March 4, 2021

‘Making a Murderer’ creator had past life at Quinn Emanuel

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EXCLUSIVE - Netflix VP of Original Documentary Lisa Nishimura, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos seen at Netflix 2016 Winter TCA on Sunday, January 17, 2016, in Pasadena, CA. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Netflix/AP Images)

EXCLUSIVE – Netflix VP of Original Documentary Lisa Nishimura, and seen at Netflix 2016 Winter TCA on Sunday, January 17, 2016, in Pasadena, . (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Netflix/AP Images)

By Nell Gluckman, The Am Law Daily


The documentary series “Making a Murderer,” which chronicles the case of a Wisconsin man charged with killing a 25-year-old woman, made celebrities out of some lawyers it featured in its deep dive into the criminal justice system. Not coincidentally, one of the filmmakers behind the series has a legal background and past at an Am Law 100 firm.

Laura Ricciardi, who produced the 10-part documentary for Netflix along with Moira Demos, is a graduate of New York Law School, according to her registration on the New York State Unified Court System, which still lists a contact address for Urquhart & Sullivan in Los Angeles. Her profile on professional networking site LinkedIn shows that she worked as a contract attorney at the firm for more than five years while making the documentary film.

Ricciardi and Demos spent a decade working on “Making a Murderer.” The series follows the case of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man freed from prison after serving 18 years for a rape he did not commit. Two years after he was released, Avery was charged with murder in an unrelated case and eventually convicted in March 2007.

The filmmakers hadn’t anticipated the scope of the project they were getting into when they traveled to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, in 2005 for Avery’s trial while they were still graduate film students at Columbia University, according to The New York Times.

As the trial and story unfolded, Ricciardi and Demos stuck with it. Avery maintained his innocence, but his 16-year-old nephew Brendan Dassey confessed to helping his uncle in the murder of Teresa Halbach.

The Times reported that the filmmakers sublet their New York apartment and took various jobs to support themselves while making the series, which became available in December. Ricciardi relied on her legal background and took hourly work as an attorney. The Times story also said that Ricciardi’s training as a lawyer is partly what attracted her to the Avery case and helped her and Demos understand the legal documents involved.

Ricciardi could not be reached for comment, but Quinn Emanuel confirmed that she had worked for the firm. She worked at the high-powered litigation shop from April 2009 through June 2014, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Avery, who is serving a life sentence, appealed his conviction in January, arguing that he did not receive a fair trial. He is now being represented by Chicago solo practitioner Kathleen Zellner and Midwest Innocence Project legal director Tricia Bushnell, a former Kirkland & Ellis associate.

IMAGE: Laura Ricciardi at Netflix 2016 Winter TCA on Sunday, January 17, 2016, in Pasadena, CA. Photo: Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Netflix/AP Images

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