My Promise to you

 

  • I and all of the personnel in the office will treat you with respect, politeness and courtesy.
  • You will be kept informed of the progress of your matter including copies of all correspondence (incoming and outgoing), motions, petitions, orders and other relevant documents related to your file as they are created or received.
  • Your matter will be kept in confidence by us, which means, that we will never discuss your case in public or with anyone not first authorized by you for us to share or discuss any information about your case.
  • At all times, I will give you my best energy, effort, know how and skill to achieve the agreed upon goals in your case.
  • At an initial meeting with you we will discuss at length our fee arrangement and will generally put our understanding into an “Engagement Letter.” I do not want any future misunderstandings regarding fees or expenses.
  • I promise to conduct myself ethically with you, the opposing counsel and the Court in compliance with the Code of Professional Responsibility.
  • Even though we will be working cooperatively together to achieve the hoped for end results in your legal matter, you will have the final say as to whether your matter is tried, settled, compromised or dismissed.
  • Occasionally, a conflict of interest may arise in a case. A “conflict of interest” is a situation in which it may appear that my objectivity might be compromised because I do or have previously represented a person involved in your case or to whom I may be related, who may be called, for example, as a material witness in your case. Should that happen you will be immediately notified and the matter discussed at length to determine if I should withdraw as your counsel. It is important that you remain confident that you at all times have my uncompromised loyalty.
  • Your inquiries, whether by telephone, email or letter will be responded to promptly or you will be advised when I will be able to get back to you if I am tied up in litigation or am out of the office.
  • When you refer family, friends or acquaintances to me, I assure you that I will not discuss the nature of or any information about your matter with the person you have referred to me.
  • In my practice I generally focus on Family Law issues (including divorce, legal separation, child support and custody issues), Business Law including advice, management consultation, and representation in court, Wills and Estates and Conservatorships. I am familiar and do represent clients in other areas of the law. However, if I am asked to represent someone in an area of the law in which I do not have adequate knowledge or experience, I promise to tell you that and will recommend to you generally more than one attorney who will be capable of handling your matter.
  • In most cases at the conclusion of your matter I will schedule a convenient time for you and me to sit down (at no cost to you) and cover anything that you need to know or do in the future as a result of your matter. I will also return to you anything of yours that is in my file.

SHELBURNE FERGUSON, JR.

     My Story

 

You might like to know why and how I became an attorney.

The story begins with my father. My Dad, Anthony Shelburne Ferguson, Sr., graduated from Milligan College with a Bachelor of Arts. He was an athlete at Milligan staring in Baseball as a third baseman and as a track athlete holding the high jump record back in the early 1900’s at six feet. The remarkable thing about that is my dad was only five foot seven.

 

After graduating from Milligan, Dad headed off to Washington, D.C. and the National Law School.  After a year there he headed north to New York City and the Columbia University School of Law. He then returned south to the University of Tennessee to finish his law degree.

 

Dad settled in Johnson City to practice law and did so until 1919 when J. Fred Johnson, the founder of Kingsport, called him and asked him to relocate to Kingsport because Johnson needed an attorney in Kingsport.

 

Later on in the 1930’s my father became the Mayor of Kingsport and shortly after that ran for Circuit Court Judge covering Bristol, Blountville and Kingsport in Sullivan County, Rogersville in Hawkins County, Greeneville in Greene County and Morristown in Hamblen County in both civil and criminal cases. He ultimately served three, eight year terms, retiring in 1958.

 

My father never did suggest to me that I ought to become an attorney. Nor did my mother push me in that direction. What I saw in him was his love of his career, the way he honored his role as judge and his commitment to exercising great judgment in the cases he heard. He was well respected among the attorneys and law enforcement officers in his court. I did my best as his son to do nothing that would dishonor him by my conduct.

 

Once I told my dad that I was thinking of becoming an attorney, he seemed pleased and we shared many conversations about the ethical practice of law. I attended Milligan College in Northeast Tennessee from which Dad and his father had both graduated. Then I moved to Knoxville to study law at the University of Tennessee, College of Law.

 

Studying law at the University was quite challenging. I felt I benefited immensely by having a father who was a Judge near at hand. He was able to easily explain some of the complicated legal issues with which I wasn’t familiar. In law school the students study “Trial Cases and the decisions the courts make upon the facts and relevant laws that are appealed.”  My father was wonderful at making those decisions far more clear than I could gather from merely reading the decisions in the book.

