Law and The Public Interest - The Cumberland Perspective

Alyson Hood '11 received as a second-year student the Alabama State Bar Pro Bono Student Award for outstanding commitment to providing free legal services to the poor. Click to read more.

At Cumberland School of Law, we train GOOD people to be EXCEPTIONAL lawyers. One of the most important attributes of an exceptional lawyer is the commitment to serving the public. We seek to foster that commitment by offering students a wide variety of opportunities to engage in community outreach and to pursue public interest law.

Under the umbrella of the Cumberland Public Interest Project, we seek to foster an understanding of the lawyer’s duty to serve the community through representing the poor and through being a servant leader in his/her community. 


The Cumberland Community Service Organization
The Cumberland Community Service Organization [CSO] is the student organization whose mission is:

To promote, encourage and complete community service and legal public interest projects within the Cumberland community and the community at large.

The CSO participates in a number of community service projects such as, Make a Difference Day, sponsored by Hands on Birmingham and Habitat for Humanity. CSO also conducts a December toy drive. In the Spring, it sponsors the annual Cumberland School of Law Easter egg hunt which brings underprivileged children from all over to the area for a wide variety of activities. CSO also sponsors a public interest job fair in conjunction with Career Services to assist students in obtaining public interest jobs.

The Center for Law & Civic Education
The Center for Law & Civic Education is a nationally recognized entity housed at the law school which is dedicated to educating young citizens about law and government. There are two important programs in which the center uses Cumberland School of Law students to facilitate their mission.

  1. Street Law
    Students who elect to participate in the Street Law program attend weekly night classes on juvenile law and how to teach it. They are assigned to classes in public and correctional schools and teach a class on juvenile law once a week for six weeks. The program runs in both the Fall and Spring.
  2. Teen Court
    The Teen Court Project of the Center for Law & Civic Education is a real court for first time juvenile offenders charged with non-violent crimes. Defendants are represented and prosecuted by teen attorneys and go before a jury of their peers. Cumberland School of Law students assist the teen attorneys in preparing their cases prior to the Teen Court hearing in Jefferson County Family Court.

VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance)
The Cumberland VITA project brings law students together at the Birmingham Public Library to prepare tax returns for low income people. In 2003, the Cumberland VITA project was named by the American Bar Association as the best new VITA project.

The Cumberland Community Mediation Center
The law school has developed a Community Mediation Project which functions in conjunction with our Mediation Practice Course. Students who have received training as mediators in the Mediation Practice Course will be utilized as mediators helping to resolve community disputes where the parties are unable to pay for mediation services. 


The externship program which is coordinated through Cumberland School of Law's clinical programs provides students the opportunity to practice with attorneys in the public interest law area and to receive academic credit for that practice. The externship program has ongoing placements with judges, government agencies and public interest organizations and attorneys.

The Office of Career Development
A large number of opportunities for volunteer work in public interest organizations arise every year. Career Services is the clearinghouse for those volunteer opportunities. Career Services also facilitates placement in salaried positions in government and public interest work. 


Through a grant from the H.G. and H.U. Sims Foundation and the generosity of our alumni, the law school is able to offer a number of summer public interest stipends which provide funds for living expenses to students who volunteer with public interest legal organizations in the summer. 


The Spirit of Service Award
The law school annually recognizes any student or faculty member who has contributed 30 hours of pro bono or public interest work by awarding them the Spirit of Service Award. 

The Dean’s Public Interest Award
At Awards Day in the Spring, the student who has best exemplified a commitment to public interest and public service is awarded the Dean's Public Interest Award which consists of a certificate and a cash.

The VLP Award
The Alabama State Bar encourages participation in pro bono legal work. Students who provide 50 hours of volunteer support at any of the state’s Legal Services offices are personally recognized at the Bar swearing in ceremony.

The Alabama Bar Association Student Pro Bono Award
At its annual meeting, the State Bar recognizes a law student who has made a significant contribution of pro bono work.

   •  Read more about public interest law in the law school's online viewbook.

Page last updated: Wed, 08/29/2012 - 13:23