Elena Ferguson: 'I Want to Change the Idea That Lawyers Need to Get Positive Results to Be Successful.'

If/When/How’s Quick Question series highlights the work of our Reproductive Justice Fellows, introducing our network to the incredible advocates who are dedicating their lives to the movement to lawyer for reproductive justice. We’re so proud of the work they’re doing at placement organizations across the country to ensure that everyone has the ability to safely decide if, when, and how to create and sustain their families, and to actualize sexual and reproductive wellbeing on their own terms. But we can’t support them without you: Please donate $10 to help us give aspiring and new lawyers the resources they need to thrive. And if you can’t give — share!

Elena Ferguson

Elena Ferguson (Belmont University College of Law ‘19) is a Nashville native and completed her undergraduate studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. In law school, she served as the Black Law Students Association Information Officer and volunteered with the Tennessee Youth Court program. Throughout her law school career, she has gotten the opportunity to intern with a variety of wonderful organizations, including the Nashville Public Defenders Office, Juvenile Court of Nashville, and Law for Black Lives. Her favorite legal TV show is “Suits,” and the reproductive justice issue that she is most passionate about is menstrual equity. In her free time, she enjoys exploring new restaurants, playing tennis, and traveling.

We asked Elena to tell us a little about herself as she prepares to begin her Reproductive Justice Fellowship year at Healthy & Free Tennessee in Memphis, Tennessee this fall.

If/When/How: Who are you, and where are you from?

Elena Ferguson: Elena Ferguson, I use she/her/hers pronouns, and I’m from Nashville, Tennessee.

If/When/How: Where are you going? (You can treat this question literally or existentially!) 

EF: Healthy & Free TN/wherever the abolitionists are.

If/When/How: What drew you to reproductive justice work? 

EF: Reproductive justice work was always something that interested me since the harms that are associated with reproductive justice affect women of color, particularly Black women, the most. I knew a little about the high black maternal mortality rate after seeing Serena Williams’ struggle. I watched a documentary about a Black doula collective in New York, but I never had the chance to engage with reproductive justice work from a more concentrated academic standpoint until law school. During the first semester of my 3L year, I took a public health law course that had a paper component. I chose to design a policy that would provide menstrual cups to middle- and high-school students for free. As I started researching, I learned about the negative impact that disposable products like pads and tampons have on the environment as well as the high cost over time. Ever since then, I’ve committed myself to the burgeoning movement for menstrual equity and hope to see a time when sustainable menstrual products are not considered a luxury, but instead a right. 

If/When/How: What do you want to change (or what are you changing) about what it means to be a lawyer? 

EF: I want to change the idea that lawyers need to get positive results to be successful. This idea of success is limiting, and it adds unnecessary stress to lawyers who are already juggling so much. As long as you take away something from the process and lift each other up along the way, I think that counts as a success.

If/When/How: What makes you powerful? 

EF: Ancestry. Whenever I get anxious and am not feeling powerful at all, I think of Maya Angelou’s line from her poem, “Our Grandmothers,” that says, “I go forth along, and stand as ten thousand.” This line always reminds me that I can overcome any obstacle because my foremothers and forefathers have already blazed the trail. I can be powerful because of them. A nicely tailored suit doesn’t hurt either.

If/When/How: When you are not lawyering, what do you get up to? 

EF: When I’m not lawyering, you can find me catching up on the latest prestige TV. My current line-up includes “Black Lightning” and “This Is Us.” I’m also a foodie, so I’ve always got my ear to the ground about the latest restaurants in the city. After studying abroad in college, I got the travel bug and have tried to explore at least one new place a year. I’m hoping to do some post-bar exam traveling, maybe Montreal or Thailand. 

If you’re as excited as we are to see Elena succeed, donate $10 to help If/When/How support new lawyers like her.