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May 2, 2016
By: Carl Nathe

Allison Connelly, the James and Mary T. Lassiter Clinical Professor in the College of Law and founding director of the University of Kentucky College of Law Legal Clinic, is the 2016 recipient of the William E. Lyons Award, co-sponsored by the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration and the Department of Political Science, part of the College of Arts and Sciences. The annual honor is given to one person in recognition of a long record of outstanding service to UK, the community and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

The award is named for the late "Bill" Lyons, a professor of political science and public administration, who during his much-admired tenure at UK served as director of the Martin School and chaired the political science department.

Connelly is also the college's first assistant, associate and full clinical professor. Before joining the school's faculty on a full-time basis, Connelly served as an adjunct instructor and professor from 1986 through 1996.

Now in her 20th year as the founding director of the Kentucky Mock Trial Championship, Connelly also serves as the Law Trial Advocacy Board's faculty advisor and national team coach. UK's mock trial teams have been nationally ranked in 11 of the past 16 years.

In a letter to the committee nominating Connelly for the honor, Lisa Fenner wrote, "Allison embodies what this award is all about: career accomplishments, service to the university, the community and the state of Kentucky."

Fenner added, "Professor Connelly prides herself on having never charged one dime for her legal work. She represented indigent clients in criminal cases, and now oversees approximately 15 students per semester in their representation of low income individuals in civil cases."

Connelly earned her bachelor's degree in political science from UK in 1980 and her juris doctor from the UK College of Law in 1983.

Prior to joining the law school on a full-time basis in 1997, she spent 13 years as a state public defender providing direct representation, including death penalty representation, to needy individuals at all levels of the criminal justice system. She rose through the ranks to become the only woman ever named as Kentucky’s Public Advocate, the head of Kentucky's statewide public defender system. Professor Connelly has numerous published appellate decisions to her credit.

Connelly teaches litigation skills, criminal procedure, criminal trial process and legal writing, and is the director of the Kentucky Legal Education Opportunity (KLEO) Summer Institute. She has received numerous awards for teaching and public service including the Kentucky Bar Association’s 2015 Donated Legal Services Award, the 2011 Kentucky Bar Association’s Service to Young Lawyers Award, the 2011 NAACP Empowerment Award and the 2009 UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award.

Merl Hackbart, longtime UK professor and interim director of the Martin School said, "Allison is a sterling example of a lawyer/professor who loves the law, her students, the community and the university. She believes a well-prepared legal advocate can force the legal system to work for all people. Her impact on students goes far beyond the subject matter of the courses she teaches and the presentations she makes."

Lyons, the award's namesake, died in 1994. He is credited with crafting the charter which created a merged government for Lexington and Fayette County in the early 1970s. The Lexington Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG) is now well into its sixth decade of existence.