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Cumberland School of Law
|Cumberland School of Law|
|Logo of Cumberland School of Law|
|School type||Private non-profit|
|Dean||John L. Carroll|
|Location||Birmingham, AL, US|
|Outlines||0 (See List)|
Cumberland School of Law is an ABA accredited law school and one of the oldest law schools in the United States. It is currently located in Birmingham, Alabama. The 2006 Princeton Review ranked the school 6th in its "Professors Rock (Legally Speaking)" category and 7th in its "Best Quality of Life" category.
The school offers two degree programs: the 90 hour Juris Doctor (J.D.), and the Master of Comparative Law (M.C.L.), which is designed to instruct foreign lawyers on the basic legal principles of the United States. The school also offers six dual-degree programs.
Cumberland has two publications: the Cumberland Law Review and the American Journal of Trial Advocacy, and three research centers including the Center for Biotechnology, Law and Ethics which selects two students per year to serve as Fellows.
The law school was founded on July 29, 1847 in Lebanon, Tennessee at Cumberland University making the school approximately 160 years old. It is now located at Samford University. At the end of 1847 only 15 law schools existed in the United States, which makes Cumberland one of the oldest law schools in the United States.
Samford University, formerly Howard College, purchased the law school from Cumberland University in 1961 and Cumberland remains the only law school to be sold from one University to another.
As of 2006, the law school had 495 enrolled students.
"if this historic institution (Cumberland) had been located in any other section of the country instead of having been an unpretentious school in [an] unpretentious locality, its wonderful work would be as widely known and recognized as that of any educational institution of like age in any part of America." Fn.1.
"The prevailing philosophy is simple: Practical skill outweighs raw knowledge, and application transcends erudition. If the goal were to produce great law students, the tenets might be exactly the opposite. Our goal is to produce exceptional lawyers. That’s why Cumberland’s curriculum emphasizes the core competencies of legal practice: research, writing and persuasion."
Langum and Walthall summarize the history of Cumberland Law School as:
"From its very local, Tennessee origins in 1847, Cumberland School of Law soon emerged as a premier law school with a national status. It excelled in faculty, teaching methodology, and numbers of students. Following the American Civil War, Cumberland rebuilt itself and ultimately succeeded on a grand scale with its single-year curriculum." Fn.1
After witnessing the Civil War, the Great Depression, two world wars, and the Civil Rights Movement, Cumberland stands on a long, proud history, but now looks "to regain the premier status it once held."
Life at Cumberland
Cumberland students generally attend school for three years. The first year classes are preselected: Civil Procedure, Contracts, Property, Torts, Criminal Law, and Evidence. Students are divided into one of three sections, where the students remain together in their respective classes for the entire first year. First year students are also enrolled in even smaller sections for Lawyering and Legal Reasoning, a class that focuses on honing the students' ability to think and write like a lawyer.
Second and third year courses give students more choices and allow some degree of specialization. Cumberland offers a balance of traditional courses, such as Criminal Procedure, Family Law, and Basic Federal Income Tax, and practical courses, such as Basic and Advanced Trial Skills, Business Drafting, Real Estate Transactions, and Law Office Practice and Management.
Students are taught using the Socratic Method, typical of law school pedagogy.
Cumberland offers numerous extracurricular activities, in addition to the opportunities provided by Samford University. See below for a list of publications, research centers, and student organizations.
Housing for law students is not available on campus, but students typically rent apartments or buy houses in the surrounding community.
Competition for grades and rank can be aggressive but rarely personal, and there is a surprising degree of camaraderie amongst the students, which many students consider to be atypical of the environment on most law school campuses.
Bar passage and employment rates
- First time takers from the Class of 2006 had a 93.3% passage rate on the July 2006 Alabama Bar exam.
- First time takers from the Class of 2005 had a 94.1% passage rate on the July 2005 Alabama Bar exam.
- 93.7% of the Class of 2004 is currently employed, with 68.9% in private practice, 5.91% in judicial clerkships, 4.1% in business and industry, 11.1% in government, 1.5% in public interest, .7% in academics, and 6.7% pursued advanced degrees.
The Fall 2006 entering class had an average LSAT score of 156 and average undergraduate GPA of 3.28. The top quarter of the entering class had an LSAT score of 159 or higher and a GPA of 3.59 or higher. Candidates are selected based on "LSAT, undergraduate GPA, discipline of study, graduate work, undergraduate grade trends, employment, undergraduate institution, personal statement, and letters of recommendation." 
