Beyond the Bar Number — Michaela Murdock

Michaela Murdock

Bar Number: 43252

Michaela Murdock is an assistant district counsel for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District. Her practice includes advising the district’s regulatory and planning/civil works offices. She enjoys spending time with her husband, twin daughters, three cats, and new puppy—all of whom make untimely appearances in her teleconferencing calls.

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If you could change one thing about the legal system, what would you change?

I would make low-cost or free legal services widely available to everyone in civil cases, particularly in family law. Like criminal cases, civil cases can irreparably alter lives, and having access to competent, individualized legal counsel can make all the difference for the better. Everyone should be able to obtain fair, reasonable, and effective solutions to life’s problems regardless of their ability to pay. This is one of the reasons I love government work. When I am trying to understand a problem and help my clients, I am not limited by how much they can pay. 

How did you become interested in your practice area?

I graduated from law school in 2010 during the recession without a solid plan. I took interesting opportunities as they arose and tried not to be afraid of change. This led me down a bit of a winding path—criminal defense and family law in Walla Walla and Columbia Counties, nonpartisan counsel for the Office of Program Research in Olympia, and civil deputy prosecuting attorney for Benton County. I learned a lot about what I loved (government work, writing, advising, and learning new areas of the law) and a lot about what I didn’t (billable hours, marketing, narrowly specializing, and commuting). In 2017, I found myself in the right place at the right time when a position with the Corps came up. Not only did it check all the “like” boxes for me, but it also let me do work for the region and nation from small town Walla Walla.

How do you define success as a lawyer?

Success is when my clients show me that they trust me and value my advice; when I am proud of my work because I know it is well researched, accurate, and represents my best effort to achieve the goal at hand, whether that is communicating something to a colleague, client, or opposing counsel, or attempting to persuade a court; or when I am able to go home and be fully present with my family because I know I have accomplished what I needed to at work. I try not to measure success in wins or losses (although I AM a lawyer and sometimes I can’t help it). I try to remind myself that success is an ongoing practice, rather than a single event. 

LIGHTNING ROUND

If you had to give a 10-minute presentation on one topic other than the law, what would it be and why? Sleep training twins. Why? Because sleep is important, twins are hard, and I have spent the past three years attempting to get back my 7-8 hours of sleep a night. 

If you could go back in time, where/when would you go? February 2020 to warn myself to get comfortable. Working at the coffee table is bad for your back, so make yourself a proper COVID-19 teleworking station sooner rather than later. 

What did you eat for breakfast this morning? The rest of my toddlers’ yogurts. 

What is one thing your colleagues may not know about you? I played a spirit in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute when I was 17. 

What is your favorite smell? A Pacific Northwest rainforest. 

What is your favorite podcast? Hidden Brain. 

What is the last thing you watched on television? The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. 

What is the best fictional representation (TV, movie, book) of a lawyer? Daredevil’s Matt Murdock. 

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> We’d like to learn about you! Email wabarnews@wsba.org to request a questionnaire and submit materials to be used for a hand-drawn portrait. Find past Beyond the Bar Number features here.


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