 

Let me rush ahead through the three years of study in Law School to graduation, my marriage to my high school sweetheart after I received my law degree, passing the Bar Exam and finding a job in Kingsport. I took the bar exam in June and learned in the Knoxville News Sentinel that I had passed the Bar in late August. My wife was especially happy since she had been working at Tennessee Eastman for two of my years in law school. (The reason we didn’t marry until I had received my law degree was because my parents told me that if we got married before I graduated from college and law school that they would not pay for it.) That was a great motivating factor in our lives since at that time there were no education grants or student loans.

 

I felt I wanted to practice law in the greater Kingsport area because my father was so well known and admired there and his and my name made it clear that I was his son. I needed to take advantage of the wonderful reputation he had.

 

I decided to visit with a former partner of my dad, Tom Dodson, to see if he knew of any attorney firm in Kingsport who might be looking for a new legal associate. Mr. Dodson suggested I talk with John S. McLellan, Jr. who had just lost a couple of associates who had moved to other cities to “ply their trade.”

 

An appointment was made and I spoke to Mr. McLellan at length at his office. It was September 20, 1965, and he offered me a job which I accepted. John McLellan was a Labor Lawyer representing primarily unions. The Kingsport Press was in its third year as I recall and still going strong. The Press strike became ultimately the longest lasting strike in America before it ended.

 

I worked closely with Mr. McLellan for about a month and went with him to sit in on a local Labor Relations Board Hearing…my first encounter with that type of hearing. In the second month, he gave me a transcript of a Labor Board hearing and asked me to read it. He then told me that he was sending me alone to try a case similar to the one about which he had given me the transcript. The case was in the Daytona Beach area. I would have to fly there…having never flown before. You talk about being thrown a “sink or swim challenge,” that was it, having only worked as an attorney for two months.

 

The union representative met me at the airport and droves us to the hotel where we ate and then talked about the case in his hotel room. I bring this up because of what the union rep told me about how he closes everyday on the job.  He sat down on the edge of his bed and took off one shoe. He then asked, “Do you know how I end every day?” (I didn’t.) “I sit down on the edge of my bed, take off one shoe. Then I’d say, well, I helped some SOB who didn’t want to be helped.”

 

Excuse the language, but that is just the way he said it. Believe it or not I learned a valuable lesson from his statement. I always ask a new client, “Well, how can I help you?” That may seem pretty simple, but the reality is, many clients do not really know what it might take to help them. I’m left to figure that out.

 

One last word about my first encounter of acting like a lawyer, and trying my first case by myself. About a month after I got home I received the written decision of the hearing officer of the Labor Board. I HAD WON! I eased into Mr. McLellan’s office and excitedly told him the news. His response was classic. He said without hesitation, “If I’d known that, I would have tried it myself.”

 

I’d like to close my story with a couple of flash backs. When I was at Milligan as a student, there were two professors who, as we say, “took me under their wings” and encouraged me. One was my history professor Ivor Jones and the other was my English professor. They both wanted me to work toward becoming a College Professor. While I never thought of myself as being a professor, While working on a Master’s Degree in English at ETSU, I did teach Freshman English in the ETSU night school in Kingsport for a couple of years during my early years of practicing law.

 

The other flash back occurred when the long term minister at First Christian Church in Kingsport, L. Palmer Young, resigned as minister to become the President of a Bible College in Kentucky, the Church had a going away dinner for Dr. Young. During his parting words to the crowd, he surprisingly singled me out as someone he hoped would become a minister. I felt he was very nice to say such a nice thing, however, I did not feel that I had the temperament to be a minister. Thus I did not abandon my path of pursuing a law degree.

 

I close with these two incidents to point out that even though I rejected the wishes of my professors and my minister, to follow the directions they preferred, in many ways I have ended up in both of those roles on occasion in my law practice. Since I gave up being a labor lawyer and began focusing on Wills and Estates, Business Law and Family Law in the 1980’s I am often called on to “teach” and “minister” not so much in a formal way, but simply to help people in general, and especially my clients, to be able to cope with life and all of the “issues” that fall often unexpectedly into our lives. If I can be of service to you, please do call on me.