Known for her bipartisan skill and can-do attitude, Claire McCaskill has defined what it means to be a public servant from the offices of the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office to the hallowed halls of the U.S. Senate.
And it all started with her legal career.
“I think the courtroom is where I had the most fun,” said the 68-year-old who grew up in Houston, Mo. “I was fortunate as a young lawyer that I actually got a lot of jury trials under my belt at a very young age. That experience served me incredibly well throughout my career running for office.”
Admitting she was “always better in classes where I could argue than classes where there was an absolute right and wrong answer,” McCaskill enjoyed politics from an early age and graduated from Mizzou before going on to become a Missouri Court of Appeals research clerk and, later, an assistant prosecutor in Kansas City.
After spending time in the Missouri House and working at a couple of firms, she became a Jackson County legislator before becoming its elected prosecutor where she established its drug courts and a domestic violence unit at the felony level.
Later, the self-described “public policy wonk” would do performance audits after being elected state auditor. Eventually, McCaskill came to Congress where she established a record as one of the most moderate U.S. Senators.
“There were certainly an awful lot of things that I was able to get done with the help of public support and my colleagues in every office that I held,” she said.
McCaskill said that politics was the perfect combination of persuasion, advocacy and competition that allowed her to display the work ethic, intellect and integrity to “move the needle” on public policy issues that mattered to voters.
“It was the ability to work on a very individual level to help people,” she said, “whether it was a victim of crime or a constituent that needed a passport all the way to changing broadly how the Pentagon spent billions of dollars every year in contracting.”
“At the end of the day, it was a people job,” she added. “It was a job where no day was the same and no person that I met was a stranger.”
McCaskill said she feels it is important for new attorneys to know that hard work pays off.
“I learned as a young trial lawyer that what you know is more powerful than your oratory,” she said. “Preparation is more powerful than persuasion.”