The Profile in Excellence award is given by the OBU Alumni Association to a former student who has "demonstrated recognizable accomplishment in his or her profession, business, avocation, or life service in such a way as to bring pride and honor to the University." Each year, Profile In Excellence recipients are featured in OBU Magazine.
When Laura Haag joined the OBU family, she had no plans to spend her career working with familial issues. But being a part of the University family broadened her perspective on how she could invest in the lives of others.
Now recognized as one of the top 50 attorneys in the state of Oklahoma, Laura McConnell-Corbyn traveled from Abilene, Texas, to Bison Hill in the late 1970s to earn a degree in biology. That demanding academic field does not usually lead graduates to law school. Laura credits her major professor, Dr. James E. Hurley, with giving her a broader perspective.
"Dr. Hurley had such a role in inspiring a life-long love of learning," McConnell-Corbyn said. "He saw the world as a beautiful daily gift from a magnificent creator. I was privileged to have spent four years learning about life and about God from Dr. Hurley."
Hurley's presence in McConnell-Corbyn's life was not confined within the classroom. She recalls some of her favorite memories at OBU being spent in the home of the legendary professor of biology, eating dinner and receiving lessons on how to make flavored tea.
It was Hurley's passion for teaching and education which made such an impression upon the 1983 graduate.
McConnell-Corbyn uses the lessons from Hurley in her work as a family law specialist. She is on the forefront of helping families who find themselves in trying situations.
"I know that my education at OBU is far and away better than I could have received at any other school I was considering," McConnell-Corbyn said. "Having been in the rigorous classroom of Dr. Hurley through my college days made the law school classroom seem easy."
After graduating, McConnell-Corbyn worked for a year with State Federal Savings and Loan in Shawnee. Spending time with the branch's legal counsel cultivated an interest in the practice of law. She decided to apply for law school and see if she could "cut it" as a lawyer.
McConnell-Corbyn received her juris doctorate from the University of Oklahoma's School of Law in 1987. She was a member of the Oklahoma Law Review and graduated third in her class with highest honors. She "cut it" and then some.
"The liberal arts education provided a wonderful base for a law career," McConnell-Corbyn said. "Dr. Hurley taught his classes by the same Socratic method that is used in the law classroom. The writing and analytical methods that we used in Western Civilization were helpful in learning to structure a law school final exam answer."
Her success was recognized by one of Oklahoma's most well-respected law firms, Hartzog Conger Caser and Neville. She still works at the firm where she began her career in general litigation. However, after completing some pro bono work in the area of family law, McConnell-Corbyn's interests expanded and she began to specialize in family law. She developed the practice area within her firm and now is one of two attorneys working in the specialty. She also works with clients in employment law alongside five other attorneys. Her record of success helped McConnell-Corbyn achieve partner status.
Her role as mediator and counsel in family law cases comes at pivotal life moments for the majority of her clients. Many of the cases McConnell-Corbyn handles include issues of property division, support alimony, child support and child custody.
"One of the most challenging aspects of the family law practice is remaining objective for the benefit of the client while still letting the client know that we care very much about what he or she is going through," she said. "The most rewarding part of the practice is seeing clients who came to us as very hurt and fragile people going through one of the most difficult times of life, and move on to become happy, fulfilled and healed by the end of the process."
McConnell-Corbyn's own family fills much of her time outside of work. Her husband, George S. Corbyn Jr., also is an attorney, practicing with his own firm, Corbyn and Hampton. McConnell-Corbyn has two daughters, Danielle and Ryleigh McConnell, as well as five stepchildren, Michelle Foster, J. Rienke, Janie, Kevin and Will Corbyn. She said holidays for the family are fun-filled and frantic.
Meanwhile, her career has been filled with honors and recognitions. She is consistently listed as one of the Top 25 Female Oklahoma Super Lawyers, and is recognized in Best Lawyers in America in the area of family law. She was a 2006 Leadership in Law honoree; and was the 2007 Central Oklahoma Association of Legal Assistants Attorney of the Year.
In the little spare time she has, McConnell-Corbyn is active as director of the Oklahoma County Bar Association and co-chair for the Oklahoma County fund-raising committee for Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma.
She continues to invest in the lives of others, seeking to carry on the legacy of her favorite professor, as she seeks to make the most of her life in this "daily gift from a magnificent creator."
Click the following link to view a full list of previous Profile in Excellence recipients.