Professor Kelly came to the UW in 2002 as a Distinguished Visitor and then joined the UW law school faculty in 2002. She directs the Children and Youth Advocacy Clinic and teaches Family Law and Child Advocacy. She is the co-author of Adoption Law: Theory, Policy and Practice (2006). She works closely with the Court Improvement Training Academy. Professor Kelly chairs the Statewide Children's Representation Workgroup established by the Washington Supreme Court Commission on Children in Foster Care. She is the Bobbe and Jon Bridge Endowed Professor of Child Advocacy and served as Associate Dean at the UW Law School from 2007-2009.
Professor Kelly began her career practicing civil rights and family law in Arkansas, where she was local counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund for ten years. She began teaching at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and moved from there to West Virginia University College of Law, where she attained the status of tenured full professor. In 1996, she won the Association of American Law School's National Scholarly Paper Prize for her work entitled Race and Place: Geographic and Transcendent Community in the Post-Shaw Era, published in the Vanderbilt Law Review.
In West Virginia, Professor Kelly developed a multi-disciplinary training for law students to serve as guardians ad litem in dependency cases, which resulted in adding nearly 100 student attorneys to serve children in foster care. She was the reporter for the West Virginia Law Institute's Adoption Reform Project, which was the catalyst for legislative action on the state's adoption statute. She was also instrumental in influencing legislative change in West Virginia custody law.