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‘Stuttering lawyer’ alumnus speaks out

October 31st, 2010 Posted in Arts and Life

Story by Alex Thatcher
Photo by Mark Vuong

LOGAN—For someone who has struggled all his life with stuttering, Utah State alumnus Marcus Mumford had no problem expressing himself Friday to an audience of about 150 students and faculty at the David B. Haight Alumni Center.

Mumford, “the stuttering lawyer,” captivated the audience with his life story of coping with stuttering, particularly during his law career. The 1996 USU philosophy graduate and Salt Lake City attorney was on campus as part of the College of Humanities & Social Sciences’ Alumni Lecture Series.

Mumford, who grew up on an Idaho dairy farm, was diagnosed with stuttering as a 4-year-old. His parents didn’t show much sympathy, he said, and once sent him out to sell Boy Scout cookies. “I came home without selling one cookie,” he said. “I hardly even managed to get a word out. But my mom was gutsy and she made me go right back out and try selling again. The second time, I sold them all. This was the first step I took in my life toward becoming one who acts and is not just acted upon.”

Mumford used a cartoon of three different baseball umpires to illustrate the larger issues underlying his message. The first umpire says, “I call ’em as they are.” The second: “I call ’em as I see ’em.” And the third says, “They ain’t nothing’ ‘till I call ’em.”

There are very few things in life that are unchangeable and can be considered absolute truth, Mumford explained. There are few things that are “as they are.”

“Everything else is left for us to interpret,” said Mumford. “I call this the ‘Philosophy of Science.’”

“As a stutterer, I had to create a new reality for myself,” Mumford said. “I had to be audacious enough to jump into it [the law], even though the world wasn’t prepared for a stuttering lawyer.”

When Mumford came to USU as a freshman, his stuttering condition was moderately severe and he faced many difficulties. “One time I spent half hour trying to make a 30-second voicemail,” Mumford said. “Often, I would answer the phone and the caller would have to hang up because I couldn’t get a word out.”

With the help and encouragement of USU faculty, including speech therapists, and an unbreakable will, Mumford graduated and went on to BYU Law School. Between 2000 and 2009, he worked at one of the biggest law firms in the country, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, in New York and Los Angeles, where he was mentored by lawyers included among the “Best Lawyers in America” and “Top 100” lawyers in California and New York.

In 2009, Mumford moved back to Utah to open his own law firm in Salt Lake City. His cases have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The National Law Journal, and The Salt Lake Tribune and The Deseret News. The Los Angeles Daily Journal recognized him for one of the “hardest fought and highest stakes intellectual property trials in recent memory,” and the National Law Journal named one of his cases to the 2009 “Appellate Hot List.”

“Some might call it a m-m-m-m-miracle,” he said. His audience sure seemed to think so.

“He makes you feel like you can do anything,” said English Professor Anne Stark. “His command of the language, articulation and vocabulary are incredible. His words flow together so wonderfully even though he stutters.”

Erin Cottle, a graduate student in political science, agreed. “His confidence stood out to me,” she said. “And he didn’t seek any pity.”

“He was captivating to listen to,” Stark said. “I’m so glad I was able to attend this inspiring event.”


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  1. One Response to “‘Stuttering lawyer’ alumnus speaks out”

  2. By Melissa on Nov 1, 2010

    I enjoyed thoroughly enjoyed this lecture. I take issue with the author saying his parents were not sympathetic. I didn’t get that impression at all. Quite the opposite, in fact.
    He has made some remarkable accomplishments. Very uplifting and inspiring.

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