008: Lauretta Murphy

Aug 3, 2020

Lauretta Murphy
Credit Miller Johnson

Today’s powerful woman is Lauretta Murphy. An attorney for Miller Johnson, Lauretta advocates for the elderly. She is an expert in the field of Elder law, helping families with the legal and practical aspects of planning as people age.  Murphy leads with a kind heart as her mission is to serve as an “agent of hope” when families are in crisis.  She also helps those who need special needs planning, believing that every person deserves the highest level of respect and consideration. She meets the challenges of life, head-on.   Meet today’s powerful woman: Laurie Murphy.

Full Transcript:

>> Produced by women about women, “Powerful women, let's talk” is a series of interviews with women who have helped shape our community and transform who we are and how we live.

>>Hello everyone, I'm Jennifer Moss.  So happy to be able to share another edition of powerful women, let's talk and today I have the privilege to introduce and chat with an old friend who has taken elder law estate planning and special needs planning, just to name just a few, by storm in Grand Rapids and our community here and I gladly welcome Attorney, Lauretta Murphy, member at Miller Johnson Attorneys- or as I know you Laurie.  And so Laurie I want to thank you so much for being with us here today.

>> I'm so glad to have the opportunity to be here and so pleased that you're doing this series about powerful women we have some amazing women in our community.

>>Absolutely and some amazing stories and so to start you know we talk about powerful women, you know you surely have that powerful resume. I’m going to go over just a couple things I can't list them all, but you work of course at Miller Johnson, you're the chair of the US states trust and private client practice group, the former chair of elder law and disability planning practice group and you do special needs planning.

You've written numerous articles and have received countless honors plus something that I did not know and that is that you graduated Magna Cum Laude from Notre Dame law school and summa cud laude law from Aquinas- right here in West Michigan and that has powerful woman written all over it.

So again, glad to welcome you here today Laurie, tell us a little bit more- you know about your day to day helping and protecting your elder client base and, there's so much more here than meets the eye tell me a bit about what you're doing as it relates to all of the things that I listed as it relates to the state and trusts in elder law.

>> So one of the things that's unique about West Michigan and the estate planning practice in West Michigan is that philanthropy is woven into what people do, so as I work with higher net worth clients, the people who need succession planning or those private client planning when I go to seminars and things like philanthropy is often an afterthought- in West Michigan philanthropy  is part and parcel of what people do with their estate planning so one of the things that will often be looking at is how can our entrepreneurial business people make charitable gifts in a way that's beneficial to the community.

But that also has some tax benefits  that meets their estate planning goals so that's one example, the estate planning side on the elderly disability planning side, our community again has a lot of services but many of those services don't cover all of the things that people with vulnerabilities need.

And so we create trusts to try to supplement, take care of them, take care what their needs are to provide quality of life for them and to help them benefit fully from all of the programs that are available to help them out.

>>And I know personally but it, and it is listed it as one of the traits that you have and that is -that you are really an advocate for your clients, how important is that to you?

You know to really stand up for what you're doing, working in elder law and the different things that you may encounter how important it is to really advocate?

>>Again when you're dealing with people who are vulnerable that's the point they do not have the ability to advocate for themselves, somebody has to take responsibility for looking out for them protecting them from exploitation- accessing services that they're legally entitled to receive accessing tax benefits that might be beneficial.

So people who can't advocate for themselves need a strong voice because they don't have a voice of their own or their voice is quiet because of their vulnerabilities.

>>Ok and of course you help them along. So tell me this- what leadership traits have helped you and what perhaps have you maybe picked up along the way from others- when we look at the scope of powerful women? What are some of your leadership traits? Because I know you lead a lot of aspects of what you're doing there at Miller Johnson, tell me some of the leadership traits.

>> You know the first part of leadership is listening and so one of those leadership traits is truly listening to what people's concerns are and not making assumptions about whether their goals are the same as my goals- so one leadership trait is simply paying attention and listening. Another is not being afraid to take an unpopular position or to challenge other people's assumptions and to actually lead to actually take a position that might be a little bit more in the forefront.

I think we see that in some of the other women that you've talked to-so I think of Diane Seager as someone whose leadership is very strong very compassionate so I think compassion is another part of leadership and others just getting things organized and getting things done sometimes we under rate just showing up showing your face being there for people, being there in a leadership role and gathering other people together towards a common goal and that's again I think a leadership trait that women sometimes excel at.

>> Absolutely and, and like you said that listening that's key in a lot of areas and a lot of things. So Laurie in the world of law tell us how have you been able to,maybe find your own voice, because I know there's a lot of aspects of things going on around you but to be comfortable in your own skin -because I can only imagine as an attorney, I mean you're faced with a lot of different things that you have to push for- and to try to win your case if it's in that realm.

So how have you been able to find your own voice and to become comfortable and settled?

>> You know that's a difficult question because I think all of us are always still in that process until the day we die.

>>Very true.

>>So how I found my voice is that over the years, it has really been in gaining confidence in gaining mastery over my subject matter in gaining knowledge about the tax laws gaining mastery or expertise in elder law in estate planning in tax planning.

That's really been one way is to really make sure that I know what I'm talking about. Another is I have had mentors throughout my career who have encouraged me to learn new things to get to know different areas of the law who have encouraged me to try out things that might or might not work and who have had my back over the years.

So that's been one important part of my getting comfortable in my own skin- is having people around me who themselves are willing to listen to me who are willing to support me and who have encouraged me over the years.

