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Cumberland School of Law, Samford University

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Cumberland School of Law was founded as part of Cumberland University in 1847 in Lebanon, Tennessee. Like many buildings, the law school was completely destroyed during the Civil War. In an unusual twist, however, it was reported that the law school was destroyed not by Union troops, as was usually the case, but by Confederate troops after Union occupation, possibly because black soldiers had occupied the buildings. In 1961, the school was bought by Samford University and moved to Samford's campus in Birmingham, Alabama. Although Samford is a Christian university, the amount of religious content in Cumberland's publications is minimal. It has been ABA-accredited since 1949.

Admissions & tuition

For the class entering in 2009, Cumberland accepted 458 out of 1267 applicants, a 36% acceptance rate. 167 of the admitted students matriculated, giving the school a 36% yield rate. The median GPA for that class was 3.33, and the median LSAT was 155. The 25th and 75th percentile GPAs were 3.01 and 3.55, respectively, while the 25th and 75th percentile LSAT scores were 153 and 157, respectively. The application fee is $50.

Samford University is a private school, so tuition is fairly expensive. For the 2010-2011 academic year, tuition will be $32,900; total cost of attendance is estimated at $55,080. The school offers a part-time division called the flex-time program, wherein students complete the J.D. in five years or less by taking either eight or nine credit hours each semester. This program is marketed towards parents and working professionals. Tuition within the flex-time program is $1,080 per credit hour, so the total tuition required for the degree would be roughly equal to that paid by a full-time student.

Academics & curriculum

During the fall semester of their 1L years, Cumberland students take two credits of Civil Procedure, four credits of Torts, and three credits each of Contracts, Criminal Law, and Lawyering and Legal Reasoning. During the spring semester, they continue with two credits of Contracts and three credits each of Civil Procedure and Lawyering and Legal Reasoning; additionally, they take three credits of Evidence and four credits of Property. During 2L year, they must take a total of five credits of Constitutional Law - two credits in the fall, and three in the spring. Finally, at some point during their second or third years, students must complete a writing requirement, which may be fulfilled either through publication or through classwork, a legal skills requirement, and courses in Business Organizations, Wills, Trusts, and Estates, Professional Responsibility, and either Payment Systems or Secured Transactions.

Cumberland currently offers seven joint degrees, five in cooperation with other divisions of Samford University and two with the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The J.D. may be completed in conjunction with a Master of Accountancy, a Master of Divinity, a Master of Public Administration, a Master of Public Health, a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Theological Studies, or a Master of Science in Environmental Management. Students apply for admission to these joint degree programs during the spring semester of their 1L years, rather than prior to matriculation.

In addition to joint degrees, Cumberland offers five areas of specialization within the J.D. curriculum: public interest, health law, environmental law, trial advocacy, and corporate law. Cumberland also offers students the opportunity to take some courses online, which provides added flexibility to even the full-time schedule, as these courses are delivered wholly through the Internet.

Employment prospects & bar passage

In 2009, Cumberland graduates had a 95.65% pass rate in Alabama, the school's primary jurisdiction; this was above the state average of 89.02%. The second most popular jurisdiction was Georgia, where Cumberland graduates had a 90.91% pass rate, slightly higher than the state average of 89.27%.

Of the 159 students who graduated from Cumberland in 2009, employment status was known for all of them at 9 months after graduation. Of these, 133, or 83.6%, were employed. 15, or 9.4%, were seeking graduate degrees, and 10, or 6.3%, were unemployed. Of the 133 employed graduates, 97, or 72.9%, were employed in law firms. 15 (11.3%) were in business and industry, 14 (10.5%) were in government, 4 (3%) were in clerkships, 3 (2.3%) were in academia, and none were in public interest. 77, or 57.9%, were employed within Alabama.

Cumberland's admissions, career services, and external relations departments did not respond to requests for starting salary data.

Quality of life

Samford University is located in the suburb of Homewood, just east of Interstate 65 and south of downtown Birmingham. Cost of living is low; 1-bedroom apartments within a ten-minute drive start at below $500. For students who prefer to walk, there is comparably priced housing within about a mile of the school, but, as in most of the South, a car is ideal due to the spread-out nature of the metropolitan area. Birmingham itself is the largest city in Alabama and is located centrally in the state, at the intersection of I-65, I-59, I-20, and I-22. It is 4 hours southeast of Memphis, 3 hours south of Nashville, 2.5 hours west of Atlanta, and 1.5 hours north of the capital city of Montgomery. In terms of climate, the region is vulnerable to tornadoes and hurricanes, and some may find the summers oppressively hot; this comes, however, with the benefit of very mild winters. Overall, although it is concededly not the country's largest or most cosmopolitan city, Birmingham is considered the cultural center of Alabama, and it is an inexpensive and generally pleasant location.

Synopsis

Cumberland College of Law offers a fairly desirable location, a long history, and likely a solid education. It meets a serious pitfall, however, in the mismatch between the school's high tuition and the overall low cost of living - and consequently lower salaries - of the region into which the school places. A prospective student thinking of taking out large loans to attend Cumberland should, even more than the average prospective law student, literally run the numbers on what his/her loan payments will be and how many local legal jobs will provide salaries high enough to service those loans and live comfortably. This problem is further exacerbated by the school's apparent refusal to publish or provide on request data about the typical starting salary of a Cumberland graduate. However, for a student with a realistic plan to pay back his/her loans (or avoid debt in the first place), an attachment to the Birmingham area, and qualifications that preclude admission at the University of Alabama, Cumberland could be the perfect choice.

Quick reference

Cumberland School of Law
Samford University
800 Lakeshore Drive
Birmingham, AL 35229
Phone: (205) 726-2400
E-mail: lawadm@samford.edu

2010-2011 Tuition: full-time $32,900; flex-time $1,080/hour
2009 Bar Passage Rate (AL): 95.6% (73.08% reporting)
Employed at 9 Months After 2009 Graduation: 83.6% (100% response rate)
Median Starting Salary: admissions, career services, and external relations departments did not respond to requests for data.
2009 Entering Class Size: 167
2009 Full-Time Median GPA: 3.33
2009 Full-Time Median LSAT: 155