Micaela Moore, who has a background in private practice, said she applied to become North Las Vegas’ city attorney knowing that such opportunities don’t come around often.
The City Council unanimously selected Moore as the city’s top legal adviser in December, making her the first person of Filipino descent to hold such a position in Southern Nevada. Moore replaces Sandra Douglass Morgan, who resigned in August.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking when you don’t know who’s going to be your leader,” Senior Deputy Attorney Claudia Aguayo said. “It could’ve gone badly, but it didn’t. She’s been well-received.”
Moore was born in Los Angeles; her family is from the Philippines. She said she was raised by her maternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and a “caring” woman named Ella.
“I have tried to honor them and the sacrifices they have made by sticking to … values and being self-sufficient,” Moore said.
She added that people of Asian descent are under-represented in the legal field.
“In the legal community, you don’t see a lot of minority women that are judges or in leadership positions,” she said. “I think it does have a lot to do with (the fact that) we are all mothers.”
Moore graduated from Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles in 2005 and worked for a law firm she’d interned for the previous summer.
She’d planned to work in sports and entertainment law, but when two associates left the firm on her first day, she was transferred into bankruptcy. Moore said she was resistant but just a few years later, the housing market crashed and her position was in high demand.
“I almost think it was a blessing in disguise,” she said.
Moore moved to another firm in 2010 and by 2013 had been promoted to partner. She was 34. The previous year, she had the second of her three children, who are now ages 10, 4 and 2.
Moore said she has had to learn to find a balance between her career and family life.
“It’s hard because we have our interests,” she said. “We want to be good mothers and good family members, but we don’t want to compromise our careers.”
As a bankruptcy attorney, Moore dealt with home developers, businesses, manufacturers and casinos. That experience prepared her for her current position, she said, adding that the biggest difference between public and private practice is the ability to turn down work.
Every legal contract that comes through the city has to be reviewed and approved by Moore’s office. She has a staff of about 20 employees.
Mayor Pro Tem Isaac Barron, who was the first Hispanic member of the City Council, said of North Las Vegas, “We’re not afraid to hire someone from a non-standard background. I’m from a non-standard background myself.”
Barron, a teacher at Rancho High School, said he hopes to bring Moore to the school to talk to students and serve as a role model.
City attorney’s role
The North Las Vegas city attorney is the city’s chief legal officer represents and advises the mayor, City Council and various agencies and boards in legal matters. The city attorney’s office is split into civil and criminal divisions.