Matt Murdank cut his teeth practicing law as a commercial litigator in Chicago. While he attended the University of Chicago Law School, he took classes across a broad variety of practice areas, including criminal justice, securities, judicial opinion writing, and even American Indian Law. Because he considers himself a “law lawyer” with the ability to learn and master the application of precedents and statutes regardless of practice area, he spends a significant portion of his free time learning the standards and expectations of fields that are even beyond his professional specialties. The reasoning behind why certain statutes or precedents have been formed and the incentives those rules and standards create are of deep fascination and importance to Murdank. He often wields these considerations to his clients’ benefit when conducting zealous representation on their behalf.
Having spent his time after law school clerking for a judge and then working for a law firm, Murdank finds himself dissatisfied with the usual operations of many firms. In his view, the standard approach for a law firm’s usage of young associates is to treat them as expendable resources. This is especially true of law clerks and paralegals. To defy and replace this norm, Murdank intends to establish apprenticeship and mentoring programs both for his firm and the broader community, providing access to information and training experience that is crucial for opening the practice of law to individuals who would otherwise be excluded from it. Similarly, he believes in the importance of public education about the legal system. Murdank has organized “know your rights” events, police interaction clinics, business advice seminars, and individual client education opportunities. Murdank believes that the legal system should work for the citizens, not oppress them, and intends to do everything in his power to make this a reality.
Murdank has a particular appreciation for the way that the justice system functions internally because he took Judicial Opinion Writing with Judge Richard Posner during law school and clerked for a judge for a year and a half shortly after graduating. Posner, one of the most notable jurists of the last century, taught Murdank and the rest of his class how judges think about the law and how each case is first and foremost a dispute between the parties, not just a process of applying and revising precedents. Murdank’s approach to the practice of law is therefore solution-oriented, and he brought this perspective to each case he worked on while clerking. His time clerking was no walk in the park, either – being the clerk to a trial-level judge meant writing no fewer than ten different judicial opinion drafts each and every week. Most became full opinions with no notes or other edits from his judge, but the most complicated cases led to weeks-long discussions between them about finding the right answer for a resolution that both applies the law as written and satisfies the dispute at issue. Of course, the job of a trial-level judge is to apply the law regardless of the judge’s own opinion, and Murdank was not always satisfied with the results mandated by the precedents. This critical lens has helped Murdank be thoughtful about structuring arguments for both overturning and defending precedents in his appellate work.
While Murdank is happy to take cases all the way through to litigation, the advice he most often gives to clients looking for a legal fight is that the cost will likely outweigh the benefits. Litigation is lengthy and expensive – both monetarily and emotionally. He therefore often suggests mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution prior to pursuing full-scale disputes and is sure to counsel his clients about the processes and requirements of pursuing litigation prior to accepting a case. Murdank is especially careful to give clients a dire warning about the process of discovery, as he finds that most people interested in pursuing a lawsuit underestimate the sheer volume of information that they must review and produce – as well as the information that must be reviewed following production by the opposing party in turn. Often, Murdank has found, a conversation between the parties with counsel present can be productive in finding a resolution that identifies and resolves the concerns, wants, and needs of all parties. And, in the end, isn’t that what justice is all about?
Murdank’s commitment to justice might seem noble, but it does come with a bit of vanity. For example, he has always dreamed of owning a limousine that he can use to pick up clients from prison. While he respects the reality that hard-working police officers are often just trying to do their jobs, he also knows that their personalities can get a little too wrapped up in their work, and that some cops view issuing citations and landing arrests to be a numbers game rather than a function of public safety. For those officers who insist that crime doesn’t pay, the limo will be Murdank’s reminder to them that the world is not so black and white. Especially because he’s happy to offer to drive officers around on their days off.
Murdank’s twin goals of personal reputation and monetary gains are often in conflict. He makes it a point not to extract representation fees from every instance of appearing for a client; as a personal principle, he refuses to require a payment for cell representations because everyone has the right to a lawyer, regardless of whether they can afford one. Nevertheless, he has his own goals for long-term wealth and prosperity. He doesn’t let his personal goals overcome his commitment to his clients and to the city – he always prioritizes investment in the firm's immediate needs and the public good over my own personal luxuries – but those desires do sit at the back of his mind, pushing him and encouraging him to work just a little bit harder and achieve a little bit more.
