Making an Impact: College of Law Spotlights Black, Pierce

Through teaching, research, and service, our faculty are making an impact on student lives, on our community, and on the world. Here’s a look at two College of Law faculty members, each of whom will retire at the end of the semester after about forty years at UT.

Jerry Black

Jerry-BlackFresh out of law school, Associate Professor Jerry Black went to work at Legal Services of Nashville. He quickly realized he was in over his head.

“I had no idea what to do,” he said. “Law school had taught me how to think like a lawyer, but not how to be a lawyer.”

While colleagues helped him through those early days, the feeling of being unprepared had a huge impact on Black. He realized he wanted to teach in a place where he could help law students get some real-world experience before they graduate.

Black, who came to UT in 1975, has devoted much of his career to working in the college’s Legal Clinic. He’s served as its director four times over the years and remains a member of the clinic faculty.

“Jerry Black has personified the best in clinical legal education for nearly forty years,” said Doug Blaze, dean of the College of Law. “He has been the heart and soul of our Legal Clinic. He has taught several generations of law students and lawyers, and served literally thousands of Tennesseans in need of legal assistance.”

UT has the oldest continually operating clinical program in the nation. Founded in 1947, the Legal Clinic gives students, supervised by faculty, real-world experience in advocacy, business law, mediation, immigration issues, and other areas. The legal services are provided free and cases are referred to the clinic by the court system and are legal aid organizations.

UT law students aren’t required to take a clinical class, but most of them do. Some take multiple semesters.

Black estimates that he’s supervised more than 500 aspiring young lawyers in the Legal Clinic. He hears from some of them after they’ve graduated and gone to work.

“They appreciate the fact that they had a leg up,” he said.

Black earned his bachelor’s degree from Rhodes College and his law degree from Vanderbilt University. Before coming to UT, he oversaw clinical programs at Vanderbilt and directed the Knoxville Legal Aid Society.

Once he retires, he plans to enjoy his five grandchildren, travel, and tend his fifteen-acre spread in Loudon County.

“I will be mowing a lot of grass,” he said.

Carl Pierce

CARL-PIERCECarl Pierce was all set to go to work for a Wall Street law firm when he graduated from Yale Law School—until he met with the dean of UT’s College of Law, who was recruiting on his campus.

That meeting had a profound impact on Pierce; he realized that UT provided a perfect opportunity for him to work with students and pursue his love of legal history.

He came to UT in 1972 as assistant professor and assistant dean for admissions.

During his forty-two years at UT, Pierce has served as director of the College of Law’s Center for Entrepreneurial Law and taught courses in contracts, business associations, professional responsibility, and legal history. He currently serves as the W. Allen Separk Distinguished Professor of Law.

“I’ve always loved the teaching end of it,” he said, and then adds with a laugh, “except the writing and grading of exams.”

After all these years, Pierce said, “I can go just about anywhere in this state and run into former students.”

He’s now teaching students who are the children of former students.

“No one is more committed to serving the law school than Carl Pierce,” Blaze said. “Over the years, serving in all of his roles, he’s provided invaluable service to the college, university, and legal profession.”

Aside from his college duties, Pierce also has taught continuing education courses and has been active with the local, state, and American Bar Associations.

“I’ve always been very engaged with the practicing bar because I thought I could learn a lot from them,” he said.

Pierce said he’s also found it important to “cross Cumberland” to stay in touch with the rest of campus.

He was president of the Faculty Senate in the late 1970s and has served on several campus-wide committees. From 2009 to 2012, he directed the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, and he is now writing a book about Sen. Baker’s political and legal career.

“It was a wonderful time, a real treat to get to work with Senator Baker. My respect and my fondness for Sen. Baker and his wife, Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, heightened during that time,” he said.

But toward the end of his time at the Baker Center, Pierce attended a College of Law graduation and realized he hadn’t taught any of the students. He knew it was time to return to teaching.

“This place was my love and I decided I wanted to finish here,” he said.

After he retires, Pierce plans to enjoy his three grandchildren, volunteer with local legal agencies, and continue his periodic treks to Washington, DC, as he completes his book on Baker.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)

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