BEAUMONT – From working on cases with his wife and son, to handling multi-million dollar litigation with his notable partners – Paul “Chip” Ferguson has built his law firm into an “effective and formidable” force over the past four years.
Headquartered on the 14th floor of the Edison Plaza, The Ferguson Law Firm overlooks downtown Beaumont. But inside, attorneys aren’t just sitting around admiring the view; they’re laboring to out work the competition.
“Every morning when I walk in, I look down and see the other law firm’s offices –those parking lots are still empty,” Ferguson told The Record. “And when I leave at night, I look again - same thing. I take pride in that. I’ve done that every single day since we started.”
Every year since its formation in 2015, The Ferguson Law Firm has earned a “Best Law Firms” ranking.
In 2018, the firm proved the recognition is more than show when Jane Leger, a firm attorney and partner, won a groundbreaking $4 million 18-wheeler settlement by expanding the liability of those involved to a transportation broker.
In fact, her success at Ferguson Law has become a pattern of sorts in recent years.
In 2017, Leger secured Texas’ largest verdict in workplace safety – an award of more than $18 million in a case tried in a Lufkin federal court.
Currently, Leger is representing victims who were left stranded in a nursing home when Hurricane Harvey flooded Southeast Texas. She’s also representing a group of middle school students who were allegedly exposed to deadly toxins when a school boiler hadn’t been properly monitored or repaired.
“While Jane’s (Lufkin) verdict was wonderful, her work in these other cases matter – they make Southeast Texas safer,” Ferguson said.
Like Ferguson, Leger has roots at the Provost Umphrey Law Firm, as does Mark Sparks, a well-known attorney who was added to the firm’s growing partner roster just last year.
Sparks short tenure at the firm has already impressed his boss.
“Mark Sparks stood toe-to-toe with a really big and powerful bank that tried a take a couple’s house away,” Ferguson said. “He not only won that case but won it big. And most importantly, he saved that client’s home.”
Leger and Sparks don’t spend all their time in the courtroom, however. The ace lawyers worked together pro bono to help ensure every vote in the 2018 election was counted, especially the mail-in ballots.
But the firm’s veterans aren’t the only ones making headlines.
Cody Dishon, another PU defector who made partner at the young age of 29, worked with Ferguson to secure a $4.8 million settlement in September. The two lawyers represented a pair of plaintiffs who were injured when a crane toppled over on Highway 69.
So what’s the secret to the firm’s escalating success? Old-fashioned hard work, says Ferguson.
“We have become effective and formidable for a lot of reasons,” Ferguson said. “First, we have very good lawyers who are very committed to a common vision. Second, we have a staff of people who share that vision and put in the time. There is no magic; it takes hard work to do what we do. We don’t have to advertise that we work hard – we just do it.
“It’s not a slogan, it’s a way of life.”
While the firm’s success in 2018 is evident, Ferguson believes success can’t be measured by the size of an award alone.
“A lot of people measure success in terms of large verdicts or large settlements. We did have a lot of those and we were well recognized for that,” Ferguson said. “But we take cases for the right reasons. For example, I tried a case in Angleton for $2,500 because the client was right. The jury saw she was right, she won, and the insurance company paid much more than they wanted because of that.
“It’s not about big or small cases – it’s about taking care of anybody who needs our help.”
While Southeast Texas may have no shortage of trial lawyers and law firms, two firms have dominated the law landscape in Jefferson County for the past several decades – PU and Reaud Morgan and Quinn.
One way the “Big Two” wield their dominance is by donating generously every election cycle, doling out tens of thousands of dollars to judicial candidates.
This past year, however, The Ferguson Law Firm matched their spending, perhaps signaling the “Big Two” have now become the “Big Three.”
“As far as the ‘Big Two’ or ‘Big Three’ goes, I don’t think about that in those terms,” Ferguson said. “I like to think of The Ferguson Law Firm as a stand-alone group of people who are fighting the good fight for all the right reasons. What other law firms or people do, and what those motives are, is something that I really don’t know and, quite frankly, really don’t care.”
“One of those may not be around much longer. Or, maybe The Ferguson Law Firm will just become the ‘Big One.’”
Ultimately though, Ferguson says he just wants to keep doing what he and his team have been doing from the start – helping people, something The Ferguson Law Firm did a lot of after Harvey ravaged Southeast Texas.
“The Harvey experience was hard. So many people lost so much including some of our own lawyers and employees,” Ferguson said. “Before many people had electricity, and long before we had water, we started going out to help. We had our attorneys and our staff getting up early every morning, and working on our community’s recovery.
“It was a true team effort in every sense of the word.”
Ferguson and his team, which includes his family, made sure food, bottled water and other supplies went to those who had none, setting up delivery stations all over Beaumont, Mid-County and Port Arthur.
“My wife, Michelle, walked through hip deep water in Orange to take food to people who couldn’t get out of their homes,” Ferguson said. “She went to a retirement community and fed those folks. The elevator was not working because of no electricity and carrying meals up several flights of stairs was hard, but she did it. We did it. It was very sobering but also very rewarding.
“I like to think we stepped up. We didn’t simply write a check and leave the area. We rolled up our sleeves and helped. A lot of people did – that’s what makes Southeast Texas so special.”
From volunteer work to landing million-dollar verdicts, Ferguson has forged plenty of proud moments to choose from as his favorite in the short time his firm has been around, but one moment stands out among them all.
“My youngest son, Tim, graduated from law school and joined our law firm,” Ferguson said. “I went with him when he tried his first case in Fort Worth. He won. It wasn’t the largest verdict, but he won and I was there with him.
“I have had a lot of success in a lot of courtrooms but that one will always be an all-time favorite moment.”