January 2014 Bar Bulletin
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Profile / Jack Connelly

Leveling the Playing Field

By Nathan P. Roberts

 

The first thing a visitor notices when stepping into our Tacoma office is the large painting of Joan of Arc that hangs behind the front desk. The young heroine is depicted sitting on a white stallion, holding a banner aloft, leading her armies against a fortified castle.

Jack Connelly, the firm's founder and managing partner, commissioned the acrylic painting by a Dartmouth art student. For Jack, Joan of Arc embodies the practice and philosophy of Connelly Law Offices. The words "Truth," "Justice," "Equal Access" and "Accountability" are engraved in rocks outside the front door.

"Jack absolutely loves Joan of Arc," his wife Angela confides. "She represents the most improbable battlefield leader in history, a young shepherd girl, in 1429 taking charge of what remained of the armies of France, at a time when a woman in such a position, much less a 17-year-old girl, was unheard of, and then marching against the most powerful armies in the world - and winning. Even more importantly, her strategy and leadership were always driven by a deep and abiding faith. That's the model Jack tries to follow."

Winning for a vulnerable client against improbable odds is what initially drew Jack to the courtroom; over the years, it has become the hallmark of his practice. Whether representing children who are physically or sexually assaulted, students who are discriminated against or bullied, families who have lost members due to corporate or government malfeasance, or citizens who have been injured or maimed by faulty products, pharmaceuticals or medical procedures, Jack is always ready to take on the fight for justice (and win).

A look into Jack's background reveals that he has always thrived in the heat of competition. Jack grew up swimming in Tacoma with legendary coach Dick Hannula. When it came time for high school, instead of going to Wilson High (where Hannula was in the process of coaching the swim team to 24 consecutive state championships), Jack went with the underdog and chose to attend his local high school, Lakes. Jack helped lift the team to second place in state (behind Wilson), and he became the school's first All-American swimmer.

After graduation, Jack enrolled at Stanford University with plans to continue his swimming. Then disaster struck. Jack suffered an extremely serious knee injury and went through two major surgeries. Jack was advised that his swimming career was probably ended. After the second surgery, he was placed in a cast for six months and told that he would have to skip his first quarter at Stanford. When they finally removed the cast, it took a tremendous effort just to get across the pool and the idea of swimming at the top collegiate level seemed a pipe dream.

Demonstrating the work ethic that would eventually lead to success in the legal profession, Jack got to work. He went down to Stanford, reported to the pool, and stood and watched a number of Olympians and swimming legends doing laps. Jack laughs in recollecting it. "I jumped in, swam on adrenaline for 2,000 meters and then was unable to move. Unfortunately, the workout went for 8,000 meters."


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