Longtime Federal Way attorney Bill Murphy outside his law office in the West Hill Court business park. Murphy is retiring after 47 years practicing law. Heidi Sanders, the Mirror

Longtime Federal Way attorney Bill Murphy outside his law office in the West Hill Court business park. Murphy is retiring after 47 years practicing law. Heidi Sanders, the Mirror

Longtime Federal Way attorney recounts career serving clients

In his 47 years practicing law, attorney Bill Murphy has always been an advocate for his clients.

“Part of my service to my clients was to try to get a solution to the difficulties,” he said. “I was always very dedicated to the client, because I have had my own life experiences.”

Murphy recently sold his Federal Way law office and will retire at the end of the year.

“I was hoping to stay to 50 (years) just so I could say that,” the 76-year-old said. “There is no such thing as a bonus for longevity.”

What he loved most about practicing law was being in the courtroom, he said, which he will miss.

“The reason I stopped, quit, sold the building is that I didn’t want to put any client at risk because I was getting too old,” he said. “When you are going to court, and it was all I ever did, you really have to be on your game, on your toes.”

Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, to Irish immigrants as the youngest of six children, Murphy’s parents wanted him to become a priest.

“That was the Irish culture,” he said. “My father’s brother was a priest. There were a bunch of nuns in the family. My cousin was a priest.”

But, Murphy didn’t want to enter the priesthood.

After high school, he attended Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, but had little interest in his studies and bought a motorcycle to occupy his time.

“I wanted to go have fun with the bikers,” he said. “I ended up flunking out at the end of my second year.”

After losing many of his motorcycle friends to accidents and being in several crashes himself, Murphy re-evaluated his priorities.

“I decided this life of mine was not going to end up good,” he said. “It was at that time that (President John F.) Kennedy made his inauguration speech, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’”

Murphy joined the Army and went to language school to study Russian. He’s always had an interest in languages and foreign affairs, he said.

“I pick up languages like you might catch a cold. That is just how I am,” he said.

After four years in the Army, including an assignment in Germany, Murphy got out of the military and went back to school.

He got a job as a systems analyst in the legal department of the Link Division of the Singer Corporation, which made and sold flight simulators. Working in the legal department sparked Murphy’s interest in law, so he enrolled in law school at Boston University.

“The last year (of law school) you can apply to become an intern somewhere,” he said. “I applied for an internship with the Boston District Attorney’s Office and I got picked up … and I did jury trials.”

During his internship, Murphy met then-Washington state Attorney General Slade Gorton. Gorton didn’t have any positions that interested Murphy but introduced him to then-King County Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Bayley, who was in the midst of a recount.

“Bayley won the recount,” Murphy said. “He called me up and says, ‘I won the recount. Are you coming?’ I said, ‘Give me a week. Let me make arrangements,’ and that’s how I came out here.”

Murphy worked for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for several years before being appointed King County District Court judge for about six months.

After losing his election bid to keep the seat, Murphy opened his law office on Pacific Highway South in January 1975. In 1991, he moved the practice to West Hill Court near South 336th Street.

In his nearly five decades practicing law, the community changed a lot, Murphy said, but his love for the law and courtroom did not.

“I have had a lot of these learning experiences, which was why courtroom work is so fascinating to me,” he said. “Each case is a whole new case and a whole new learning experience.”

Murphy and his wife, Linda, have one son, Will.


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