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Murray puts himself in his clients’ shoes

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//September 19, 2017//

Murray puts himself in his clients’ shoes

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//September 19, 2017//

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Ronnie Murray - Federal Defender Services
Ronnie Murray –
Federal Defender Services

Ronnie Murray can connect with his clients in a way few other lawyers can: Even before Murray’s birth, his father was incarcerated, and their earliest encounters came during prison visits.

“I grew up with the fear that I was going to go to prison,” Murray said. “To a certain extent I see a lot of myself in my clients.”

Murray, an associate federal defender at Milwaukee-based Federal Defender Services of Wisconsin, provides legal representation to indigent criminal defendants accused of federal crimes. His wife, Ashley, said his background is why he gives every case his utmost.

“He has the perspective that this could be me or this could be someone I could love,” she said. “When he takes a case he takes it personally, as if it affects his own rights and liberty.”

Although Murray said he feels as though he has found the perfect fit for a career, it was a long journey. It wasn’t until the end of his already-extended college studies in finance, and after awakening to the evils of mass incarceration, that he decided he wanted to be a criminal sentencing judge. His path toward that goal led him to become a defense lawyer.

“Whether I still want to be a judge remains to be seen,” Murray said. “Being a judge seems to be a whole lot more work.”

He said he enjoys the work he does now because he’s able to make a real difference in people’s lives. For defendants, a favorable result can mean years not spent behind bars.

Murray cautioned that criminal defense work is not for the faint of heart. The law and facts are usually stacked against criminal defense attorneys, he said, and the government typically has most of the resources on its side.

“You have to withstand a lot of difficult situations and you get used to losing and learn to define success in other ways,” said Murray. “The area’s not for everyone because it can be emotionally and physically draining and requires a lot of work.”

Ashley, who is also a lawyer and practices family law, said she believes her husband truly provides a public service.

“I think it’s important to know that Ronnie is really invested in the call of making sure everyone can have competent and good legal rep,” she said. “He takes that really seriously and he’s able to connect with clients in a way that doesn’t make them feel they’re speaking to an attorney.

I really think that goes a long way.”

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