CASPER, Wyo — When imagining a lawyer, many people are quick to conjure images of a money-grubbing, ambulance chasing smooth talker who cares less about the client and more about “the bottom line.” This caricature of the profession is exemplified in movies, television shows, books and commercials urging viewers to call an 800 number to GET CASH NOW. More often than not, however, these erroneous depictions could not be further from the truth. Most lawyers, at their core, are good people who want to help others find justice. This is especially true of the attorneys at Williams, Porter, Day and Neville and, even more specifically, of Patrick Murphy.
Murphy has been an attorney at WPDN since 1979- November 26, 1979, to be exact. He has the date etched into his memory, which shouldn’t be surprising. Murphy has the memory of an exceptionally studious elephant and the names, dates and locations that have presented themselves throughout his life read like a rolodex of his mind’s eye that he can shuffle through at a moment’s notice.
“I’m the oldest of 12 children,” Murphy revealed. “My dad was Dr. Joseph Murphy [who practiced] here in town, but I was born in Denver with two others, child number two and child number three. My parents thought Denver was too busy, that it was too crowded, so we came back to Casper. We settled here in Casper and my mom and dad had nine more kids. I went to the University of Notre Dame for my undergrad from ’72 to ‘76, but I came back to the University of Wyoming for law school and I’ve never left.”
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Much like his father, the honorable Dr. Joseph Murphy, Patrick Murphy has become a fixture of this town. Anybody who has lived in a town like Casper for an extended period of time can tell you almost everything about anybody else who has lived in a town like Casper for an extended period of time. But those who know Murphy know that he rarely has a bad thing to say about anybody. He radiates positivity and energy and one can’t help but be in a good mood after spending any amount of time with him. His self-deprecating sense of humor immediately disarms any sort of pretense one may have, which becomes evident even when he’s describing how he became a lawyer.
“You know, I became a lawyer, probably for all of the wrong reasons, but then I just lucked out into finding something that I really love to do,” Murphy shared. “I wasn’t doing very well in pre-med and I had to look for another avenue. I got into more of a pre-law, liberal arts kind of curriculum, with reading and writing. And then, after college, I realized I wasn’t really trained to do anything, so I had to keep going to school. Plus, I wanted to keep watching college football and basketball games, and law school allowed me to do that.”
Murphy laughed and continued. “Towards the end of law school, I realized, ‘My goodness! I really love this stuff.’”
He also realized, though he would never say it out loud, that he was really good at practicing law. He took Wyoming’s State Bar Exam in July of 1979 and found out that he passed on August 28th of that same year.
“I remember [I got] the call from Al Taylor, who would go on to become the District Court Judge in Douglas and the Supreme Court Justice in Cheyenne, and he’s just a wonderful fellow,” he said. “He told me I’d passed, and I just couldn’t believe it. I got sworn into the bar a week later, and then I was off to Europe!”
It was his last summer of freedom before he hit the ground running, and he was intent on making it count.
“I went all the way from Ireland to the Island of Crete in the Mediterranean with my best friend from college; a guy named Mike O’Donnell. We had a great 51-day trip and then I came home, and it was time to get to work.”
When Murphy returned, he got to work almost immediately for Williams, Porter, Day and Neville.
“What attracted me to the firm was Houston Williams and Dick Day,” Murphy stated. “Those were the senior partners at the firm all those years ago, and I knew that they had a good litigation practice, which is what I thought I wanted at that time, and it’s still important to me 40 years later. Plus, they offered me a job and paid me $14,400 a year and I thought ‘It can’t get any better than this!’”
Luckily, it did get better for him, and for the firm as a whole. After more than 70 years as a firm, WPDN is still one of the most highly regarded practices in the entire state. Fellow attorneys, as well as judges, are quick to highlight the integrity that WPDN represents in every case they try. Patrick Murphy works primarily as a defense attorney and, in his time with the firm, he has been a part of many landmark cases, one of which involved the reversal of a punitive damages decision, from $22.5 million to just under $2 million. Murphy said this was a huge win for his client, and that the decision caused the court system to adjust its rules and findings about what the constitution will allow for a ratio between a compensatory award and a punitive award.
The cases he’s tried and the decisions of which he’s been a part all matter to Patrick Murphy. Every client he’s taken on has mattered to him, because Murphy legitimately cares about people. He cared about people before he was an attorney and that only solidified after he became a part of WPDN.
“Houston Williams always said, ‘If you like people, you’ll do well as a lawyer,’” Murphy remembered. “That was the best advice I’ve ever gotten. You’ve got to like people. If you’re an introvert and you just don’t like to talk to people, or enjoy people, or learning about them and their triumphs and tragedies, their difficulties- it’s hard to be a good, effective, communicating attorney.”
The attorneys at WPDN really, legitimately, care about their clients. But they also care about each other, which is another huge aspect of what makes Williams, Porter, Day and Neville such a respected firm.
“One of the most important aspects of WPDN is, really, our love for one another,” Murphy said. “We love each other, and we are arm-in-arm with one another. We have a lot of different people here, in a lot of different practices, with a lot of different abilities, skill sets, specialties and expertise. But the key thing about us is when one lawyer is kind of going under, with too much work to do, everyone else is willing to get in the boat and row with him or her. That’s what sets us apart, I think. It’s not that we’re better lawyers- there are wonderful lawyers throughout Casper and throughout the state of Wyoming. But seldom have I seen a one-for-all-and-all-for-one mentality that WPDN brings to the table.”
It is that mentality that has allowed WPDN to maintain operations since the 1950’s. When Houston Williams and Dick Day started the firm, they did so with the belief that attorneys provide a service to the community.
That belief has withstood the test of time and, even now, WPDN gives back to Casper with whatever means they have. That was the model that Houston Williams and Dick Day started, and it’s the model that remains to this day.
“We love what we do,” Murphy said. “We try to be problem solvers and we try to bring some kind of clarity and peace to people who may not have much in their personal life or professional life at the time. Litigation is awfully difficult; it’s difficult for the parties and the people who endure it, and it is hard for the lawyers as well. We just have to partner with our clients and do the very best job for them that we can. We also have to get along and be professional and respectful to our opponents, the opposing lawyers and the opposing parties. That’s the only way the system works, is when we’re all good to each other.”