The law school has traditionally been shielded from scrutiny,said David
Dominguez, the previous duplication department supervisor, who retired from the
law school in 2001 after 37 years working there.
"They have their own rules, they have their own foundation, and they get their own money, so they do what they want to do," he said. "It doesn't go anywhere, I guess, because they have a lot of lawyers."
Kathryn Holt Richardson, a former assistant dean who recently left the University to work at a legal search firm, said she had a pleasant experience at the law school.
"It was a good ride," Richardson said. "I'm a woman of color, and I got promoted very quickly."
She said though she was surprised Nisbett's contract was not renewed, she believes the law school is under "excellent leadership."
"Any top law school is a competitive environment for students, which can lead to challenges for all of the people serving those students," Richardson said. "It's not unique to UT."
Hiring to improve the law school's ranking is not necessarily a bad idea, she added.
"People decide which law school to go to based on its ranking," Richardson said. "It is a fact that graduates of the top schools have an edge at every level of the job search after law school. It's a fact I don't think the University should close its eyes to."
Dean Powers said the decision to not rehire Kovach and Nisbett "had nothing to do with the rankings."
"As far as rankings, we are interested in building the most highly respected faculty that we can," Powers said. "Those rankings do affect the students that are applying here."
He said the decisions to release Kovach and Nisbett were not made to save money on the mediation clinic or the legal writing program.
"We're not going to cut back on the funding to either of the programs, and indeed, we've added funding to the programs," Powers said.
While he denied extending employment offers to faculty spouses to encourage them to work for the law school, Powers did say that husband and wife professors Lawrence Sager and Jane Cohen were recruited together.
"We were very interested in hiring both of them," he said.
Powers acknowledged that the face of the law school is changing.
"Among a large part of faculty, there's a sense that quite a bit is getting accomplished," he said. "There's a sense of moving ahead."