Joint degree programs
Cumberland offers 6 joint degree programs:
- JD/Master of Accountancy, JD/Master of Business Administration, in conjunction with the Samford University School of Business,
- JD/Master of Divinity, in conjunction with the Beeson Divinity School of Samford University,
- JD/Master of Science in Environmental Management, in conjunction with the graduate school of Samford University,
- JD/Master of Public Administration, in conjunction with the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences of the University of Alabama at Birmingham,
- JD/Master of Public Health, in conjunction with the School of Public Health of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
- Summer 2006 - Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, England;
- Summer 2006 - Universidade Federal do Ceará, Fortaleza, Brazil;
- Summer 2006 - University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
- The Cumberland Law Review  whose members are selected by write-on from the top 15% of the freshman class and,
- The American Journal of Trial Advocacy  whose members are selected by write-on from the top 33% of the freshman class.
- Cumberland Law School's Center for Biotechnology, Law and Ethics;
- The Center for Law & Church;
- The Alabama Center for Law and Civic Education.
- Alabama Defense Lawyer's Association 
- The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy 
- Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) 
- Black Law Students Association 
- Christian Legal Society 
- Community Service Organization 
- Cordell Hull Speakers Forum 
- Cumberland Democrats 
- Cumberland Republicans 
- Cumberland Wildlife Society 
- DRI – The Voice of the Defense Bar 
- Environmental Law Society 
- Federalist Society 
- Henry Upson Sims Moot Court Board 
- Honor Court 
- Jewish Law Students’ Association 
- Military Justice Society 
- Phi Alpha Delta 
- The Sports and Entertainment Law Society 
- Student Bar Association
- Pro Confesso On-line Newspaper 
- Trial Advocacy Board 
- Women in the Law 
This summary would be impossible but for a comprehensive study of the law school, which was done for the 150th anniversary of the school. It is entitled From Maverick to Mainstream. Much of this information is sourced from this excellent work (see note for citation below).
Cumberland School of Law was founded on July 29, 1847 in Lebanon, Tennessee at Cumberland University. Founder and first professor Judge Abraham Caruthers said, "I call it an adventure, I speak of it as an experiment." At the end of 1847, 15 law schools existed in the country. Prior to the founding of these first law schools, the primary means for a legal education was apprentiship. To give some perspective, establishing law schools was difficult in the early 1800s. Harvard only reestablished its law school in 1829 and Yale in 1826. So Cumberland appeared at a unique time in history and offered a unique educational option.
By 1860 only 21 university law schools existed in the country and in no documented case did the curriculum last over two years. It was during these Antebellum years that Cumberland enjoyed great success. Nathan Green, Jr., son of then professor Nathan Green, Sr., stated that Cumberland enjoyed "the highest degree of prosperity," with a beautiful 20 acre campus, picturesque trees and fences and fine architecture.[p.47]
Students were taught through reading treatises, approximately two hours worth of recitations each morning, and a mandatory moot court program. The cost was fifty dollars a session and a five dollar "contingent fee." [p.57] After the war, the treatise method, the legal formalism of the school's approach and Nathan Green Jr.'s unwillingness to make changes, are all considered to be reasons for Cumberland's drift out of the mainstream. [p59]
April 13, 1861 jolted Cumberland out of its "Golden Age" when President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers to invade the southern states. The campus split within a week; some students joined the northern army; many joined the southern army. Nathan Green Jr.'s father, a law professor, went home, but Abraham Caruthers fled to Marietta, Georgia in fear of arrest where he died just over one year later. [p.47]
During the war professors John Carter and Nathan Green, Jr. fought as Confederate officers. Carter was killed but Green survived the war. The campus did not. The trees were cut down and fences destroyed and burned. The Confederate Army burned the University buildings, apparently because a Confederate Major was offended that black Union soldiers had used them as barracks. [p49-51]
The campus may have been totally destroyed but the law school began the slow process of rebuilding. In July of 1866 Cumberland adopted the image of the phoenix, which is an Egyptian mythological bird that is reborn from its own ashes. The new motto was "E Cineribus Resurgo" or "I rise from the ashes".[p.50-51]
In September of 1865 classes resumed with eleven students, which soon grew to twenty. The 1865 class included a Confederate General and Union colonel, enemies only a few months earlier. Nathan Green, Jr. kept the school together until a circuit judge named Henry Cooper, Andrew B. Martin and Robert L. Caruthers, brother of deceased founder Abraham Caruthers, joined the faculty. Robert Caruthers had previously served as the state attorney general and had been elected Governor of Tennessee during the war in 1863, but he was never innaugurated. Cooper did not serve on the faculty for long. [p.51-52]
In 1873 Robert Caruthers purchased the Corona Hall from the Corona Institute for Women for ten thousand dollars, which he immediately donated to the University for use by the law school.
