Kelly McDonald is a Partner at Murray Plumb & Murray with a focus on Litigation, Business Reorganization & Insolvency, Construction, and Public Utilities.
What made you want to become an attorney? Why do you do what you do?
I didn’t want to be a lawyer at first! My father is a lawyer and I worked in his office as a teenager and found it completely boring. After college, I taught high school math for a few years and then lived abroad for a few more. After returning to the country, I was ready for something different.
I sat in on a law school class and found it really interesting. What’s appealing to me is that practicing law is intellectually challenging and stimulating, and presents new issues every time you face a new case. At the same time you’re working directly with people to help them solve their problems. In a lot of ways it’s similar to teaching so there are still pieces of that in my current life.
How do you recommend people find the right attorney to suit their needs?
It’s important to have a relationship built on trust. Reach out to people you trust who might know lawyers and have personal recommendations. They may have faced similar challenges, and can recommend an attorney they had success with.
Is there any one case that’s made a lasting impression on you or that you’ve learned the most from?
I’m constantly learning – every case teaches me something new. Last year I brought suit against the Governor of Maine. It was a big, complex case and we were dealing with law that was not well known, which meant there were some interesting intellectual challenges. We were able to overcome the odds and achieve a very good result for our client against someone who was abusing his power.
What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
I really enjoy engaging in the argument with a judge or the other side. Dueling with ideas. When you’re up against another lawyer who knows what they’re doing, or a judge who is smart and asks strong questions, there’s a level of excitement that comes from a challenging case. Overcoming the other side’s logic and winning the case for the client is a great feeling..
What is the best advice you’ve received about practicing law?
To be scrupulously honest. I think integrity is the most important quality a lawyer can have. Everybody should be able to trust your word and your work. Your client, the judge, and the other side. If you can maintain that integrity, you can go a long way.
Who has been the biggest influence on your legal career?
My partners here at Murray Plumb & Murray. They have decades of experience and are savvy about so much. It’s one of the great privileges of practicing with them.
What causes are you passionate about in your personal life?
I’m a Scout leader, which is something my whole family is involved in. Working with kids is great fun. I have the opportunity to help them build self-esteem and learn self-sufficiency. To watch them make mistakes and learn from them. We take them out into the woods every month of the year, including the winter. I try to teach them how to be good people and good leaders. It’s immensely rewarding to watch them grow and learn how to do things on their own.
What else do you do in your spare time?
I have three kids. Things are busy, so in our spare time we focus on things we can do as a family, and we love the outdoors. Every year we take a big family trip; this past year we went canoeing on the St. Croix River.
What else might we not know about you?
I’m an amateur woodworker. I actually built the desk I’m standing at right now. It’s rewarding to work with my hands after a long day in the office!