Huntsman Alumni Magazine

Spring 2014

Voice: William G. Murray

William G. MurrayHow has USU changed and how has it stayed the same from your undergraduate days?

The most striking changes at USU are the available physical facilities. As I drive or walk through the campus, it is simply amazing to see the quality of the buildings, classrooms, performance halls and related facilities. Huntsman Hall is just another example of a top tier facility. In my view USU has the facilities to be a top tier, destination school in many fields
of study.

The thing about USU that has not changed is the dedication to individual, first class education. I was always going to attend USU. It is in my blood. Both of my grandparents graduated from USU. My father graduated from USU and met my mother there. I never thought of going anywhere else. What I didn’t realize when I went to USU is that through the Honors Program, and through a number of individual professors in political science and languages, I would get one-on-one attention. It was much more than you would expect from a public institution. That individual attention taught me how to think critically and how to write. I truthfully don’t think I could have been better taught and prepared at any university in the country. I have heard this same story from many people, most recently from Lars Hansen. USU has done a great job of preparing people for success.

What resonates the most from your career at the nexus of business and the law?

The things that have been most important in my career are (1) surround yourself with good people. I have been blessed to work with the same group of great colleagues my whole career. They are honest, smart, hard working people. I couldn’t ask for more; (2) be honest and constructive in all that you do. Lawyers are sometimes viewed as impediments to business rather than facilitators. My colleagues and I have tried very hard to be just the opposite and it has paid off; (3) prepare, prepare, prepare. You can’t always be the smartest person in the room but you can always be the best prepared; and (4) listen and respond. A good lawyer is a good listener.

How do you suggest students foster a spirit of innovation in their careers and in their lives?

It seems to me that innovation is a function of never being complacent. In whatever field you are in you need to always think about whether there is a way to do the job better and more efficiently. In law if you are not constantly looking at how to be better and more efficient you are going to be passed by someone who is. The pace of change today is dazzling and as my sons who are surfers (and entrepreneurs) say, you either get in front of the wave and ride it or you get buried by it. Watching my children, I would also say there is no substitute for hard work.

"If you want to be successful and at the top of your field, you have to work hard."

What are some guiding principles that anchor your leadership philosophy?

The way I conduct my practice and my business is based on the principles my parents taught me. Be honest, work hard, treat people kindly, love your family, remember what is most important. This may not seem sophisticated or even particularly innovative but it has worked well for me. Sometimes you might feel that cutting corners is a quicker way to success but in the long run I believe these principles will make for a fulfilling and successful life. I should also say that a guiding north star in my life has been my wife, Billie. She never varies from her devotion to doing what is right. Whenever I have hard choices I can depend on her for the right advice.

What does “Dare Mighty Things” mean to you?

When I was at USU I had the idea that I wanted to be the best lawyer I could be. Frankly, I am not even sure why I had that idea but I did. Utah State prepared me well for this process. I was able to attend law school at Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley and study with top-notch students and professors. That was the first step in the process. I then had the opportunity to practice law at two large law firms in San Francisco and to work with and become partners with several lawyers who were simply the best in their fields. The people at these two firms with whom I worked gave me the opportunity to be, and prepared me to be, the best that I could be in my field. Looking back these seem like big steps and somewhat unlikely steps for a kid from Utah State but at the time they were just a continuation of my goal to be the best lawyer I could be. The important thing seems to be keeping your focus on high goals. Don’t ever settle for less.

Did you really climb Mt. Logan and ski down it with Dean Anderson?

The simple answer is yes. It was a heroic effort of endurance and skill by both of us never to be repeated, at least by us. It was inspired by my father’s tales of skiing on Mt. Logan when he was a young man. He made it sound a lot more fun that it was. The Dean and I are now bound together by this effort. So when you look up at Mt. Logan in the winter and see those pristine snow fields, you will know that someone has skied those.