This site is a developmental version of Wiki Law School. To go to the production site:

Cumberland School of Law

From Wiki Law School does not provide legal advice. For educational purposes only.
Cumberland School of Law
Logo of Cumberland School of Law
Established 1847
School type Private non-profit
Dean John L. Carroll
Location Birmingham, AL, US
Faculty (See List)
Annual tuition
Outlines 0 (See List)
Loading map...

Cumberland School of Law is located in Birmingham, AL

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.

One of Cumberland's more notable graduates, Cordell Hull, served under Franklin Delano Roosevelt as Secretary of State and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945. At one point in his life he stated that:

"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.


File:Cumberland School of Law - Carroll.JPG
Judge John L. Carroll, dean of Cumberland, 2006 graduation ceremony.

The law school emphasizes practical skills and integrity. The current dean, former federal judge John L. Carroll (class of '74) states that:

"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

Memory Leake Robinson Hall in 2006

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.

Students must also take Professional Responsibility and the MPRE, which is an exam that is required to practice in addition to the Bar exam.

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.[1]


Bird's-Eye View of the Campus

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." [2]

Joint degree programs

Cumberland offers 6 joint degree programs:

Foreign programs

Programs Website



  1. The Cumberland Law Review [3] whose members are selected by write-on from the top 15% of the freshman class and,
  2. The American Journal of Trial Advocacy [4] whose members are selected by write-on from the top 33% of the freshman class.

Research centers

  1. Cumberland Law School's Center for Biotechnology, Law and Ethics;
  2. The Center for Law & Church;
  3. The Alabama Center for Law and Civic Education.

Student organizations

File:Cumberland School of Law Justice and Mercy 2.JPG
Justice Tempered by Mercy - Statue located in the Courtyard of the Law School
File:Cumberland School of Law Classroom.JPG
Classroom in Memory Leake Robinson Hall


File:Cumberland University-drawing - c.1858.JPG
Cumberland University Drawing - c.1858. Was burned during the Civil War.

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).

Pre-Civil war

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]

Civil war

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.

File:Cumberland School of Law - Corona Hall - Law School from 1873-1878.JPG
Cumberland School of Law - Corona Hall - Law School from 1873-1878


Former deans

Dean Tenure
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


Notable facts

  • 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 [27].
  • 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.

Notable alumni

Cordell Hull - Nobel Peace Prize, U.S. Sec of State, Father of the U.N.
File:Horace Lurton.jpg
Horace Lurton, Supreme Court Justice
File:Howell Edmunds Jackson.jpg
Howell Jackson - Supreme Court Justice

Notable professors

External links

Source information

  • 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.