December 2014 Bar Bulletin
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Profile / Judy Runstad

A Fortuitous Life

By Sharon Ernst


If you made a movie about Judy Runstad's life, you might call it "Right Time, Right Place." Both professionally and personally, Runstad has spent the past 40 years helping to shape Seattle into the city it is today. Along the way, she has experienced her own growth and development inside the office and out of it, as she has worn the hats of both counsel and community leader in equal measure, often at the same time.

Although she has played a crucial role in Seattle's evolution during a period of rapid growth, Runstad hails from Idaho. She was one of many who left the Gem State in the '60s and '70s in search of better opportunities.

Runstad knew leaving her home state was inevitable. "I wanted to leave Idaho from the time I was a little girl. I wanted to go to Washington, D.C., to work for the Washington Post ... do something big," she says.

After earning a master's degree in political science from the University of Idaho, Runstad moved to Seattle in 1967. Despite the move, career opportunities still didn't materialize. She worked as a secretary during the summers and taught at Shorecrest High School during the school year until the big Boeing bust of 1971.

"People forget how bad that time was," she says. Many outside of Boeing also lost their jobs as a result of the economic impact of the layoffs. All the school levies failed, and as a junior teacher, Runstad was laid off.

Like many others in the Seattle area at the time, Runstad went back to school. She applied to the University of Washington School of Law and was accepted in 1971.

Runstad smilingly recalls that her mother always said she should be a lawyer because she talked so much. Runstad herself knew a law degree would benefit her in critical ways. As she saw it, having a law degree would give her credibility during a time when women weren't always taken seriously in the professional world.

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