UNC School of Law Announces 2021 Alumni Association Awards

March 8, 2021

Six will be recognized for their significant contributions to the legal field.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law Alumni Association will honor five exceptional graduates and one exemplary faculty member at its annual Alumni Awards.

The awards recognize members of the UNC School of Law community who embody the law school’s mission to serve the legal profession; the people and institutions of North Carolina; the nation; and the world with ethics and dedication to the cause of justice.

W. Louis Bissette Jr. ’68
Kristi L. Jones ’92
Jonathan “Jon” A. Barrett ’78
B. Leigh Wicclair ’11
Professor John Conley
Charles T. Plambeck ’86

Six Law Alumni Association Awards will be presented:

  • W. Louis Bissette Jr. ’68, of Asheville, N.C., a partner and current of counsel at McGuire Wood & Bissette Law Firm, will be presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing his career that has been highly distinguished as well as his achievements and contributions that are widely recognized as significant and outstanding in the legal field. Prior to joining his current firm, Bissette worked for Wachovia Bank and Trust Company in Charlotte, N.C., as well as Western Carolina Bank and Trust Company, which brought him to Asheville. At his firm, he practices law and focuses on the areas of economic development, land use and zoning, corporate law, and more for private individuals and large businesses/institutions. Bissette is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association as well as the American Bar Association, and he serves on several boards, including the University of North Carolina System Board of Governors (serving as Chair from 2015-2018); Wake Forest University; Mountain Area Health Education Center; Asheville Community Betterment Foundation; Park National Bank; and WCI, Inc. He is also the former mayor of Asheville. Bissette, above all else, is a proud husband, father, and grandfather.
  • Kristi L. Jones ’92, of Raleigh, N.C., Chief of Staff for the Office of Governor of North Carolina, will be presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award, for her accomplishments and contributions that have enhanced the school and the profession of law at the local, state, national and international levels. A proud Wilson, NC native who credits her success to her family and community’s investment in her journey, Jones is an alumnae of North Carolina Central University, where she received the foundation she needed to get where she currently is today. While at Carolina Law, she was very active in the Black Law Student Association (“BLSA”), both at the law school and nationally, and she went on to serve as the Southern Regional Director. After leaving Carolina Law, she started her legal career back in Wilson, NC, at the Opportunities Industrialization Center (a nonprofit where she gained an appreciation for the gaps nonprofits fill in needed services). Jones started her public service career under Governor James B. Hunt Jr., serving as the Executive Director of the North Carolina Initiative on Race, and in 2001, she joined Roy Cooper, the newly elected North Carolina Attorney General. In 2017, once Cooper was elected as Governor of North Carolina, he appointed Jones as Chief of Staff, where she became the first African American female to serve in this role and one of the very few in the entire country. Her main role as Chief of Staff includes implementing the Governor’s agenda and goals by working with cabinet secretaries, agencies, staff, communities, and corporations to improve the quality of life for all North Carolinians. Jones is truly humbled by all the blessing in her life, focusing daily on trying to give back more than she receives.   
  • Jonathan “Jon” A. Barrett ’78, of Linville, N.C., owner of Barrett Law P.C., will be presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award, for his accomplishments and contributions that have enhanced the school and the profession of law at the local, state, national and international levels. A double Tar Heel, Barrett served in the United States Navy as a supply officer on a destroyer escort from 1972 to 1975, before attending Carolina Law. After graduation, he moved to Charlotte, NC and practiced with Kennedy Coving Lobdell & Hickman, L.L.P. for over 20 years, leading the business law department at the firm. In 2000, he joined Mayer Brown LLP and became the managing partner of the Charlotte office. While there, he specialized in collegiate sports law and media rights agreements, representing The Big Ten Conference (including creating The Big Ten Network and expanding the conference membership) in all its legal matters for 13 years. After retiring in 2013, Barrett moved to Linville, NC and opened his current firm in 2014, where he continues to serve as a consultant to The Big Ten Conference and as a member of the Board of Directors of The Big Ten Network. Lastly, Barrett is a proud member of the Board of Directors of Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, and over the years, he has led a variety of continuing legal education seminars and business conferences for attorneys throughout the country.