Murdank’s drive for success is spurred on by his parents doubting his dreams when he was growing up. When he told them he wanted to become a lawyer, they laughed at him. They didn’t give him any help with studying for the LSAT, applying for law school, or paying tuition, and to this day they offer him no help or support of any kind, despite their means to do so and the struggles he has been through. Murdank’s achievements are his own, and his deep familiarity with this fact is what drives him to push harder and keep his eyes forward and his head up, even when times are dire. He knows he must write his own legacy, and he is fully committed to doing so.
Murdank doesn’t go looking for romance, most of the time, but he does let it find him. His last serious relationship was years ago, and she left him broken and alone. While he values his close friends and is happy to have their support, the ways that others have broken his trust in the past have left him careful to reveal his true self or emotions, and he can often come across as guarded if he’s pushed on how he’s really feeling. Murdank has worked hard to build his ability to mask his pain and suffering, and he wants others to see him as the reliable optimist, even when he’s being pragmatic. Because of these tendencies and fears, he rarely seeks help from others, feeling primarily that he must solve his problems himself if he has the means to do so. Still, Murdank hopes deep down inside that he will someday meet people he can finally call a trustworthy family of his own, even if he’s afraid to get hurt again.
While Murdank has several credentials under his belt, he’s not above doing manual labor or other menial work to make ends meet. He’s a man of many talents and is skilled with his hands – he was a high-performing lacrosse goalie in school, he’s passionate about cooking and making craft cocktails, and he can get heavy lifting done when a job calls for it. In fact, he’s proud of having come up from being a busboy and a customer service agent to being licensed to practice law. He doesn’t forget those roots, either – he’s been known to help work beer festivals every now and then, running kegs and jockey boxes as well as pulling pints. The work that Murdank gets done is the work that needs doing.
A key element of Murdank’s personality is that he considers himself to be resourceful. Not just once, but twice, he’s been serially stalked with attempts made on his life. As a result, he’s spent a lot of time at the shooting range practicing his aim and his stability. For several months, he even made a bulletproof vest a regular and prominent part of his attire. These attempts on Murdank’s life have made him cautious and vigilant, and he is known to carry a licensed firearm as often as practicable. Murdank only uses his weapon when necessary – he detests having to carry, but he understands the importance. If he’s been through the ringer and you can’t find him elsewhere in the city, he might be at the range.
Murdank’s resourcefulness also manifests itself in the form of entrepreneurship. While practicing law is his primary and preferred source of income and personal satisfaction, his desire to improve and benefit his communities has led him to work for, advise, or occasionally even help start several Businesses
. His ability to identify unmet community needs that can be solved through either commercial efforts or philanthropy is a point of personal pride. And, where possible, he will devise a plan to create opportunities and improvements without the need to rely on any external resources – not even governmental resources.
Despite his determination to get things done where the Government
will not, Murdank is an ardent believer in the power of good Government
and the necessity of social programs. The struggles Murdank went through as a child have left him all too aware of the fact that “access to” healthcare, therapy, or food does little good for those who cannot afford the prices exacted by corporations that don’t have public mandates. Murdank disdains those who suggest that private enterprise will solve all of society’s problems or that capitalism is a ladder to success – his own efforts to build a life for himself have not and will not make him forget that capitalist success is built on the backs of a perpetual underclass. Still, like any good leftist, Murdank has a healthy skepticism of how the Government
spends its money and is a strong supporter of transparency in many forms, including budget and goal reports. Where the government fails to live up to its promise of protecting and supporting those who provide the creature comforts of society, Murdank will gladly take it to task and do what is necessary to make things right.
Murdank believes that life is worth living for the experiences it offers and the people you live it with. He keeps this belief front-of-mind in his daily life, looking to be a boon to those around him. When he was in college, he first heard Carl Sagan's “Pale Blue Dot” speech, and it quickly became a cornerstone of his entire world view. Murdank, like Sagan, believes that our existence in the universe mandates “our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”