Legislation Alumni Society proclaims winners for 2021


From top left: Morris Arnold, Alayna Farris, Kutak Rock logo, LLP logo, and Smith Hurst, PLC logo.

The board of directors of the U of A School of Law Alumni Society has announced the winners of the Commitment to Justice and Career Champion 2021. The awards were created to recognize individuals and organizations who create national and local notoriety for themselves and the U of A School of Law through personal achievements and service to the community and the university.

This year the board of directors recognizes the achievements and contributions of two alumni and two law firms. Morris Arnold (JD ’68) receives the Commitment to Justice Award, Alayna Farris (JD ’16) receives the Early Career Award, Kutak Rock, LLP receives the Career Champion Award – Large Firm (10+) and Smith Hurst, PLC becomes the Career Champion Award – Small Firm (less than 10) presented.


Judge Morris Arnold graduated first in his class from U of A Law School, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Arkansas Law Review in 1968. In 1969 he received his LL.M. Graduated from Harvard and was appointed a Teaching Fellow in Law at Harvard Law School the following year. In 1970 he received a Knox Scholarship from Harvard to study at the University of London.

In 1982 he became General Counsel of the Republican Party of Arkansas and was elected President the next year. He was also a member of the Republican National Committee.

President Ronald Regan named him US District Judge for the Western District of Arkansas, where he served until 1992. President George HW Bush then tried him on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth District, where he served with his older brother, Richard Sheppard-Arnold, for 12 years. In 2008, Chief Justice John Roberts appointed him Judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, where he served five years, one year as President of the Court.

Arnold has taught at Indiana University Law School, where he also served briefly as dean, at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also served as assistant dean of the law school and vice president of the university, and as the Ben J. Altheimer Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He was visiting professor at Stanford Law School and taught at the University of Texas and University of Michigan summer schools. In 1978 he was a member of the Law School of Cambridge University and Visiting Fellow Commoner at Trinity College, Cambridge. He has published 10 books and numerous articles, mostly on English legal history and colonial Arkansas.

Arnold married Gail Kwaak Fellinger on October 16, 1992.


Alayna Farris, a Cherokee Nation citizen, joined the attorney general’s office in October 2016, serving as assistant attorney general. She serves as an in-house attorney for the Cherokee Nation and represents the nation in federal, state, and tribal courts. She is also a strong advocate of India’s Child Protection Act.

Prior to joining the Attorney General’s office, Farris worked for the Native American Rights Fund, better known as NARF, and the Cherokee County District Attorney’s Office. As a clerk for NARF, she focused on protecting Native American natural resources and promoting Native American human rights. During her time at NARF, Farris was selected as one of the recipients of the Siletz Fellowship because of her “tireless work ethic and” [her] voluminous work product. “

Prior to entering law school, Farris worked for the Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare program as a child welfare specialist. She campaigned for Cherokee children’s rights in state courts. Her passion for protecting the rights of the Cherokee children and their tribe began here and led them to law school to further protect those who cannot stand up for themselves. Farris has dedicated her career to serving her Native American community and looks forward to making a positive impact on the Indian land.

Farris and her husband Zak (Cherokee and Cheyenne River Sioux) live in Tahlequah with their children Zoey and Evan.


Kutak Rock, LLP is dedicated to improving legal education and providing opportunities for students to work in the law firm. Her lawyers started the Doc Talk series with the Law School’s Business Law Society. The Doc Talk series brings lawyers into class twice or three times per semester to discuss typical business law documents and real-world examples that relate directly to the materials studied. This program began five years ago and is set to continue this academic year. Kutak Rock LLP hosts the Summer Pre-Law Program (SPPARK) every summer.

In addition to her volunteer work, Kutak Rock LLP is a generous financial supporter of the law school. In memory of their colleagues, the company established the Kutak Rock Nicholas J. Alexander Memorial Scholarship Endowment for students who demonstrate academic excellence and community engagement. They provide lunch for students attending Doc Talks and sponsor travel for the Transaction Competition team. Kutak Rock’s service and financial support have been invaluable to the law school.

More than 50 years ago, the founders of Kutak Rock set out to create a different type of law firm – where attorneys are empowered and entrusted to practice lawyers with an entrepreneurial spirit, committed to doing what’s right for clients and get high quality legal advice within reach. As of January 2021, Kutak Rock, LLP had more than 500 lawyers in 18 offices across the United States. Kutak Rock, LLP is ranked one of the best law firms for female equity partners, with over 25 percent of the firm’s equity partners being female. The company was recognized as one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality” and has received a perfect 100 points in the Corporate Equality Index of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation for several years.


Smith Hurst, PLC is a longtime supporter of legal education at the U of A School of Law. The firm, which was founded by two alumni, has only hired graduates from the U of A School of Law and annually welcomes students from the law faculty as clerks for the firm. Both Jim Smith and Rebecca Hurst served as associate faculty and continued to mentor law students. They have also welcomed freshman law students into their homes during orientation, served on various law school committees, and are members of the Dean’s Circle Giving Society. The Faculty of Law thanks you for your continued commitment and support.

Smith Hurst, PLC is a leading regional business and private law firm based in northwest Arkansas. The firm’s law firms include mergers and acquisitions, corporate, commercial and corporate law, real estate law, tax law, and asset protection and estate planning. Smith Hurst’s foundation is a cohesive team of attorneys who share an excellent approach to serving clients, helping them achieve their business and personal goals, and working on solving their most critical problems.

About the awards: Alumni who have brought honor and distinction to themselves and the law school through personal achievement and service to law school, their community, and the legal profession may be honored with the Commitment to Justice Award (for those who are 10 years old or over or not in law school for a while) or the Commitment to Justice Early Career Award (for those who graduated less than 10 years ago).

The Career Champion Award recognizes a company or organization that has made significant, consistent contributions to the advancement of career services and student programs. Submissions can include activities such as participating in career programs, posting vacancies or internships, participating in on-campus interviews, appearing regularly at networking events, hosting a networking event, sponsoring academic programs, or supporting law school events. Large companies (11 members or more) and small companies (10 members or less) are considered separately.

The Board of Directors of the Law Alumni Society will recognize the 2021 and 2022 award winners at the Awards Dinner in April 2022 during the School of Law Alumni Reunion Weekend. Nominations for the Awards 2022 are now possible. For more information on the awards, recipients, or how to submit a nomination, visit the awards website.

About the University of Arkansas: As a flagship institution in Arkansas, the U of A offers internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $ 2.2 billion to the Arkansas economy by providing new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activities, and training in professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation places the U of A in the top 3% of US colleges and universities with the highest research activity. US News & World Report ranks the U of A among the best public universities in the country. See how the U of A works to create a better world on the Arkansas Research News.