Published on March 30, 2021 by Morgan Black
Despite hurdles caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law has maintained its top 10 ranking for trial advocacy training by U.S. News & World Report . The 2022 rankings released March 30 list Cumberland’s program as #8 in the nation out of 186 law schools.
Throughout the last year, students of Cumberland's consistently top-ranked program successfully adapted to the challenges of virtual competitions. A few highlights from the year include sweeping Region 8 of the National Trial Competition in February and the American Association for Justice (AAJ) Regional Trial Advocacy Competition, and securing several individual competition awards including two for best advocate.
“This has been a most challenging year for our students and our program. The pandemic has forced us to learn new ways to advocate, to teach and to prepare our students for a ‘new norm’ in trial advocacy," said Judge Jim Roberts '94, head of Cumberland’s National Trial Teams. "This year’s ranking is a tribute to the adaptability and creativity of our coaches, faculty and students. They have maintained the excellence in trial advocacy for which Cumberland is known through this most tumultuous year. I am thankful for the dedication, hard work and support of everyone involved in our program but especially those of our coaches and students. Without them, this ranking would not be possible.”
Cumberland’s success over the past year is not limited to virtual competitions. Expanded curricular offerings include Advanced Civil Trial Advocacy and Advanced Criminal Trial Advocacy, and, in the fall, a Mass Torts Advocacy course will also be added. These courses join other recent programmatic additions, including Depositions and Technology and Jury Selection.
Cumberland has also led in national advocacy education over the past year. In August 2020, Cumberland spearheaded and hosted the Training Advocates Conference 2020: Our Virtual Reality (TAC). This virtual conference was attended by more than 250 advocacy educators from law schools across the United States. Ramona Albin, associate professor of law and director of the advocacy program, and Judge Roberts were two of the three co-chairs for the conference. Professor Albin is also a member of the planning committee for the Educating Advocates: Teaching Advocacy Skills conference, which will be hosted this June by Stetson University College of Law.
“Even with the challenges of the last year, our program and students continue to excel in every way,” Albin said. “Our students have been extraordinarily successful in trial competitions this year because of their skill, commitment and professionalism and the dedication and excellence of our coaches, faculty and staff. Our program continues to meet the moment with curricular expansion, national educational outreach, and a recognition that we must provide students with the skills necessary for an ever-changing legal landscape. Cumberland advocacy continues to move forward during these challenging times.”
To add to the program’s recent success, Cumberland’s National Trial Team currently ranks 3rd in the national Trial Competition Performance Rankings.
"The continued success of Cumberland’s advocacy program is a tribute to the dedication and hard work of our faculty, coaches and students," said Dean Corky Strickland. "The leadership and drive of Professor Albin and Judge Roberts and the devotion of our talented coaches are astonishing. They combine to offer Cumberland students an unmatched advocacy experience."
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.