Legal Practice Management

Lawyer Spotlight: Interview with Litigator Deborah Ferguson

LeanLaw Deborah Ferguson headshot next to white text on green box

Lawyers are Heroes! Meet Civil Rights Attorney Deborah Ferguson.


Deborah Ferguson is an accomplished litigator with 30 years of experience representing both plaintiffs and defendants in complex civil cases.

Ms. Ferguson has served as an Idaho State Bar President in 2011, and a Bar Commissioner from 2008-20011. She is also the founding Chair of the Idaho Academy of Leadership for Lawyers.

What made you want to be a lawyer?

Answer: I didn’t know any lawyers as a child. I grew up in a very blue-collar neighborhood. I met my first lawyer when I was in high school and asked if I could shadow him for a day. I was very impressed with what he did. And I just thought, wow, this is such an important job. You get to help people, but it’s interesting. I didn’t know this was out there and I liked it.

What is your area of practice?

Answer: I’ve been practicing for 30 years, always in the area of civil litigation. My focus right now is on civil rights and constitutional law. I’ve also had years of experience in the environmental arena, when I was with the Department of Justice. As an Assistant United States Attorney, I did primarily environmental cases.

What are you most proud of on your resume?

Answer: I’m most proud of being lead counsel on Idaho’s same-sex marriage case. It was the case that went to the 9th Circuit and it brought marriage equality not only to Idaho but to Montana, Alaska and Arizona. That was an extraordinary experience. I feel just humbled and so rewarded to have had that opportunity.

What is the most valuable thing a lawyer can do for her clients?

Answer: I think two things: to advocate for them, but also to truly provide them with advice, and often to tell them what they do not want to hear. It’s not always winning at all costs, but looking at the bigger picture.

What is your operating overhead as a percentage of revenue?

Answer: It has always been less than 10%. But that varies, depending on what the revenue looks like.

How did you get to be so lean?

Answer: I’m really debt averse. I wanted the freedom to make choices. I knew that I didn’t want to be a slave to having a high overhead. I think there’s a myth that you have to spend a lot of money to have a good space or to do things well.

If you’re so lean, what do you need LeanLaw for?

Answer: I am no techie. That is not my skill set at all. You can ask Jonathon [Jonathon Fishman, Chief Services Officer], he will vouch for that one. LeanLaw provides a framework to tell me what I need. It’s so wonderful to have this tech support. It’s truly at a higher level than somebody who’s just coming in and saying “Oh, I’ll tell you this about your computer.” LeanLaw has a bigger picture for lawyers. And so I thought, what a great idea you have because there is a need for this. For people like me.

If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?

Answer: I think I would like to be a fishing guide in Alaska. I love to fish, so that was always sort of a fantasy.

What’s the last great book you read for pleasure?

Answer: That’s an easy one: All the Light We Cannot See. And then I went out and bought four more copies so that I could send them to my friends. “You need to read this!”
LeanLaw believes that lawyers are heroes, critical to the rule of law in a free society. You can find out more about hero lawyer Deborah Ferguson at Ferguson Durham. If you know a heroic lawyer whom we should spotlight, please let us know in the comments below.

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Gary Allen, Founder and Practicing Attorney