Death of Allstate chief legal officer Ferguson mourned as industry loss

Allstate Corp.Rhonda Ferguson’s general counsel and director of legal affairs died on April 17 after battling cancer for the past few years.

“Rhonda was a visionary force and a passionate friend, coach and mentor whose leadership helped spark Allstate’s transformation and create societal impact,” the insurance company said in a statement Tuesday.

While there was no immediate word on Ferguson’s successor as Allstate’s legal leader, his death marked the loss of a corporate lawyer praised by his current and former colleagues as mentor and pioneer for other various lawyers.

“I have had the privilege of advancing my career alongside Rhonda, celebrating each other’s successes over the years with a shared commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal profession and beyond. beyond,” said Discover Financial Services Inc. chief legal officer Wanjiku Walcott.

Rhonda Ferguson

Courtesy of the Ferguson family.

Walcott called Ferguson an “incredible person” who “always made herself available as a sounding board, role model, confidante and friend”.

Laurie Robinson Haden, president and CEO of the Corporate Counsel Women of Color affinity network, said Ferguson’s death hit her hard given the deaths last year of two other young women lawyers of color in Providence Health & Services, chief legal officer A. Verona Dorch and former CNN and MSNBC legal analyst Midwin Charles.

All three women were members of Haden’s internal legal network.

“Losses are sudden and unexpected – it can happen to any of us,” said Haden, a former in-house attorney at CBS Corp., a media giant now called Paramount Global. “It’s a clear call to all of us to enjoy each day and embrace those we love.”

News of Ferguson’s death was confirmed by a statement posted to his LinkedIn profile.

Ferguson, hired by Allstate in November 2020, has spent nearly two decades in-house after nearly 10 years in private practice. An annual report filed earlier this year by Allstate listed Ferguson as 52.

Support escape

Haden was among the first in the legal community to announce Ferguson’s death in a LinkedIn post Monday night.

Ferguson’s family, in a separate article, called her an “exemplary wife, mother, daughter and sister” who was surrounded by her husband, children, parents, siblings and nephews when she died on Easter Sunday.

The family thanked their doctors and staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals for their “tireless efforts and incredible service.” Ferguson has kept his condition mostly private, the family said.

“Rhonda’s enchanted life was full of unimaginable love, laughter, adventure and success,” the family said. “Her impact on everyone she touched is immeasurable and will be felt for years to come.”

Damon Hart, who in January became legal director of Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., said Ferguson was “a friend of mine who was a brilliant lawyer, a leader and above all a remarkable person. I have always admired his wisdom and his grace.

Hart, like Ferguson, is a black former associate at Big Law who spent years climbing the corporate ladder to head of the legal department. Hart said she advised him on his recent transition to chief legal officer at Liberty Mutual.

Path to Allstate

Ferguson earlier this year joined the board of directors of Exelon Corp.Constellation energy.

She began her career in the mid-1990s as an associate at Thompson Hine in Cleveland. Ferguson then became a partner at Baker & Hostetler before spending a dozen years internally at Ferro Corp. and First Energy Corp.

Union Pacific hired Ferguson in 2016 to be its chief legal officer. The Omaha, Nebraska-based company said in a statement Tuesday that Ferguson “was a fearless leader and loved by the many people who worked with her.”

Union Pacific added that Ferguson provided valuable expertise “during a transformational time for our railroad.” Ferguson left Union Pacific nearly two years ago to join Allstate, where she replaced the company’s outgoing chief legal officer, Susie Lees.

Allstate has yet to publicly announce its successor to the suburban Chicago-based insurer, whether on a permanent or interim basis.

“Another Huge Loss”

Ferguson battled cancer for years, “winning multiple times and living life to the fullest,” his family said.

Jean Lee, president and CEO of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, said she recently connected via email with Ferguson and hoped to meet her in person next week in Chicago. “I have the highest regard for Rhonda as a leader and this is another huge loss for our profession,” Lee said.

Haden said the death of Ferguson and others like Dorch, who in mid-2020 was hired as the top lawyer for America’s largest nonprofit Catholic health care provider, inspired his network to encourage his members to do early screenings and get tested on everything. from blood pressure to cholesterol and glucose levels.

“Lawyers, despite having the best health care in the country, are so busy they don’t have time to get to their annual exams, especially after Covid-19 when many people stayed away. away from the doctor’s office,” Haden said. . “We want to make sure people can get some form of review at our annual event and be encouraged by others to do so.”

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