Then and Now

Being a journalist wasn’t working for Trudy Hanson Fouser. Being a lawyer? Different story

Published in 2013 Mountain States Super Lawyers — July 2013

With a journalism degree in hand and an Outstanding Young Journalist Award under her belt, college graduate Trudy Hanson Fouser was ready to break into the news business.

But now, over 35 years later, with a history as lead counsel in more than 50 civil jury trials, Fouser has become an associate of the American Board of Trial Advocates—the first female attorney in Idaho to be honored with that role.

Talking about the switch from journalism to law, Fouser says, “The economy at the time probably played a role more than anything else. I had a hard time breaking into journalism. And [I] always liked to write, loved to talk, so it seemed like a perfect fit.”

After graduating from the University of Idaho College of Law, she landed a spot clerking for the late Chief Justice Charles R. Donaldson at the Idaho Supreme Court. Eventually she took a position at a private firm that needed another litigator. 

“I just became hooked,” she says. “I have done nothing but litigation for 30 years.”

From personal injury to employment law matters, Fouser defends clients like insurance companies and hospitals at Gjording Fouser, which she and her husband started in 2000. While she notes her life as an attorney is not like the TV shows—“When I was a young lawyer, I remember L.A. Law, and loved that show actually”—there are memorable cases.

Fouser recalls representing two doctors at a jury trial when the judge broke the news of the 9/11 attacks. “The judge talked with us about security measures being taken and reassured everyone about the structure of the courthouse,” she says. Even without knowing what would happen next, jurors and lawyers alike decided to stay and fulfill their duty at court. “The judge and the jurors were not interested in letting fear get in their way. … I was fortunate enough to watch—in the midst of turmoil and outrage—the judicial branch of our government continue on, business as usual.”

When she works on a case, no one understands the complex preparations that Fouser puts in better than her paralegal of 23 years, Margaret Mehl. “She will spend hours and hours going through records and knowing the case inside and out,” says Mehl. After trial, she and Fouser will go over feedback from jurors. “[They] really appreciate the fact that she is so well prepared and she doesn’t waste their time.”

After so many years together, Fouser also gives Mehl’s opinions strong consideration.  “We work really well together, and she doesn’t hesitate to tell me when she thinks I’m absolutely wrong, which is refreshing,” says Fouser.

Looking back on her career, “I have really enjoyed it,” says Fouser. “Many of those years are now a blur because part of that was raising three children and practicing law and getting a lot of experience in the courtroom.”

Her children grew up hearing her practice opening statements in the kitchen before trial. Fouser has a firm courtroom style, “but she’s not overly aggressive,” says Mehl. “Yet she moves it forward.”

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