Published on August 24, 2021 by Morgan Black
Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law welcomed new Juris Doctor students during their first-year orientation on Aug. 9-11, 2021. Although the recruitment cycle to secure the new class took place amidst the global pandemic, the class of 2024 is the most diverse first-year class in Cumberland School of Law’s history and is the most academically qualified class in the last 10 years.
Of a total of 160 students, a record 59% is female and 24% of the class is comprised of historically underrepresented racial groups. In the class, 15 states, three countries, and 58 undergraduate colleges and universities are represented. They bring with them a variety of undergraduate majors and pre-law school experiences, including playing collegiate sports, earning master’s degrees, serving in the military, and living abroad. Academically, the class has impressive credentials which has increased the law school’s medians to a 154 on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and a 3.54 cumulative undergraduate GPA.
Throughout the three-day orientation, the students received introductions to various areas of the law school from faculty and staff and heard remarks from Judge Nhan-Ai Simms ’08 of the Gwinnett County (Georgia) Juvenile Court. The students also shared their excitement to officially be a part of the Cumberland community.
“Cumberland is like none other; everyone here from faculty, staff and the students that I’ve met are so amazing and genuine,” said Alexandra Sexton, first-year student originally from Kildare, Ireland. “Knowing that law school is very hard, it’s very refreshing to be surrounded by this network and family here at Cumberland and it’s a nice relief to know that they’re here to help me get through it.”
In addition to their academic and demographic credentials, the group has a head start on upholding Cumberland’s service-driven mission. Prior to starting law school, the first-year students accumulated numerous volunteer hours in service to their own communities, and they exhibited that same spirit on Cumberland's annual service day.
During the morning of the service day, the class was greeted by new Samford President Beck A. Taylor who reinforced the university’s shared mission for service. From the Birmingham area, Judge Martha Cook ’96, district court judge for the 10th Judicial Circuit of Alabama; Carla Crowder, executive director of the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice; J.W. Carpenter, president of Prosper Birmingham; and Leilany Noel, a representative from the Alabama Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) addressed the group on the integral role lawyers play in bettering their community and the importance of pro bono and service work.
In his speech, Carpenter shared numerous points of advice for the young law students. In summary he said, “Get uncomfortable and cross the lines of difference; ask questions and listen to the answer when you ask it; seek impact to add value to the community (in Birmingham, there’s much to do, all you need to do is raise your hand); and take a seat at the table to build a world of inclusiveness.”
The group then spent an afternoon serving the Birmingham community. They completed work at locations across the area including the Grace Klein House, Grace Klein Liberty Church, Forward in Faith Ranch, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Grace House.
“The service-oriented mission is part of the reason why I wanted to come to Cumberland,” said first-year student Lamar Dukes. “I want to be a lawyer to help underserved communities, so the fact that we’re required to do a service project before we even start [classes] is right in line with my goals.”
Whitney Dachelet, assistant dean for admission and enrollment management, is proud of the accomplishments this class has already achieved and is excited about what they add to the Cumberland School of Law community.
She said, “I am extremely proud of this year’s entering class. We were fortunate to have a strong applicant pool which allowed us to build a class with strong credentials that better reflects our community. We still have work to do, but we are much closer to that goal than ever before. This class has accomplished so many things and overcome a host of obstacles to be here. The energy and enthusiasm during orientation was palpable, and I can’t wait to see them learn to harness the art of law, be problem solvers, and fight for others.”
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.