Published on November 9, 2018 by Morgan Black  
front view of robinson hall

In addition to be being known for its excellent advocacy training, Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law is making a name for itself through its preparation of students to pursue a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in tax at some of the nation’s top programs, including New York University (NYU), first in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings of LL.M. programs. 

The Master of Laws is a postgraduate degree pursued by those holding a Juris Doctor who wish to gain specialized knowledge through research in a particular area of law.

“Our graduates are successful in pursuing and completing these specialized programs because of the courses they take and faculty support they receive while at Cumberland,” said assistant dean of external relations and career development Allen Howell. “The LL.M. at the top three tax law programs in the nation, NYU, Georgetown University and the University of Florida, are especially in high demand because of their value in the legal job market. Cumberland graduates completing tax degrees from these schools have quickly found top legal jobs across the U.S. after graduation."

“I came to Cumberland for its great reputation. The tax courses really prepared me for the tax LL.M.,” said Christian Borek ’17. “I feel like I was more prepared than most in my classes at NYU. Cumberland’s track is really a hidden gem.”

Borek received his tax LL.M. from NYU in May 2018 and is now an associate in Burr & Forman’s Corporate and Tax division in Birmingham. Borek works on a variety of issues such as business and succession planning, trust and estates, mergers and acquisitions, nonprofit tax, and international law and tax. 

Similar to Borek, Patrick Perry ’17 said he knew he wanted to practice tax law during his first year at Cumberland when he was influenced by associate dean for academic affairs Brannon Denning.

“I took one class after another until I completed every tax course that Cumberland offered,” said Perry. “The full-time and adjunct professors do a really great job of applying real-world situations that prepare students for programs like Christian and I participated in at NYU.”

Regular courses taught at Cumberland include Business Organization, Federal Income Tax I and II, State and Local Tax, Corporate Tax, Partnership Tax, Taxation of Nonprofits, and Estate and Gift Tax.

“Someone taking these courses, plus International Tax that is offered occasionally, should be well prepared for an LL.M. in tax,” said Denning.

After finishing his LL.M. at NYU, Perry is now an attorney in Gilpin Givhan’s Tax and Corporate Securities practice in Montgomery. He regularly advises clients on a wide range of transactional, regulatory and tax matters. His practice is primarily focused in the areas of tax and business planning and estate planning.

“Our law students who have gone on to NYU’s tax LL.M. program have access to markets all over world,” said assistant professor Tracey Roberts, who also holds a tax LL.M. from NYU. “In my classes I require my students to read and interpret  the tax code and regulations and do tax problems each week, as I did at NYU. By doing this on a regular basis, our graduates develop a lot of confidence in their ability in an LL.M. program and in their careers.”

Borek and Perry both noted that there is a wealth of opportunity in Birmingham and Alabama for individuals with this specialized education and that firms and companies are almost demanding it.

And, they aren’t the only ones in recent years who have successfully completed prestigious tax LL.M. programs after graduating from Cumberland. Allen Blow ’14 and Haley Stencel ’17 have both completed the rigorous NYU tax program. Numerous others have gone on to finish programs at other top schools such as Georgetown and Florida.

Dean Henry C. Strickland said, “The LL.M. tax program at NYU is recognized around the world, and I’m proud that Cumberland can send highly prepared students to such prestigious programs.”
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.