Law Alumni Society 2023 Awards
Sec. Rodney Slater
Commitment To Justice Award
Rodney Slater graduated with his Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1980. He became an assistant attorney general upon graduation from law school and remained in that position until 1982. In 1983, Bill Clinton named Slater one of his assistants, where he worked first in the economic and community affairs areas, and then later as special assistant for community and minority affairs. In 1987, Clinton named Slater to the Arkansas Highway Commission, where he became chairman in 1992. During this time, Slater served as director of government affairs for Arkansas State University. Following the election of Clinton as President of the United States, Slater was named the director of the Federal Highway Administration, and in 1997, he was named Secretary of Transportation, a position he held until the end of the Clinton administration. Today he is with the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs LLP, where he helps clients re-envision their business interests to promote a more environmentally sound, sustainable, and safer transportation infrastructure. Slater supports the law school and students in many ways; from speaking at the 2021 commencement ceremony, to mentoring students. He generously endowed the Six Pioneers Scholarship ensuring financial support for students in perpetuity and promoting diversity in the legal profession. He is a member of the Dean’s Executive Advisory Board and served on the Delta Advisory Committee, and Capital Campaign Committee.
Commitment To Justice Award
Christy Jones earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Arkansas in 1974 and her Juris Doctor from the School of Law in 1977. In a career spanning more than 40 years, Jones has become one of the nation’s most respected products liability and healthcare litigation lawyers. She is a trailblazer for generations of female and regional lawyers. She has served as national trial counsel representing various corporations and has tried cases throughout the United States. In many of these instances, serving as lead counsel in bellwether trials. She is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Attorneys. Jones, now of counsel at Butler Snow, remains dedicated to the University of Arkansas. She is a regular contributor to the Law Dean’s Fund for Excellence, the Law Student Emergency Fund, and is a member of the Arkansas Law Review Academy. She was a major contributor to the Delta Gamma House Project at the University of Arkansas and in 2019, she along with colleagues at Butler Snow, created the Butler Snow Christy D. Jones Endowed Scholarship Fund that provides scholarship support to law students with a demonstrated interest in litigation.
Early Career Award
Dequeshia Prude-Wheeler graduated with her Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 2017. She is the owner and founder of Prude Legacy Law Group, PLLC. Prude-Wheeler began her solo practice virtually during COVID; to create a space for people of color to go to for legal services. Being virtual allowed her to retain clients across the state while keeping her costs low. Prior to launching her own firm, she worked in ethics and compliance for Walmart, as an attorney for the Law Group of Northwest Arkansas, and served as legal counsel for Mercy Hospital. Prude-Wheeler was named to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal Class of 2021 Fast 15. She has been very active with the law school, mentoring and speaking to diverse students. She has served as a judge in multiple trial competitions and is always willing to volunteer her time with the law school. Prude-Wheeler represents the Arkansas Bar Association on the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission and serves in various capacities in her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc.
Melissa Lee, a member of the Class of 1999, graduated with her Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas School of Law a semester early in December, 1998. She also received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Arkansas in 1986. She spent 30 years with the U.S. Army Reserve, retiring as Colonel in 2015, a position she held from June 1995 through retirement. Previous roles with the U.S. Army Reserve include Captain (1985-1995) and Deputy Director of Communications Commercialization Division (2008-2009). Lee previously held roles at Tyson and served as the chair of the Veterans Business Resource Group. In her current role as a real estate broker, Lee holds the certification of Military Housing Specialist. She is a Foundation Ambassador for the Women in Military Service for America Foundation, Inc, a member of the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals, and previously served on the board for the Veterans Resource and Information Center at the University of Arkansas. Lee received the Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award in 1988 which is presented annually to the top 28 company-grade officers in the active Army, Army Reserve, and National Guard.
