Murdock was in college at the University of Missouri-Kansas City when her mother died. The second eldest of five children, Murdock wanted to stay close to home to help raise her younger brothers, and that meant finding a career in her hometown.
“I was firmly ensconced in Kansas City,” she said.
Murdock’s undergraduate degree was in television and radio production, but a large market such as Kansas City is a tough place to begin a career. So, in between shifts at Macy’s, Murdock went to law school.
Murdock served as a summer associate at what then was Stinson, Mag & Fizzell while attending the UMKC School of Law. After earning her law degree in 1988, she joined the firm and developed a business-litigation practice that encompassed everything from estates and trusts to securities and finance.
Murdock began serving on the policy committee of the firm, then known as Stinson Morrison Hecker, in 2003. Then in 2010 she became the firm’s deputy managing partner — a role that continued following the 2014 merger that resulted in the firm’s current incarnation, Stinson Leonard Street. This year will mark her fourth term in that role, as well as her 30th anniversary with the firm.
Management work has led Murdock to essentially give up litigation, but it also gives her an overview of the range of cases the firm’s lawyers are tackling and allows her to help coordinate the resources they need.
“I still feel close to it,” she said. In a way, she added, “those are my clients.”
Stinson Leonard Street, ranked by Missouri Lawyers Weekly as the state’s fifth largest firm by revenue and seventh by headcount, has 13 offices in eight states and the District of Columbia. Murdock said a big part of her role is to help build consensus around strategies and goals. A top-down, dictatorial approach simply doesn’t work in the partnership of a law firm.
“We want everyone to be on board,” she said. “All we have are our people.”
In one sense, Murdock’s career has been that of the woman who “has it all” — a demanding job and a close-knit family, all in her hometown. Some of that, she said, is because her husband was a stay-at-home dad through much of her career, allowing her to travel for work while he was home with their two now-grown children.
Murdock notes, however, that she had to sacrifice many of the day-to-day activities in her children’s lives. It’s hard to go to the PTA meeting, after all, when you’re in trial.
The increasing flexibility of work makes things easier, Murdock said. But ultimately, she counsels young attorneys to realize that having it all means different things to different people.
“There is no right way,” she said. “There is the way that works for you.”