Published on March 13, 2023  
AAJ 2023

Samford University Cumberland School of Law’s national trial teams swept the Southeast Two Region of the Student Trial Advocacy Competition sponsored by the American Association of Justice, March 2-5. The competition is the second oldest and second largest law school national trial competition in the country. Both Cumberland School of Law teams won their final rounds and will advance to the national tournament in New Orleans, Louisiana, March 30-April 2.

Again, this year, the Regional Championships were conducted virtually, forcing the student advocates to master not only advocacy skills, but also the challenges of virtual advocacy. However, the national finals will be the first in-person version of the Student Trial Advocacy Competition since the pandemic.

This marks the third straight year that Cumberland has won the Southeast Two Region and Cumberland’s first sweep of the region since the return to the two-regional-winners format in 2022. In total, four Cumberland teams have advanced to the national round of the prestigious tournament in the past three years.

The team Ashlan Kelley and Riley Kate Lancaster (advocates) and Zach Chiepalich and Chloe Patterson (witnesses) defeated Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law, the University of Alabama School of Law Team Two and Faulkner University Jones School of Law Team Two in the preliminary rounds. In the semifinal round, they defeated the Faulkner team again and ultimately defeated the University of Alabama School of Law Team One in the final round.

The team of Jake Blalock and Samantha Breland (advocates) and Hannah Dillashaw and Hannah Maynor (witnesses) defeated Mississippi College School of Law, Lincoln Memorial School of Law Team One and Belmont University College of Law Team One in the preliminary round. In the semifinal round they defeated the Belmont team again then ultimately defeated the Pepperdine team in the final round.

Both teams won 19 of 22 possible ballots during the tournament. The teams were coached by Julie McMakin, J.D. '09, Michael Eldridge, J.D. '12, Curtis Seal, J.D. '17, and Isabella Colombo, J.D. '20.

Cumberland School of Law's director of National Trial Teams, Judge Jim Roberts, J.D. '94, said, “I’m very proud of our students and coaches for their tremendous showing during the tournament. Each of them worked incredibly hard to accomplish their goal of a regional sweep and represented our school with the utmost professionalism. It is an honor to work with each of them.”

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.