After a career spanning over thirty-five years in academia and government service, Professor Powell took emeritus status in 2014, and now works on continuing his scholarship and, nationally, as a legal consultant and expert witness on matters of legal ethics. Previously, Powell served as Dean of Law and Miles and Ann Loadholt Professor of Law at the University of South Carolina School of Law (2004–2014) and as Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Missouri — Kansas City School of Law (1994–2003).
Prior to his deanships, Powell was Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (1979–1994), where he taught legal ethics, administrative law, and real property. Powell is widely published in prominent legal journals, including the universities of North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Emory, Fordham, Hofstra, Wake Forest, and Washington University in St. Louis.
Before entering academia, Powell served as Associate Regional Counsel of the Department of Housing & Urban Development, Boston (1973–1977). After H.U.D., he commenced teaching as a Graduate Law Teaching Fellow of Harvard Law School, where he received his LL.M. degree (1979). Powell also holds a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School (1973) and a B.A. from the University of Missouri at Kansas City (1970). He is a member of the Wisconsin and Massachusetts State Bars and has taught as a visiting professor at the University of Oregon and Washington University in St. Louis.
Professor Powell is a Life Member of the American Law Institute; an At-Large Fellow of the American Bar Foundation; and a Life Member of the NAACP. His civic activities have included membership on the Board of Directors of Consumer Reports Magazine (1993–2009), where he served as Board Secretary and Chair of the Audit Committee; membership (and outside reader) on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam Drafting Committee (1993–1995); and service on the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Death Penalty Resources Center (2010–2014). He currently serves on the Board of Common Cause of South Carolina.
Powell was awarded the Missouri Bar President's Award in 1999 and 2000; the UMKC School of Education Alumni Achievement Award in 2001, and the UMKC Law Foundation's President's Award in 2002.