Cumberland School of Law

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Cumberland School of Law (founded July 29, 1847 in Lebanon, Tennessee) is the law school at Samford University in Homewood. It is the 14th oldest active school of law in the United States and has trained many important figures in American jurisprudence, including two Supreme Court justices and scores of lower court judges and Congressional representatives. The dean is former federal judge John L. Carroll. Current enrollment is 489, taught by a faculty of 48 professors.

The school offers a Juris Doctorate and a Master of Comparative Law, a special program designed to instruct foreign lawyers on the basic legal principles of the United States. The school also offers six dual-degree programs and sponsors four research centers, including a "Center for Biotechnology, Law and Ethics" which partners with UAB.

Cumberland is well known for its emphasis on trial advocacy. U. S. News and World Report ranks Cumberland 142nd overall, but rates its trial advocacy program as 4th in the United States for 2012. The Princeton Review has ranked the school highly in its annual publications.

Cumberland has two publications: the Cumberland Law Review and the American Journal of Trial Advocacy. Its 42,500-square foot Lucille Stewart Beeson Law Library, opened in 1996, holds over 300,000 volumes in print and microfiche. Its plaza is dominated by a bronze statue of Justice and Mercy.


The Cumberland School of Law was founded in 1847 at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. By 1858 it was the nation's largest law school. Its campus was destroyed during the Civil War, but it reopened quickly in 1865 and moved into the newly-built Caruthers Hall in 1878. By the turn of the century, the school's curriculum had fallen out of the main stream of legal education. It still offered a one-year course of studies at a time with the American Bar Association was arguing that three years were needed. The program continued without accreditation, waning in prestige, though continuing to graduate attorneys who went on to prominent positions.

A dog named "Rascal," who had attended classes throughout the year, was awarded an honorary degree in "canine jurisprudence" in 1933. In 1949, under the leadership of Dean Arthur Weeks, the school finally earned accreditation from the ABA. By the end of the 1950s, however, the school was on the brink of financial collapse.

Weeks, who had left to practice in Birmingham, convinced Howard College to make an offer to purchase the school and relocate it. The $125,000 purchase was made in 1961 and the move completed in time for graduation day in 1962. Weeks resumed the position of dean, serving until 1972. Memory Leake Robinson Hall, the first dedicated building for the school at Howard's Shades Valley campus, was completed in December 1963.

The Cordell Hull Speakers Forum, established in 1974 in honor of the Cumberland-educated United Nations founder, has brought nationally-prominent figures to Samford's campus.

In December 2005 Cumberland adopted a long term plan for the school. One call of the plan is to gradually downsize the number of students who attend in order to provide smaller classes and closer individual attention to students.


Notable alumni


  • Langum, David J. & Howard P. Walthall (1997) From Maverick to Mainstream: Cumberland School of Law, 1847-1997. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press ISBN 0820318922
  • "Cumberland School of Law" ( August 16, 2008) Wikipedia - accessed August 29, 2008
  • Velasco, Eric (April 8, 2012) "Cumberland School of Law celebrates 50 years at Samford University." Birmingham News

External links