Murphy’s law likely to win the day
Wild GeeseJohn Murphy, John Murphy Law, New York
Being Irish has been a big advantage to John Murphy. “There is a huge reservoir of goodwill,” he says
John Murphy first went to the United States 22 years ago on a scholarship with the Augustinians of Good Counsel in New Ross, to go to college in Erie, Pennsylvania. He arrived expecting Baywatch to find the town buried under snow half the year.
Heading to New York in his summer holidays from college to play Gaelic in the Bronx, he ended up with a job as doorman in a prestigious building on Park Avenue where he was bought a “decent pair of shoes” by a Wexford man so he could withstand the double shifts on his feet.
Now married to Carly and with two little boys – Franklin (5) and Nathaniel Sampson (2) – Murphy runs his eponymous law practice on Broadway which specialises in dispute resolution, corporate formation, compliance and immigration law. Murphy says that he never dreamt when he left Ireland in 1993 that he would not return to live. “After a couple of years, and those first couple of summers in NYC, I started thinking I would be staying on after I graduated,” he says.
“A resident in the Park Avenue building I worked in during the summer was a judge and he mentored me to think about going to law school in the US. He recommended me for a paralegal job in the Manhattan district attorney’s office after I graduated.”
It turned out to be the best job Murphy ever had: “I assisted homicide prosecutors in preparing their cases for trial. Crime scenes, autopsies...all the fun stuff. I was determined to go to law school here to become a prosecutor myself.”
The time and financial commitment in putting himself through law school meant he was in it for the long haul.
Murphy graduated in 2002 from the University of Notre Dame after which he says he was lucky enough to be hired by a major global law firm. He believes that a positive attitude and general good humour helped in the early days of his career. “I was in a group of first-year associates with graduates from Harvard, Colombia and Yale – elite schools, brilliant kids. But we were ‘grunts’ expected to do the hard-slogging and let’s just say that some of these folks did not think working 16-hour days or pulling all-nighters was worthy of their brilliance. And so, myself and a few other hard-workers managed to stand out.”
Murphy went from being told that he was lucky to be hired to the company “pleading” with him some years later not to leave them. “It felt good knowing that my work had stood to me in such a prestigious environment. First impressions do matter and people – well, certainly lawyers – form opinions about you very quickly, so starting out strong is important.”
While Murphy has worked on multibillion-dollar litigation as part of large teams of lawyers, he says that some of the most rewarding cases he has worked on have been the pro bono. “I also had the privilege of defending the city of New York in front of juries in the Bronx and convincing juries up there to actually give verdicts in support of the city was pretty big as they have a reputation of finding against the city,” he says.
In 2013, Murphy decided to leave his “relatively cushy” job as an in-house attorney at a large investment bank in order to launch out on his own.
“I had an itch for a few years to take a shot in ‘hanging out my own shingle’, as the Yanks refer to it,” he says. “I have always been very active in community groups, especially Irish and Irish-American groups, and between those activities, friends and alumni from schools and former law firms, my ‘network’ of people who could potentially refer work was pretty large.”
It was a hectic time for the family. Within six months they had had their second child, sold their home in the city, moved to New Jersey and John had opened his own law firm in a process he describes as “madness”.
The company consists of six lawyers some of whom are “of counsel”, meaning they have their own practices and are part of Murphy’s team on certain matters. Murphy’s background is as a commercial litigator so the company handles “contract disputes, employment matters, securities-related matters”.
The firm also does corporate work assisting companies entering the US market with their formation, contract and licensing agreements. Murphy says that running his own business and the lack of a reliable pay cheque that might have entailed took some adjustment.
“You just get on with it and gradually you get a bit more comfortable in your skin about the idea that you are running your own business.”
Idyllic lifestyle The family lives 40 minutes from the city by train in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, near the town of Montclair. It appears an idyllic lifestyle for the kids – living across the road from school and mini World Cups on the lawn.
“My wife Carly works in the art auction world and has our house looking amazing…but of course I accept all the compliments,” he jokes. “My wife is an absolute saint and puts up with me being out at least three and sometimes four nights a week, whether working late or networking at events,” he says.
Because New York attracts a lot of smart, driven people, Murphy argues that it is necessary to “bring your A-game”. He says that the image of New York can also be overblown and that Irish people seem to do particularly well there as they can “see through the hype, maintain a good perspective and don’t take themselves too seriously”.
Being Irish has only ever been an advantage to him.
“There is a huge reservoir of goodwill. Being Irish does not mean you succeed. But if you have substance, are smart and hardworking, then yes, being a decent Irish person is an added bonus that will help.” www.johnmurphylaw.com
Previously published in The Irish Times.
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