Published on April 11, 2018 by Morgan Black  
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Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law hosted its inaugural Advocacy Benefit April 6 with special guest and keynote speaker, United States Senator Doug Jones, a 1979 Cumberland alumnus. The benefit celebrated the tradition of excellence in advocacy education in the law school and supported efforts to maintain this excellent tradition for many years to come. 

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. In 2018, U.S. News & World Report ranked Cumberland School of Law 10th among all U.S. law schools for its trial advocacy program. 

“Advocacy is at the core of all law practice,” said Dean Henry C. Strickland III. “Throughout its history, Cumberland has excelled at preparing lawyers to be great advocates. As the digital age continues to alter the way we live and interact, the importance of outstanding advocacy remains unchanged. The communication media and the tools advocates use change, but the essential role of the lawyer advocate remains as critical as ever. To continue preparing great advocates for the 21st century and remain a leader in advocacy education, Cumberland must grow and expand its advocacy program. That growth will require innovation, resources, and hard work.” 

The 2017 – 18 academic year successes of the advocacy teams include: the National Civil Trial Competition Champion, the National Trial Advocacy Competition Champion, Florida National Trial Advocacy Competition Champion, regional winner of the National Trial Competition, the American Bar Association (ABA) Regional Mediation Competition Champion and third place at the national mediation competition, finalist in the Duberstein National Bankruptcy Competition, and Best Oralist in the Regional ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition. 

Jones commented, “Cumberland has always had a great reputation. For those of us who like trial work, for those of us who like advocacy work, seeing those teams year in and year out perform and excel the way they do is a true source of pride and it’s something not only the law school can be proud of, I think the state of Alabama can be proud of what these kids bring home.” 

Award-winning news anchor and journalist Pam Huff from Birmingham’s ABC affiliate served as the emcee. Huff’s husband, U.S. attorney William Simpson, is a 1980 Cumberland graduate. Dinner was provided by James Beard Award semifinalist chef Rob McDaniel of SpringHouse Restaurant in Alexander City.

“We have a commitment to help our advocates grow as people and as lawyers,” said Ramona Albin, Cumberland’s director of advocacy programs. “We want to be the leader in advocacy education in the 21st century. The benefit was just the start of that effort.” 

Other Cumberland alumni who spoke to the group on behalf of the advocacy program included Sara Williams ’05, managing partner at Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys and adjunct faculty member, and Robert Maddox ’00, a nationally recognized Certified Mortgage Banker and former adjunct faculty member. Ashley Reitz Peinhardt ‘10, attorney at Hare Wynn Newell & Newton, and Ricard Woods ’04, partner at Burr Forman’s Mobile office and chief legal counsel to Mobile Mayor William S. Stimpson, concluded the evening with closing remarks.

Sponsors for the event included Beasley Allen Law Firm, Burr & Forman, Cory Watson Attorneys, Marsh Rickard & Bryan PC, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, Mike Papantonio/Levin Papantonio, Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys, Balch & Bingham LLP, Friedman Dazzio Zulanas & Bowling PC, Haynes & Haynes PC, Heninger Garrison Davis LLC, Sean S. Modjarrad ’00, Shelby Roden LLC, Wrady & Michel LLC, Campbell Guin LLC, The Coggin Law Firm LLC, Corporate Homie LLC, Goldasich & Associates LLC, Henry C. (Corky) and Anne R. Strickland, Hollis Wright Clay & Vail PC, Lightfoot Franklin & White LLC, Starnes Davis Florie LLP, and White Arnold & Dowd.

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.