  • B. Leigh Wicclair ’11, of Garner, N.C., a senior staff attorney for the Pro Bono Resource Center and Director of the Restorative Justice Project, will receive the Outstanding Recent Graduate Award for her achievements that have brought credit to the school, the legal profession, and our society. After law school, Wicclair lived in Philadelphia, PA, and began her legal career as a public defender with the Defender Association of Philadelphia. She then worked as an Equal Justice Works/ AmeriCorps Legal Fellow with Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, a nonprofit focused on increasing opportunities for individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system. Following her fellowship, Leigh worked as a Judicial Law Clerk for the PA First Judicial District Court of Common Pleas. Following her time in Philadelphia, Wicclair returned to the Triangle and began her work at the Pro Bono Resource Center. She enjoys working with law student volunteers, especially those whose focus is on driver’s license restoration, and the UNC School of Law Pro Bono Program’s Juvenile Parole Project. Due to her pro bono efforts, she received the UNC School of Law Pro Bono Program’s 2019 Alumni Publico Award. Lastly, Wicclair is a member of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice; Wake County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Committee; and North Carolina Bar Association.
  • Professor John M. Conley, of Chapel Hill, N.C., William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor of Law, will receive the Professor S. Elizabeth Gibson Award for Faculty Excellence for embodying the outstanding qualities of integrity, legal scholarship, exemplary teaching, and commitment to service to UNC School of Law and the University. Professor Conley attended Harvard University as an undergraduate student and went on to earn both a Ph.D. in Anthropology and a Juris Doctor from Duke University. After practicing law in Boston, M.A. and Charlotte, N.C., he joined the UNC School of Law’s faculty in 1983, with one of his initial assignments being to develop and teach Carolina Law’s first Intellectual Property course. Over time, he has also developed and taught courses around Scientific Evidence, Biotechnology, and Life Sciences Law as well as a professional responsibility course called The Law Firm (where he and his students interview a wide range of practicing lawyers (especially UNC graduates) about their professional lives). One constant throughout his career has been first-year Civil Procedure, which he has taught almost every year since 1983. Professor Conley’s research interests include the anthropological study of institutions and organizations—including law firms; investment organizations; corporations; and scientific enterprises—and the application of intellectual property law to emerging technologies. His current research project, conducted in collaboration with UNC’s Center for Bioethics, is examining the governance of new gene editing technologies. An established author, his long list of books written include Rules Versus Relationships: The Ethnography of Legal Discourse, Just Words: Law, Language, and Power, which recently appeared in a third edition, and multiple editions of two casebooks.
  • Charles T. Plambeck ’86, of Princeton, N.J., will receive the Extraordinary Service Award for showing exemplary volunteer service to the law school that has enhanced and brought credit to UNC School of Law as well as benefitted students, faculty, employees, and graduates. Plambeck has deep ties to North Carolina, moving to Hillsborough, N.C. at the age of 15, graduating from Orange High School, and attending UNC as both an undergraduate and law student. After graduation, he joined the International Division of the Office of the Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, D.C. and eventually moved on to the law firm of Caplin & Drysdale, making partner in 1993. Plambeck moved to London a few years later and joined Bankers Trust as a managing director, moving on to join Citigroup abroad a few years later. Citigroup eventually brought him back to the states in the early 2000s, and he now serves as the Managing Director for them in New York City. Plambeck’s involvement with the law school has included leading the search committee for the new Associate Dean for Advancement; tackling the law school’s rankings with various Carolina Law faculty, helping the school reach a Top 20 ranking; establishing the Walser Family Fund (which supports first-generation college students); participating in the Cornerstone Club as well as the Law Foundation Board and Campaign Steering Committee; and recently working along the Black Law Student Association and its initiatives (including a letter to the U.S. News on systemic bias in rankings). His most recent accomplishment is having a son graduate in 2020 from Carolina Law.

Read more about the Law Alumni Association’s awards.

The law school is planning to recognize these award recipients in a safe and responsible way. Information on a virtual celebration will be available soon.

Please contact Carrie Clifford (director of alumni and donor relations) at carrie.clifford@unc.edu with questions or comments.