Public Service award
Hope E. Goins received her Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 2006. She currently serves as the Majority Staff Director of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security. In this role, she advises Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson on the oversight of the Department of Homeland Security and national security throughout the Executive Branch. Goins is responsible for advancing and coordinating all Committee policy and legislation with the leadership of the House of Representatives. During her 15 years in public service, and a decade on Capitol Hill, her work has impacted millions of people. She has been recognized by Roll Call and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies for leading one of the most diverse staffs on Capitol Hill. She was also named one of the 40 under 40 policy leaders by The Root and Impact DC. She has served as a panelist on voting rights education, is a board member of the House Chief of Staff Association and the Black Women’s Congressional Alliance. She is a member of the Congressional Black Associates, Women in Government Relations, and the United Negro College Fund Hall of Honors. Goins is active in her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc. and author of an important children’s book called “The Adventures of Chloe and Chris: The Three Branches of Government.” The book series is designed to nurture the curiosity of young readers and their families and equip them with the knowledge to grow into more conscious citizens.
The Honorable Christy D. Comstock
Gayle Pettus Pontz Award
Christy Comstock earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Arkansas in 1989 and her Juris Doctor from the School of law in 1992. Following graduation from law school, her focus was quickly drawn to transportation-related litigation and, in a law career spanning nearly 30 years, has become one of Arkansas’ most formidable trucking defense attorneys—if not the nation. She founded the annual Arkansas Trucking Seminar, considered a premier gathering in the transportation industry, attracting professionals nationwide and from Canada each year to Northwest Arkansas. Comstock is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Attorneys. Federal clerkships early in her career inspired aspirations of one day being a judge, and on May 1, 2021, Comstock was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas as a federal magistrate judge. She is active with the law school community volunteering to judge moot court competitions, and welcoming groups of 1L students to her home during orientation.
The Gayle Pettus Pontz Award is presented by the Women’s Law Student Association to an honoree annually who best represents the accomplishments of women and the legal community as a whole and who promotes WLSA's objectives of helping women thrive in law school, creating a community that will raise awareness of women's issues and advancing women in the legal profession.
Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, PLLC
Career Champion Award – Large Firm (10+)
Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard PLLC has been a long time supporter of the School of Law. The firm is dedicated to enhancing legal education, diversity within the profession, and opportunities for students to work within the firm. Each year, Mitchell Williams provides extern and clerkship opportunities to students and participate in on campus interviews. A large percentage of their attorneys are alumni of the School of Law, returning to campus to volunteer as guest lecturers in the classrooms and serving in advisory capacity on the law school’s Business Law Advisory Board. In addition to their volunteer service activities, Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, PLLC is a generous financial supporter of the law school. The firm has made a multi-year pledge to support the Constitution Days Delta Initiative and the Business Law Program. The Mitchell Williams Legal Diversity Fellowship at the School of Law was created by the firm to enhance diversity efforts amongst students and Mitchell Williams has supported an annual scholarship for the Chair of the Board of Advocates since 1997.
Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C. is a full-service corporate law firm providing strategic, comprehensive legal counsel to clients for everything from day-to-day needs to the most complex, sophisticated business matters. Established in 1954, the firm has offices in Little Rock, Rogers and Jonesboro, Arkansas and Austin, Texas.
Odom Law Firm
Career Champion Award – Small Firm (Less than 10)
Founded by Bobby Lee Odom (J.D. ’70) in 1982, the Odom Law Firm focuses its resources on the practice of personal injury law. The firm has exclusively hired University of Arkansas School of Law graduates, many of whom participated in moot court competitions while students. Over the last few years, the firm has increased their volunteer involvement with the School of Law. Members of the firm serve on panels for student discussion events, volunteer as judges for trial competitions, and have hosted a dinner for a group of incoming 1L students during orientation. In addition to their volunteer activities, the firm sponsors a financial award for the student selected as “Best Advocate” during the William H. Sutton Barrister's Trial Competition. After the final round of the competition, the firm hosts a reception for all of the participants and members of BOA. The Odom Firm’s generosity directly enhances the legal education of our students through skill building.
The Odom Law Firm has extensive experience handling cases ranging from traffic court to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Offering comprehensive legal services, including settlement of claims, mediation, litigation and appellate advocacy.