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February 4, 2019
On the record

Pro bono work a labor of love for Portland attorney Stacey Neumann

Photo / Jim Neuger
Photo / Jim Neuger
Stacey Neumann, a partner at Murray Plumb & Murray, at the firm's office in Portland.

Stacey Neumann is a partner at Portland law firm Murray Plumb & Murray, where she chairs the criminal/white collar defense and employment practice groups.

The Massachusetts native earned an undergraduate English degree from James Madison University and a law degree from Cornell Law School. An experienced prosecutor and public defender, Neumann sat down with Mainebiz last week to talk about her varied practice and pro bono work, which includes asylum and criminal-defense cases. Below is an edited excerpt.

Mainebiz: You joined the firm in 2013 and made partner in 2017. How did you manage that so quickly?

Stacey Neumann: I came here with quite a bit of experience in the criminal realm, so that certainly helped me jump-start my skills. Then I took a leadership role in the firm and was really involved our mentorship program — both as a mentor to associates and trying to revamp the program.

MB: Revamp in what way?

SN: We now have more of a checklist approach, to make sure that nothing is falling by the wayside. We also have a mentorship committee with attorneys from different disciplines and legal practices, which gives you different perspectives. Our firm culture is really supportive.

MB: You've done both defense and prosecutorial work. What do you like more?

SN: I like them both, and they're both important. When I came to this firm I had my criminal practice but I needed a larger practice, so I evolved into doing employment law as well. What I like about that is the civil rights aspect — fighting for the underdog and fighting for people. I also work with employers, a lot of whom are small, family-owned businesses.

MB: Given Maine's workforce challenges, do you notice any changes in the way employers are writing policies to be more favorable to employees?

SN: I think there's a lot more awareness, including employers asking me to take a quick look at their sexual harassment policy to make sure it's in line. One great aspect of the #MeToo movement has been to empower people, particularly women, to fight back against gender discrimination.

MB: How do pro bono cases come to you?

SN: Mainly referrals. For the asylum cases, I'm a panel attorney for ILAP [the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project], which provides a lot of support. Those cases take along time to move through the system, so I try to do one a year. I've also gotten referrals from the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union]. My employment discrimination cases also sometimes have a pro bono component.

MB: A couple of years ago you represented one of 17 Black Lives Matter protestors in a criminal case that led to a settlement with a restorative justice dialogue between protestors and police. How unusual was that?

SN: At the time it was relatively unusual, and it wasn't that long ago. It's a great model for the cases it works on. The restorative piece can include apologies and accepting the actions that you did that got you there. That can be very impactful, particularly for victims of a crime.

MB: Why do you feel so strongly about taking on asylum cases?

SN: I find those to be the most nerve-wracking and the most gratifying cases. If you're unsuccessful on an asylum case, these people could get deported back and likely be tortured and killed, and I have had clients where that's absolutely true. But if you succeed in helping a client get asylum, it's the most wonderful feeling in the world.

MB: What's next for you professionally?

SN: I hope that I can continue to do this work, and continue to love it like I do. Hopefully I will always have newer attorneys at the firm to keep the mentorship role going. What I find so exciting about the law is that it isn't limiting. My coming here to Murray Plumb & Murray was a big change, so there might be a new avenue that interests me that I don't even know yet! For sure I know it has to involve clients with real needs that are affecting their lives. I really love trying to help people, so that's really important to me.

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