Joy Tompkins Ferguson knew she wanted to be an attorney by the fourth grade after a classroom project in which students were assigned “grownup” jobs.
“I like helping people,” she said. “I love cases where clients are happy that we’ve been able to accomplish their goals … It’s really as simple as that.”
Since graduating from Mizzou, the Poplar Bluff native has been at the same firm, Hackworth, Ferguson & Thompson where she started as a clerk and ultimately worked her way up to partner by 2005. With a practice that runs the gamut from family law and estate planning to business and real estate disputes, she, like many outstate attorneys, has to be a bit of a jack of all trades regularly doing work across 10 counties of southeastern Missouri. Whether it is setting up an LLC or handling a divorce, rural lawyers often find themselves meeting a wide array of needs.
“We have seven practicing attorneys in my county and five of them are here at my law firm,” she noted.
Since 2001, Ferguson, 49, has accepted various court appointments in juvenile matters as well as referrals from Legal Services of Missouri.
“In the past 21 years, Joy has mentored four new associates as well as several student interns, providing encouragement and guidance,” writes her nominator. “She is very proud that many of them have gone on to have very successful legal careers. Joy is a shining example in her community in so many areas.”
Ferguson is part of the SEMO Women’s Lawyers Association and, outside the legal world, she is also administrator of the Cedar Hills Group Home.
She believes that having women play a prominent role in the field of law is vital to keeping it vibrant and varied.
“Women bring their own unique perspectives to cases,” Ferguson said. “Men do so as well. Having that diversity of thoughts and ideas and problem-solving skills I think makes the legal world better. It improves it to have both men and women.”
In the end, the important thing is continuing to do what she can to serve the community and the clients who trust her to find solutions for issues requiring answers.
“They come to us with a problem and we hopefully are able to help them work through that and come up with a resolution that they can be happy with and improve their lives or fix whatever problem they had,” she said.