Chuck Muchmore knew at a young age what he wanted to do in life: be a lawyer. His uncle was a lawyer and Perry Mason an early hero. Getting into law school; however, proved to be a challenge.
After earning his undergraduate degree from New Mexico Highlands University in 1972, he received three rejection letters from each of the law schools to which he applied – the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and the University of New Mexico. Figuring he had the best chance with his home-state law school, he was able to beg his way into the UNM School of Law. So he says. He earned his J.D. in 1976, graduating 12th in his class.
As he began looking for jobs, Muchmore discovered he could make twice the salary in Phoenix than at Albuquerque firms. So he loaded up his pregnant wife into their Volkswagen Beetle and headed west, where he joined O’Connor, Cavanagh, Anderson, Killingsworth & Beshears at an annual salary of $12,000. He had clerked at the firm after his second year of law school. His uncle Bob, who worked at the Phoenix firm, was an early mentor.
When he arrived at the firm as a clerk, he found himself among law students from the University of Michigan, Columbia, Cornell and Arizona State University. Having already completed his clinical requirement, Muchmore jumped in.
“While they were flailing and looking to find out what a summary judgment was, I had written several,” he says. “I had written motions and gone to court in the clinic, so I could hit the ground running.”
Muchmore stayed with the Cavanagh firm until 1993, concentrating on medical malpractice defense, automobile defense and products liability defense.
“When I started, the firm had 40 members and was very collegial,” he says. “In the 1980s, we got up to 120 lawyers and I became more frustrated with firm politics.”
In 1993, he left and started his own firm, Muchmore & Wallwork, where he shifted his practice to plaintiff’s work and began representing copper companies in cost-recovery actions.
In 2002, his wife’s breast cancer metastasized to her hip. Muchmore wanted to spend more time with her rather than dealing with the day-to-day affairs of a law firm, so he left and in 2003, joined Burch & Cracchiolo, where he is of counsel.
These days, he spends half of his time on plaintiff’s work, 40 percent as a mediator or arbitrator and 10 percent on personal injury defense. He also serves as judge pro tem on the Maricopa County Superior Court.
“It’s been a great career,” he says. “I’ve helped a lot of people, made a reasonable living and haven’t missed a meal.”
He returns to New Mexico often, heading to Las Vegas, where he has a cabin adjacent to the national forest. For the past 10 years, he has served on the board of the New Mexico Highlands University Foundation. Some day, he might retire there.
His wife died in 2007. He has a daughter and grandson and two stepdaughters. He enjoys traveling and cooking. He even spent a month in Italy spending five days at a cooking school there.
What does he miss most about New Mexico? Green chile, of course.