure that students have the latest knowledge, encompassing technology in the courtroom and e-discovery. Clinical education includes externships with opportunities in judicial, litigation, corporate, government and public interest placements. These allow students to try out their skills in real-world settings. This comprehensive advocacy training approach equips students with the lawyering skills needed to be prepared advocates for every legal career.

Skills Development

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. Outstanding guest attorneys provide demonstrations. Extensive hands-on student exercises in classes of eight students 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 using real child witnesses and doing 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.

Cumberland School of Law provides opportunities for all students to develop skills in their areas of interest. Beyond the first year, courses are offered in scientific and advanced evidence, complex litigation, mediation and negotiation, and legal drafting. Skills courses are limited to as few as eights, ensuring each student receives personalized instruction. In each area, students may practice further with intramural competitions or represent the law school at regional and national competitions. When students are ready to try their skills in the real world, Alabama law allows third-year students to handle real cases under supervision. Students who successfully complete a prescribed curriculum can earn a certificate in trial advocacy.