Published on March 1, 2024 by Morgan Black  
OnlineNationalChampionship 2024
Six members of Samford University Cumberland School of Law’s National Trial Team competed in the inaugural Online National Championship, Feb. 23-25. All three of the law school’s teams were recognized and one team advanced to the semifinal round. Three of the students received a Best Advocate award.
The Online National Championship was born in 2024 out of the need to provide additional, affordable trial competition opportunities for law school advocacy programs. As noted in its name, the Online National Championship took place via Zoom and uniquely hosted 50 teams.
Teams consisted of two students—one was the prosecutor, and one was the defense attorney. Each student had an opportunity to try the entire case including opening, direct, cross, closing, motions and objections. While one acted as the attorney, the other acted as the witness.
Cumberland School of Law had three teams of two participate in the inaugural event, each competing in the preliminary rounds. The contenders included third-year students Claire Tomberlin and Brittany Sanders, and second-year students Amelia Smith, Jasmine Paynter, Alexa Gutierrez and Kayla Haller.
Sanders and Smith advanced to the semifinal round and best advocate awards were received by Sanders, Smith and Paynter. Additionally, all three Cumberland School of Law teams were recognized publicly for winning at least 75% of their ballots.
Ross Massey, JD ’11, served as one of the coaches. He said, “You know Cumberland’s done well when the competition director, from Drexel School of Law, tells the entire audience at the awards ceremony ‘what an excellent showing from Cumberland as a whole this weekend.’ The Online National Championship is a grueling challenge between 50 teams with at least six trials. We could not be prouder of our team. They worked hard and performed incredibly well, all while being fun to coach. They help make Cumberland School of Law what we are.”
In addition to Massey, other coaches included Ghada Abouhaidar, JD '22, Kate Belyayeva, JD '22, Mason Osborn, JD '22, and Elise Driskell, JD '23. 
Sara Williams, JD ’06, visiting director of advocacy programs, said, “This competition was an absolute gauntlet with six preliminary rounds. I am so proud of our students and coaches for taking on the challenge of a new competition format and performing so well.”
Cumberland School of Law, which was founded on the basis of preparing practice-ready lawyers, holds a longstanding tradition of excellence in advocacy training. Currently, the school is ranked 4th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for trial advocacy, 3rd in the nation in the Gavel Rankings, and 5th in the nation in the Trial Competition Performance Rankings.
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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.