Kelly was drawn to law school because of her passion for justice and fair play. She also had a bit of the Bard in her, and was immediately identified as a student with special oratorical skills. She competed for, and won, positions on the National Moot Court team, and the American trial Lawyers’ Association Mock Trial Team. She also received numerous awards and scholarships during law school, including the prestigious Weymouth D. Symmes Award for Excellence in Advocacy (1988), the Order of Barristers Award (1988);and the 1987-88 Erasmus Scholar award. Kelly served as a member of the National Moot Court team, and the ATLA Trial team in her senior year.
After graduating from law school, Kelly worked as an associate at Crowley, Haughey, Hanson, Toole and Dietrich, the largest firm in Montana’s tri-state area. After moving to Georgia with her husband, Kelly taught civil procedure at a local law school, and worked as an attorney with Ogletree Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart; Constangy, Brooks & Smith; and finally Meadows, Ichter & Trigg, before becoming a partner at Meadows, Ichter & Bowers. During these years of lawyering, Kelly enjoyed enormous success on both sides of the aisle – defending employers in every stage of litigation including through jury trials, and protecting the rights of employees by prosecuting discrimination claims against individual, corporate, and county employers. Kelly served as co-counsel on Bogle v. McClure, a case that returned for plaintiffs one of the largest verdicts in the nation for that year as reported in the National Law Journal, Top 100 Verdicts (January 2002).
Kelly was admitted to the Montana bar in 1988 and the Georgia bar in 1991. She has also been admitted to the U.S. District Court, Northern and Middle Districts of Georgia; the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals; and the United States Supreme Court.
Kelly J. Beard was born in Merced, California. Her family moved to Montana when she was a young teen. She fell in love with Montana and chose to stay in state for college, studying music at the University of Great Falls, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1980. During college she won multiple awards and merit scholarships, including a full-year scholarship to study piano in Strasbourg, France. After graduating from college, Kelly spent a few years working with political candidates and the Democratic Parties of Montana and Iowa, until returning to Montana to study law at the University of Montana, where she graduated with honors in 1988. She moved to Georgia the following year after marrying her husband, David Bottoms, Poet Laureate of Georgia and is a Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia State University, and co-editor of the literary journal, Five Points. Once in Georgia, Kelly studied at Emory University, receiving her LL.M. in Litigation in 1991
Kelly and David have one daughter, Rachel. Everyone in the family plays an instrument – David plays mandolin, Rachel plays cello and piano, and Kelly plays piano. Kelly took up pottery a few years ago, first wheel then hand-building, using traditional and Raku methods for firing. She made the pieces featured on this site.