Law Professor to Direct Nationally Ranked Practice Court

  • News Photo 3327
    Professor Jerry Powell received Baylor's Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching in 2003.
  • News Photo 3328
    Prof. Jerry Powell has completed almost two decades as a Baylor law professor.
Dec. 21, 2005

by Alan Hunt, (254) 710-6271

Gerald R. Powell, The Abner V. McCall Professor of Evidence at Baylor Law School, has been named the new director of Baylor Law School's Practice Court Program. Powell, who recently was named a Master Teacher, the highest honor granted to Baylor faculty members, will assume leadership of the Practice Court Program, which has been the bedrock of Baylor's advocacy training since 1922.

He takes over as permanent Practice Court Professor from Baylor University Interim President William D. Underwood, who has directed the program for many years. Underwood is serving as Baylor's interim president until Jan. 1, 2006, when Dr. John M. Lilley takes office as the new president of Baylor. Underwood, who also serves as The Leon Jaworski Professor of Practice and Procedure and Master Teacher, was elected as the new president of Mercer University, Ga., effective July 1, 2006.

Underwood said Powell ranks among the "legendary teachers" in Baylor Law School's illustrious history. "He is also a tremendously accomplished trial lawyer," he said. "I could not be more pleased to be succeeded by Jerry because I know the Practice Court Program will be in the best hands possible. He is a worthy successor to a tradition that includes Judges (James) Alexander and (Frank) Wilson, Matt Dawson, and Louis Muldrow."

Law Dean Brad Toben said Powell will be "yet another masterful Practice Court professor." He added, "He comes from a distinguished background in both the courtroom and the classroom and has worked in the evidence and trial advocacy exercises of the program for nearly two decades. Just recently, his designation as a Master Teacher by President Underwood only confirmed what our students have long known. Jerry has the experience in the program, and the insight into what makes it our gemstone, to assure that the rich traditions and unparalleled rigors of the Practice Court/Evidence experience will be continued in full fashion, to the lasting benefit of our students. Jerry has always stepped forward for every need of our entire advocacy program. His doing so again to assume leadership of the program predictably has been no exception. Our students will again be the beneficiaries of the best."

Professor Emeritus Matt Dawson, who directed the Practice Court Program from 1971 through 1983, taught Powell during his student years at Baylor Law School. "I am extremely delighted to learn that Jerry Powell will replace a great lawyer and teacher of our Practice Court Program," he said. "Like Bill Underwood, and also Louis Muldrow, his predecessors, Jerry Powell gave up a highly successful law practice to teach future members of our profession. He brings to this course invaluable experience as a trial lawyer, a keen intellect, and exceptional teaching skills -- one of the best of a very fine faculty in our Law School. We are so fortunate."

Professor Emeritus Louis Muldrow, who taught Practice Court full-time from 1983 until 2000, said, "I am delighted that Professor Jerry Powell has been selected to teach and head the Practice Court Program. No better selection could have been made. He is a Baylor Law graduate, and is a product of the program. He has had years of experience in the courtroom, conducting jury trials. And he has now had years of experience in the classroom at Baylor, teaching both evidence and Practice Court. He will, I am confident, continue the unique traditions of this important course. Practice Court students should rest assured that they will continue to get their money's worth."

Earning his bachelor's degree from Baylor in 1974, Powell received his law degree with honors from Baylor Law School in 1977. As a law student, he was a member of the National Mock Trial Team and executive editor of the Baylor Law Review. Following graduation, he joined the Dallas law firm of Vial, Hamilton, Koch & Knox, where he had an active trial and appellate practice with the firm and was made a partner in 1982. Four years later, Powell returned to Baylor Law School to teach, and in 1987, he was appointed The Abner V. McCall Professor of Evidence Law.

Powell currently teaches classes in evidence and advanced evidence. He also teaches trial advocacy in Baylor's Practice Court Program, as well as in an advanced trial advocacy seminar. He also serves as coach of Baylor's award-winning Mock Trial teams. In addition to teaching, Powell writes and speaks extensively on evidence and trial advocacy topics and has co-authored two books on Texas evidence, A Practical Guide to the Texas Rules of Civil Evidence and Texas Rules of Civil Evidence with Objections. Powell is an associate of the American Board of Trial Advocates, a professional association of experienced trial lawyers. Additionally, he serves on the Administration of Rules of Evidence Committee for the State Bar of Texas.

His exceptional teaching has been acknowledged throughout his career at Baylor by frequent invitations from graduating law students to deliver the law school commencement address. Powell said the Practice Court Program has been a "defining institution" at Baylor Law School for a very long time. "Because of its rigor it really transforms people into the kind of lawyers that succeed," he said. "And when they get out there and succeed, other people see it and they know where it came from; they know its origins. I think the legend of Baylor's Practice Court has grown that way."

Powell said there have been some "tremendous" Practice Court teachers who have really left a mark on their students, and the students, in turn, then go out and make a mark in the law and practice, he pointed out. "That reflects back on Practice Court," he said. "Practice Court is something the students always remember about their law school experience. We've got a lot of great teachers and courses and programs and experiences here in law school. But it seems that the thing they remember most is Practice Court. Maybe it's because Practice Court is the last thing they do before they get out and because the program is so demanding and hard. They feel a strong bonding with their classmates that they went through this together and lived and survived. I think they all feel a certain pride at having done that. So our graduates really become some of our strongest advocates for the Practice Court Program."

When not teaching at Baylor Law School, Powell enjoys outdoor activities, including hunting, backpacking, and camping. He is the Scoutmaster of Troop 453, Boy Scouts of America. He also enjoys pursuing his interests in history and historic ship modeling. On display in his faculty office at Baylor Law School is a highly detailed model of British Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson's 18th Century warship, HMS Victory, which took Powell 11 years to build, working in his spare time. He serves as a director on the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum Advisory Board. Professor Powell originated the Baylor-Waco Civil War Round Table in the late 1980's.

Powell and his wife, Barbara, have two children, Colin, 17, and Calley, 11. They are members of Austin Avenue United Methodist Church, where Powell has been active on various church committees over the years. Reflecting his interest in history, Powell was a project leader on the Waco Historic Preservation Task Force which eventually resulted in the adoption of the Waco Historic Preservation ordinance. He also served on the Friends of the McLennan County Library.

Baylor Law School has been featured in a number of prestigious top law school rankings. The U.S.News & World Report recently ranked the school's advocacy program as the nation's sixth best. And in a previous nationwide assessment of America's law schools, The Princeton Review described Baylor Law School as "the Marine Corps of law schools." The Review termed Baylor's Practice Court Program as "arguably the best training ground in the nation for practical lawyering."

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