Deborah A. Ferguson of Boise opened her own law office in September after spending decades in civil litigation.
Ferguson wanted to focus on mediating disputes outside of the family-law arena.
Often these are for cases currently in litigation where settlement needs to be explored, she says. I also conduct pre-litigation mediation, so that it might be avoided entirely.
She also handles disputes for federal, state and local agencies, corporations and nonprofits.
Q: What is your background?
A: I have practiced law as a civil litigator for 26 years.
I recently left the U.S. Department of Justice after 20 years, having practiced the last 17 in Idaho in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorneys Office in Idaho.
Before that, I litigated in Chicago at the U.S. Attorneys Office, Northern District of Illinois, and earlier in private practice.
Q: Why did you decide to go into legal mediation?
A: Over 95 percent of lawsuits do not go to trial. Businesses, agencies and private clients need more mediation options.
I know from over two decades as a litigator that the benefits of a mediated resolution almost always outweigh going to trial, or litigating up to that cliff.
I see mediation as an underused tool that has enormous possibilities in our litigious society:
The parties control the outcome and who decides their dispute, and save both time and money.
A mediated settlement brings certainty and confidentiality and can reduce collateral damage to the parties.
Mediation can provide a fresh assessment of the issues and a more creative solution, something a court is unable to address.
Q: What helped you reach your goal of opening this business?
A: I think my career up to this point has prepared me to accomplish this goal. I have served as lead trial counsel on very complex and challenging civil cases for over 25 years. That unique experience, along with in-depth mediation training and an innate ability to handle conflict, allows me to focus on the real interests of the parties and help them find an acceptable outcome and move forward.
Q: What makes your firm unique?
A: I believe that my preparation for each mediation is key. The parties know that when the mediation begins, I have a full command of the facts and understand the legal posture of the matter, and applicable law.
I dont charge for my preparation time, because I want to prepare to my own level of satisfaction, not according to an hourly budget.
I also approach mediation as more than an exercise in shuttle diplomacy. To be done most effectively, it takes serious training, study, skill and practice. There is a vast amount to know in the field, as both an art and a science.
Q: What challenges did you face opening the business?
A: There are not a lot of women in Idaho offering the type of mediation services I provide. In part, that is a function of the age of female lawyers. While 25 percent of the attorneys in the state are currently women, the vast majority are younger women who have not accumulated decades of experience in practice.
Q: What do you hope to achieve in three to five years?
A: I would like to offer a mediation facility outside of a court or law firm. I think that our environment can and does affect us.
A comfortable environment for the parties puts them in the right frame of mind to resolve the issues that divide them.
Audrey Dutton: 377-6448