'Latent Desire' Leads Brooke Murphy to Presidency of OK-Based Crowe & Dunlevy

By Price, Marie | THE JOURNAL RECORD, March 5, 2007 | Go to article overview
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'Latent Desire' Leads Brooke Murphy to Presidency of OK-Based Crowe & Dunlevy


Price, Marie, THE JOURNAL RECORD


When Brooke Murphy was a child, in addition to cowboys and Indians, she and three other little girls played court.

"We'd all pound on the table and say 'order in the court' and 'where were you on the night of-?" said Murphy, now president of the Crowe & Dunlevy law firm.

Murphy has been in private practice for 31 years, all with the firm she now manages. She became Crowe & Dunlevy's first female partner in 1981.

Her father, Homer Smith, was a district judge, her grandfather Gomer Smith an attorney and congressman. Her 87-year-old uncle, also named Gomer, is an attorney too, having closed his practice only last year.

Yet, when Murphy applied to law school she wrote that, "It has long been my latent desire to go to law school and to become an attorney."

The desire part, obviously, came from her family's deep legal background.

What about the latent part?

"The likely source of the fact that it was a latent desire was that I was a woman," said Murphy, 61.

When she started thinking about going to law school, women were fairly rare in the legal field.

"When I graduated from college (in 1967), women taught school and got married," Murphy said.

The Oklahoma City native earned an undergraduate degree in history and a teaching certificate in social studies from the University of Oklahoma, where she was Phi Beta Kappa. She taught first- and fourth-grade pupils for a few years while husband, Michael, was in the U.S. Navy.

"Really, I'm not sure there's anything better than teaching first- graders to read," Murphy said.

The family moved fairly often during these years, living first in Newport, R.I., while Mike attended officer's candidate school, Long Beach and San Francisco, Calif., and Key West, Fla., among other places.

Murphy's mother, Natalie, who was a full-time mom until Brooke started college, also obtained a teaching certificate and taught first-graders.

"So, I actually followed in the footsteps of both of my parents," Murphy said.

When her husband left the military service, Murphy knew she didn't want to go back to teaching, and weighed whether to get her Ph.D. in history or join the family business.

Murphy said she did not discuss her decision with her father beforehand.

"I think I just told him about it when I had decided, and he was thrilled," she said. "He was always my biggest fan and supporter, and just took every occasion he could to brag."

Murphy went to the Wisconsin University Law School, a 90-mile commute one way for the new mother of five-month-old son Stephen.

She feels that she had a "tremendous advantage" over her fellow students who did not spend a few years out in the world as she did. She said that practical knowledge and becoming accustomed to a work schedule stood her in good stead.

"I think it is invaluable, especially when you're going someplace that requires as much discipline as law school does," said Murphy, who was graduated from law school magna cum laude.

She joined Crowe & Dunlevy a short while later.

Murphy said she didn't think of how unusual it was to be the law firm's first female partner until several years later, when more women joined the partnership ranks.

"I remember looking around the room at firm meetings and having a little bit of a sigh of relief," she said. "You know, 'oh, good, there are some more people like me here.'"

Although she was the only woman attorney at the firm when she joined in 1975, Murphy said her male colleagues were completely supportive and took steps to include her in firm activities.

Judy Hamilton Morse joined the firm in 1979 as a first-year associate when Murphy was in her third year, the only woman attorney in the litigation department. Morse became the second. Morse said the firm's other two female attorneys practiced tax and estate planning law.

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