Another component of Cumberland School of Law’s advocacy training is its exceptional advocacy competition program. Beginning in their second semester, students may compete in various school-sponsored trial, appellate and other competitions. Second- and third-year students may try out for teams that represent Cumberland School of Law at competitions throughout the country. The law school’s tremendous success at these competitions has contributed to its top law school ranking for trial advocacy.
Cumberland School of Law is one of only a few law schools where law students run intramural advocacy competitions. The Trial Advocacy Board and the Henry Upson Sims Moot Court Board oversee the student-run intramural competitions. The board members are Cumberland School of Law students. The Trial Board is led by a student chief judge and the Moot Court Board is led by a student chief justice. Each board also has student executive officers and members. The executive officers are responsible for scheduling, recruiting judges, problem selection and distribution, rules and score tabulation. All members of the board judge the preliminary rounds of the competitions. The final rounds are judged by local attorneys and judges. The winners of the competitions are eligible to represent Cumberland School of Law in national trial, appellate and alternative dispute competitions.
Trial Advocacy Board
Two-person teams present preliminary motions, opening statements, direct and cross-examination of witnesses and closing arguments in trial and arbitration competitions.
Teams interview mock clients and are judged on their ability to communicate, elicit facts, advise and recommend appropriate actions in client counseling competitions.
Teams are judged on how they use an effective combination of advocacy skills and problem-solving abilities in negotiation and mediation representation competitions. Participants learn about each other’s interests, brainstorm options, and select and shape a solution that meets their interests.
Henry Upson Sims Moot Court Board
Moot court competitions simulate actual appellate arguments. Appellate arguments consist of written briefs and oral arguments given in front of a panel of judges.
Albert P. Brewer Client
The Albert P. Brewer Client Counseling Competition is named for current law professor and former Alabama Governor, Albert P. Brewer. The competition simulates a law office consultation in which law students, acting as attorneys, are presented with a client matter. They conduct an interview with a person playing the role of the client and then explain how they would proceed further in the hypothetical situation.
The Trial Advocacy Board provides students with the opportunity to compete in an arbitration competition during each semester. Essentially, arbitration is trial around a conference table. In competition, law students will act as attorneys in an arbitration setting. The competition measures how well law students prepare and present an arbitration case, including opening statements, witness examinations, exhibit introductions, evidentiary presentations, and summations. The National Arbitration Team is selected from the intramural competition. The National Team includes the competitors who will best represent Cumberland School of Law in regional and national competitions sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Section of Dispute Resolution.
Gordon T. Saad Appellate Advocacy Competition
The Saad Appellate Advocacy Competition is a Cumberland School of Law student-run intramural competition held in the fall of each school year. Participants receive the record of a fictional case that is on appeal, and write the argument portion of one issue as either the petitioner or respondent. Students then argue that issue in front of practicing attorneys and judges, who act as appellate court justices. As students advance, they argue different issues and positions. In 2012, 35 students participated in the four-round competition, which also served as tryouts for Cumberland’s National Appellate Advocacy Team. The winner of the Saad is awarded a spot on the National Team.
Henry C. Strickland Negotiation Competition
The competition is named in honor of Professor Henry C. Strickland. Professor Strickland joined the Cumberland faculty in 1988. He regularly teaches courses on Alternative Dispute Resolution, Civil Procedure, and Conflict of Laws. Also, he has taught courses on Constitutional Law and Remedies. His primary research interests include arbitration law, constitutional law, and legal education, and he continues to write and speak on those topics. Professor Strickland served as the law school's associate dean for academic affairs from 2001-11.
The Negotiation Competition is held in a traditional format with several judges and two to four competitors per room. Participating students act as attorneys on behalf of their clients during the negotiation rounds. The competitors are given a new problem each round. The executive board members of Cumberland's Trial Advocacy Board judge the competition using strict criteria provided in the National Negotiation Competition rules. The Negotiation Competition is held several times throughout the year. In the fall semester, the students participating in the Negotiation Competition compete for a spot on the National Negotiation Team. The coaches monitor the competition and make their decisions based on each student's performance. The competitions consist of three to five rounds, depending on the number of competitors.
Herbert W. Peterson Trial Competition
The Herbert W. Peterson National Trial Team Competition, or “The Peterson,” as it’s referred to in the halls of the law school, serves as the proverbial battleground for some of Cumberland School of Law’s strongest future-litigators to compete for a spot on one of the nation’s top trial teams. This student-run intramural competition is done in a traditional judge and jury format, similar to the Haley and Williams Trial Competitions, but with a few unique qualities.
First and foremost, advocating in The Peterson brings you more than just the sense of accomplishment from a trial well done. The Peterson is the application process to be a member of the law school’s nationally ranked trial team. To be considered for a place on the team, law students must compete in The Peterson. The Peterson takes place during the first few weeks of each fall semester. Every competitor advocates in two rounds before the advancement round.
The Peterson is also unique in that the competitors are randomly assigned their responsibilities for each round, which witness they will direct and cross examine as well as who their partner will be for each round. Lastly, The Peterson is unique because all the judges of this competition are active litigators in the Alabama Bar.
James O. Haley Federal Trial Competition
The Haley Federal Trial Competition is a Cumberland School of Law student run intramural competition. The competition is named in the honor of former Cumberland faculty member James O. Haley. In the book titled James O. Haley—Lawyer, Judge, Teacher, Advocate written by Ronald H. Dikes (no date), Haley is described by Gov. Albert P. Brewer as being “widely recognized as one of Alabama’s greatest trial lawyers.” Brewer goes on to say, “[Haley] challenged and molded a generation of young lawyers, for whom he served as a role model of professionalism.”
Janie L. Shores Appellate Advocacy Competition
This competition is named for Janie L. Shores. She was the first female justice to serve on the Supreme Court of Alabama and became the first full-time female law faculty member in Alabama when she joined Cumberland School of Law in 1965.
This competition is held in the spring and focuses on sharpening the appellate advocacy skills of second- and third-year law students. In the Shores Competition, participants compete in pairs. They write the argument portion of a brief and argue those issues in front of practicing lawyers and judges, who act as appellate court justices. As teams advance, they argue the opposing side of their issues.
The Mediation Competition provides law students the opportunity to role-play as advocates and clients in a mediation setting. The competition encourages students to model appropriate preparation for, and representation of, a client in mediation. Each team consists of two students. In each round of the competition one student plays the role of an attorney and the other plays the role of the client.
Parham Williams Trial Competition
This competition is named in honor of Parham Williams, who was dean of Cumberland School of Law from 1985 to 1996. The Williams Trial Competition is only for first-year law students. It is the first opportunity for students to participate in a trial competition. It is held during the second semester of the first year of law school. The competition is held in a traditional judge and jury format.
Robert D. Donworth Freshman Appellate Advocacy Competition
Each spring, all first-year law students argue in the Donworth Freshman Appellate Advocacy Competition after completing their briefs for the first-year Lawyering and Legal Reasoning course [LLR]. The Donworth is broken into four distinct competitions based on LLR problems, with students arguing one of the issues included in their brief. This competition fulfills the first-year oral advocacy requirement for LLR and develops important courtroom skills.
Picture Two: Student participants in the law school’s intramural Albert P. Brewer Client Counseling Competition. The females pictured placed first in the region and third in the nation at the 2013 American Bar Association’s Client Counseling Competition.