|1||Samuel Gilreath||acting dean 1947–1948|
|2||Arthur A. Weeks||1947–1952|
|3||Donald E. Corley||acting dean 1972–1973, dean 1974–1984|
|4||Brad Bishop||acting dean 1984–1985|
|5||Parham H. Williams||1985–1996|
|6||Barry A. Currier||1996–2000|
|7||Michael D. Floyd||acting dean 2000–01|
|8||John L. Carroll||2001–present|
- Cumberland has trained:
- Cumberland is the first law school to have been sold from one university to another.
- Cumberland is well known in the Southeast for its focus on Trial Advocacy.
- The school is composed of two buildings: the main classroom building, Memory Leake Robinson Hall, and the Lucille Stewart Beeson Law Library .
- The school's motto is "Where good people become exceptional lawyers."
- In its 2007 publication, U.S. News & World Report ranked Cumberland in its third tier among the nation's law schools.
- Also according to U.S. News & World Report, Cumberland, as of 2006, is tied with Gonzaga University with a .21 diversity rating based on a 7% African-American enrollment.
- In 2006, the Princeton Review ranked the school 6th in its "Professors Rock (Legally Speaking)" category and 7th in its "Best Quality of Life" category.
- Beverly Briley (D) - mayor of Nashville, Tennessee.
- Gordon Browning (D) - United States Representative and Governor of Tennessee.
- John L. Carroll - former federal judge and dean of Cumberland School of Law, Legal Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
- Robert L. Caruthers - Governor of Tennessee, Tennessee Attorney General.
- LeRoy Collins (D) - Governor of Florida.
- Henry Cooper (U.S. Senator) (D) - United States Senator from Tennessee.
- Jere Cooper (D) - United States Representative from Tennessee.
- Charlie Crist (R) - Governor of Florida, Former Florida Attorney General
- Edward H. East (W) - Secretary of State for Tennessee.
- Joe L. Evins (D) - United States Representative from Tennessee.
- Van Hilleary (R) - Tennessee politician and lobbyist.
- William J. Holloway (D) - Governor of Oklahoma.
- Jeff Hoover (R) - Kentucky House of Representatives.
- Cordell Hull (D) - United States Secretary of State under F.D.R., Nobel Peace Prize recipient, 11 terms as U.S. Representative, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, co-initiated the United Nations.
- Douglas S. Jackson (D) - United States Senator from Tennessee, executive director of the Renaissance Center.
- Howell Edmunds Jackson (D) - United States Supreme Court Justice, justice U.S. Circuit Court for the Sixth Circuit, U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative.
- Zeb Little - Majority Leader and Floor Leader of the Alabama Senate.
- Horace Harmon Lurton (D) - United States Supreme Court Justice, Tennessee Supreme Court, justice U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, dean of Vanderbilt University law department.
- Tom J. Murray (D) - United States Representative from Tennessee.
- Mike Papantonio - head of mass tort department at Levin, Papantonio in Pensacola, Florida, one of America's 15 most successful plaintiff's firms.
- Mike Stewart (novelist) - American writer
- John Strohm - entertainment lawyer and former member of the Lemonheads
- Anthony F. Tauriello - United States House of Representatives for New York
- Charles D. Cole - Director of Cumberland's programs to Durham, England, and Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Cumberland's Master of Comparative Law degree program
- David M. Smolin - Director of Cumberland Law School's Center for Biotechnology, Law and Ethics and human rights activist
- Joseph Snoe - Co-author of Property: Examples and Explanations and author of American Health Care Delivery Systems (American Casebook Series)
- Cumberland Law School main page
- ABA Page for Cumberland
- Faculty Profiles
- Cordell Hull Museum
- Cordell Hull Institute
- DAVID J. LANGUM & HOWARD P. WALTHALL: From Maverick to Mainstream: Cumberland School of Law, 1847-1997 (University of Georgia Press 1997).
- Fn. 1 - p.253 (Langum & Walthall)
- Fn. 2 - p.113 (Langum & Walthall) (quoting "Hull Calls for Consectration," Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat, May 10, 1934, p.1.