A Tribute to Bill Powers

March 10, 2019 | Spotlight

Our friend and colleague William Powers, Jr. passed away March 10, 2019. Bill became “of counsel” to Jackson Walker in August of 2015 after stepping down as President of The University of Texas at Austin.

Bill was the 28th president of The University of Texas at Austin from 2006 to 2015. As president, Bill oversaw an ambitious project to reform the undergraduate curriculum, the creation of the Dell Medical School and the School of Undergraduate Studies, an expansion of blended and online learning, and an historic $3.1 billion capital campaign. In 2013, he was elected chairman of the prestigious Association of American Universities, an organization of the 62 leading public and private universities in the United States and Canada.

Prior to assuming the role of UT president, Bill served for five years as Dean of The University of Texas School of Law, where he was a celebrated teacher of both undergraduate and law school courses.

One of the country’s most respected legal scholars, Bill was the author of several books and dozens of articles on tort law and legal philosophy. He was a member of the American Law Institute, where he was co-reporter for the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Apportionment of Liability and the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Liability for Physical Harm. Bill argued 50 cases before the Texas Supreme Court, and he led the investigation into fraud and corruption at Enron Corporation.

Bill was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including being named the University of California at Berkeley’s Alumnus of the Year for 2014 and being appointed Chevalier (Knight) of the Order of the Légion d’Honneur on the proposal of President Nicolas Sarkozy of France.

“Bill was a fantastic leader, and a towering intellect, but was interested in every single person he met,” said Firmwide Managing Partner C. Wade Cooper. “I am fortunate to have called him a friend for four decades and we were blessed to have him as a colleague.”

Austin partner Cale McDowell, who worked closely with Bill at UT Austin and at Jackson Walker, said: “Bill was a leading scholar, an articulate defender and thoughtful reformer of higher education, and one of the great attorneys of his generation. But above all, he was a teacher. Bill changed the world for the better by tirelessly connecting with, investing in, and inspiring his colleagues, students, and friends. It was a great honor to have had him as a friend and mentor.”

Austin office Managing Partner Matt Dow said: “Bill loved being a lawyer and remembered that as lawyers, we are in a profession first and business second. Whether it was helping a first year lawyer figure out a problem or coaching a veteran lawyer on a complex case, Bill was a gracious and engaging colleague.”

“Bill made an indelible mark on the practice of law across the state and the nation through his scholarship and leadership,” said Dallas partner W. Ross Forbes, Jr., who leads the Firm’s Trial and Appellate Litigation practice. “His teaching and mentorship have shaped the minds of generations of lawyers across our state and throughout the country.”

Bill is survived by his wife Kim Heilbrun and five children.

A public Celebration of Life was held on the Main Mall at The University of Texas at Austin on Friday, April 12. Watch the memorial service and view UT Austin’s video tribute to Bill.

Visit the UT Austin website for more information on the life and legacy of Bill Powers.

In This Story

C. Wade Cooper
Partner, Austin

James Matthew Dow
Partner, Austin

W. Ross Forbes, Jr.
Partner, Dallas

Cale McDowell
Partner, Austin