Published on May 16, 2023 by Morgan Black
The Executive Committee of the Young Lawyers Section of the Alabama State Bar sponsors, coordinates and supports minority pre-law conferences across the state with the goal of creating a pipeline for minority students in Alabama to obtain valuable information about pursuing a legal career. The conferences provide a platform for students to gain insights into the legal profession, requirements for gaining admission to law school, and features panel discussions on legal careers. Additionally, the students hear advice from attorneys and judges, network with other students who have similar ambitions, and watch a mock trial.
In April, following their second and fifth place finishes in the American Association of Justice’s Student Trial Advocacy Competition, Cumberland School of Law’s National Trial Team was invited to conduct the trial at the conference. In the past, the mock trial during the conference has been conducted by practicing attorneys.
National Trial Team members Ashlan Kelley, Riley Kate Lancaster, Jake Blalock and Samantha Breland Mullinix, who all graduated from Cumberland School of Law on April 29, put on the trial for the students who acted as the jurors. Afterwards, the students were split into groups to deliberate and deliver a verdict.
Curtis Seal, J.D. ’17, serves as a trial team coach. He said, “Receiving this invitation speaks to the students’ talent, success and commitment to using those talents to help others. These students were incredible ambassadors for our program and their continued commitment to showcasing the trial advocacy program to prospective law students—even after finishing classes and preparing for graduation and passing the bar—shows the kind of people they are and the kinds of lawyers they will be in the future.”
Judge Jim Roberts, J.D. ’94, director of National Trial Teams, added, “It's an honor for students from our program to be selected to present a mock trial during the minority pre-law conference. A hallmark of our program is creating a space where each person's individuality is celebrated and fostered, enabling our students to find their authentic voice and equipping them with the skills to use that voice to speak for those who most need them. It is fitting that our students have the opportunity to encourage others to follow the path they have themselves traveled.”
This involvement by Cumberland School of Law's students aligns with an initiative to connect with more underrepresented groups in an effort to expose them to the realm of possibilities for obtaining a legal education.
Cumberland School of Law Dean Blake Hudson said, “I am so proud of our students for ‘paying it forward’ to a new generation of potential lawyers. One of our recently announced initiatives is the development of a ‘Cumberland Connection’ program, where we can bring first generation undergrads and those from underrepresented groups to campus and expose them to actual law classes and other aspects of a legal education. So, the goals of this conference is in line with what we want to achieve at Cumberland—that is, changing the trajectories of entire families through legal education.”
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.