As a law student, Kelli Ganz Murray '14 had worked as summer intern for the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services, which oversees the Boston Public Defender Division. After that experience, she made it her goal to return to the city as a public defender.
Following graduation, Murray moved permanently to Boston in order to take advantage of opportunities that would help her achieve that career goal. She passed the Massachusetts and New York bar exams and she secured a clerkship with the Honorable M. Page Kelley of the United States District Court in Boston.
“I learned an incredible amount from Judge Kelley, who began her own career as a public defender. She helped me make great contacts and get my foot in the door at the public defender agency,” Murray said.
Following her clerkship, Murray spent two years as a public defender for an area north of Boston. The county is notoriously rough and Murray endured long work days and a long commute, but it paid off.
Murray is back in the city, working as a lawyer in the Boston Public Defender Division. She provides trial litigation and other legal services to low-income clients charged with felony and misdemeanor offenses in Massachusetts District and Superior courts. It’s her dream job.
“It’s important for young lawyers to be open minded to opportunities, even if they aren’t doing exactly what they want or living exactly where they want to live right away,” Murray explained. “Being patient, having a good attitude and working hard at a different job will eventually pay off. Thinking creatively of ways to build your resume or how to form relationships with the right people are all stepping stones to get that dream job.”
Living in West Virginia and serving indigent clients as a law student helped Murray develop a strong compassion for others. A more rural perspective on the law, coupled with her lifelong passion for social equality, helps her be a better advocate for her clients, according to Murray.
“I work to defend and give a voice to people unable to pay for an attorney, which is a crucial asset when they are facing loss of liberty,” she said. “Most of my clients live in poverty on the margins of society and are often debilitated by substance abuse and trauma. I am successful any time I can empower my clients, whether it’s helping fill out paperwork for a substance abuse treatment program, humanizing them by telling their story during their sentencing, or litigating their case at trial to ensure they have full protection of the constitution.”
Murray used her time well at WVU Law to prepare for her role as a public defender. She took advantage of every opportunity that would ultimately help her achieve her career goal.
Murray served as chief justice of the Moot Court Board and was a member of the Steptoe & Johnson National Trial Team. She competed in several regional and national trial competitions, and she helped resolve legal disputes as a Magistrate Court Mediator.
She also acquired practical experience as a student attorney in the West Virginia Innocence Project. As student attorney in the clinic, Murray worked on a team that represented a client serving life a sentence. By bringing faulty forensic evidence to light, Murray and her partners were able to obtain a new sentence for their client, and he was ultimately released from prison after serving 18 years.
“WVU Law gave me opportunities to get specialized training in trial advocacy and oral advocacy, and that has absolutely shaped me as a trial lawyer,” Murray said. “I did approximately 14 full mock trials during my three years of law school and was also able to get rewarding real-life legal experience. In my law classes, I took part in simulations of the different parts to a trial, all of which now directly relate to my job duties.”
Murray earned her bachelor’s degree in strategic communications from Elon University