>>Would you say at all that it's been difficult as a woman to advance in the world of law, as an attorney or does it just come with the fact that you're an attorney? Cause a lot of people put a lot of esteem in okay, you know you're an attorney, a lawyer but has it been difficult?

>> Even now there are challenges so certainly I've been doing this for 32 years and the world has definitely changed in the last 32 years but even yesterday I had a call from a client who kept insisting that he wanted to talk to the lawyer, he was a client of a prior attorney who has since retired who called for some follow-up work and couldn't understand that when I was the lawyer so I think you see less of that in the professional world.

I think that's changed pretty dramatically.

But there are still again assumptions about women and their place and their role I think it's harder for women even in companies that work extremely hard to promote and support women, those informal networks that sometimes the men are more enmeshed in and women are less-again not purposely excluded from, but it's harder sometimes for women to make those informal connections in the way that is that sometimes people will choose to be with people who are like them and that tends to be people of their same gender and so that can be problematic.

I think my firm and many other companies are really trying hard to give women more opportunities to informally network to take leadership roles, but it I think it continues to be a challenge in our culture.

>>Absolutely well especially, I mean just yesterday you had that, that example and so you know when we talk about barriers and things along that line.

How did any barriers that you did face, how did they impact you? Because people have different reactions different experiences, but how did it impact you? So if you had a barrier that was there-did it make you kind of shy away or did it make you more determined to move forward and push past the barrier?

>> I tend to be a person who tries to be a problem solver and so I think of it is not pushing past the barriers but working around the barriers or using those barriers as a way to find a different path maybe a path that people hadn't worked before that might even be more successful than a traditional path.

So it hasn't made me shy away from those challenges often times it's made me find a different path to access whatever goal it is that I've been trying to achieve.

>>Ok, and so you know, I've known you for quite some time, our kids are in high school together, we did that AAU basketball.

The big question for many women though is how do you actually balance your work life and your family life?

Because you know we were on the road a lot- in the car a lot- how do you balance your work life and your family life?

>> I've been very fortunate to have a husband who enabled me to balance- he made a lot of sacrifices in his own career so that I could advance in mine and it is extremely difficult for, for men and women to balance family and career and it's difficult to do everything at once.

And I think all of us again men and women often feel like we're not doing enough at home and we're not doing enough at work, there are a lot of pressures and I think this COIVD crisis has made it even more difficult as people are trying to work from home, parent at the same time, homeschool their kids, deal with additional challenges in their work life so I think the key there is to try to have your family help you out, have your friends help you out, don't be afraid to ask for help.

And just accept the fact that it is imperfect that we are never going to have a perfect balance life is complicated, people are complicated and you have to give yourself credit for doing the best you can do. I'm the oldest of 9 children and my mother wasn't much of a housekeeper, her theory was the secret to happiness particularly with regard to housekeeping- lower standards.

>>Lower standards, I love that,love that.

So I make it a point to ask these 2 questions, the next two questions, of all my guests because, you know it gets to the heart of all of us, because COIVD19 surely has changed the way we all are living at this moment, but still what is it that you choose to do for fun?

>>Again right now is more challenging so for fun, mostly it's been walking, doing physical activity with my husband, talking on the phone with my family and friends.

Those are the things that I've really done for fun, lately. In my normal life in pre COIVD life it is really family that is what I do for fun, seeing my nephews and nieces, seeing my sisters, my dad spending time with people that I love that's what I like to do for fun.

>>Yeah, but hasn’t COVID opened up a whole new world to us in the sense of really connecting with people I mean because you're limited, with our distance and social distancing.

But I think  its an open-door to really re-establish relationships, people you haven't talked to or putting in more time in that conversation, whether your face timing or you know zooming or Google duo whatever you do- I mean it this really kind of changed things- so that you really all in, because it's a little different.

So piggybacking on what you do for fun. the other one because I just think laughter is-you know good for the soul, what makes you laugh Laurie.

>>Usually kids, so my nieces and nephews are really what makes me laugh the most. my nieces were doing I think it's the tiktok that they’re doing the dance presentations.

So I've got, I've got 25 nephews and nieces from age 2 to age 32.

And my younger nieces were demonstrating some dance moves and then they were trying to teach me how to do them that was hilarious.

>>I bet that, that was one of those good laughter from the gut right? And did they take a video of that? Because I surely would like to see that.

>>Thankfully, they did not...

>>They didn’t make the tiktok video right?

>>They took a video of themselves, their outstanding they did not take a video of me- they were rolling on the floor laughing because I was so incompetent at their dance moves.

>>That is too funny and so finally by chance do you have a favorite saying or quote that you can end on that you might want to pass along as other powerful women are listening?

And if you don't that's ok.

>>You know I I think of a couple of things I think of my mother who passed away a few years ago who really had this idea that if you want things to be different you need to be the one who starts making them different that you can't rely on somebody else to step in and do the right thing-that it's really up to each of us to step in and do something the right way- if we see something that needs to be changed its up to us to take the first step.

>>Well said, well said. Well ,Laurie it has been such a pleasure chatting with you today, thanks so much for joining us and being such a powerful woman in our community and I want to thank all of you listening today and for joining us again for this edition of powerful women, let's talk I'm Jennifer Moss.

>>Thank you very much, it's been great to have the opportunity to be here.

>> Produced by women about women these powerful podcasts focus on powerful women and how their strength transforms who we are and how we live. Want to hear more powerful women, let's talk get additional interviews at WGVU.org or wherever you get your podcasts- please rate and subscribe. Powerful women, let's talk is produced by WGVU at the Meijer public broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University, the views and opinions expressed on this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU, its underwriters, or Grand Valley State University.