BEAUMONT – The heated divorce between the Provost Umphrey Law Firm and one of its most lucrative partners ever was finalized last month, as both sides reached a settlement agreement following a lengthy arbitration process.
Paul ‘Chip’ Ferguson, who hauled in nearly $60 million in attorney’s fees for PU during his 26-year tenure, told the Record that while the agreement between them remains confidential, all issues have been resolved and he is “very happy with the outcome.”
A total of three lawsuits were filed between Ferguson and PU – all of which centered around a settlement agreement Ferguson negotiated with firm founder Walter Umphrey before officially resigning on Aug. 3, 2015.
PU had claimed their former partner took advantage of Umphrey and his ailing mental condition, asserting Umphrey’s mental capacity began to decline in 2014 and that he lacked the capacity to contract, let alone negotiate, Ferguson’s side agreement.
“Walter Umphrey was a second father to me. So much of this litigation was not about legal matters but a frontal assault on my integrity,” Ferguson said. “There was no finding by any of the arbitrators that those allegations had a featherweight of truth.”
Umphrey is no longer listed as an equity partner or even as an attorney with PU on the firm’s website.
The Record contacted PU to ascertain whether Umphrey was forced out or simply retired, but was hung up on.
When asked if the loss of both Umphrey and himself would inevitably hurt PU, Ferguson said: “Any firm that suffers the loss of their leader and rainmaker, in addition to an extremely capable trial lawyer, is bound to suffer some consequences – I’d expect Provost Umphrey to be no different.”
Ferguson handled several prized cases for PU, which includes scoring a $32 million jury verdict against Domino’s Pizza in 2013 – a top five verdict in Texas that year.
From the firm’s founding until Ferguson’s departure, no attorney other than Umphrey earned more for PU than Ferguson, according to accounts receivable receipts obtained by the Record.
Not even PU’s current equity partners, Bryan Blevins, Edward Fisher, Joe Fisher, D’Juana Parks, James Payne and David Wilson, come close to matching Ferguson’s totals.
To no avail, the Record attempted to contact Blevins with questions regarding how he and his partners would lead PU into the future with Umphrey apparently no longer playing a role.
“The beauty of Provost Umphrey when Walter Umphrey ran the firm was strong leadership,” Ferguson said. “Based on my experience, law firms run by committee don’t work – it may be the fall of the citadel.”
The settlement agreement between the parties was reached on Feb. 15.
With the help of several former PU attorneys, Ferguson founded The Ferguson Law Firm in Beaumont following his departure.