MONTANA EMPLOYMENT AND LABOR LAW ATTORNEY JEAN E. FAURE KNOWS ABOUT WORK TROUBLE BY NANCY ROMMELMANN
TRYING TO SET THINGS RIGHT
Asked to consider her accomplishments thus
far—the teaching fellowship in graduate
school, serving as president of the Montana
Defense Trial Lawyers Association—Jean E.
Faure quotes Robert Browning: “A man’s
reach should exceed his grasp.”
That the employment and labor law
attorney references the British poet and
playwright is not incidental. With a master’s
degree in English Literature, Faure sees the
complex and dynamic relationships between
fictional characters mirrored in the cases and
clients she fights for: the drama, the clashes,
the chance to set things right, or at least
keep them interesting.
“When someone loses their job, it’s
incredibly ego-driven and personal,” says the
54-year-old shareholder in the Great Falls
firm Faure Holden. “From the perspective
of the employer, sometimes someone is
not a good fit. I get to reconcile these two
positions, and it’s fascinating.”
Raised in Montana and Rapid City, S.D.,
to a second-generation French immigrant
family, Faure knew by middle school that she
wanted to be a lawyer.
“I am the middle child in a family of nine.
Debating and defending myself was a skill I
acquired at a young age,” she says. She did
not, however, go directly to law school, but
to Creighton University for a Master of Arts.
“It was the most remarkable two years of
my life,” says Faure, who graduated summa
cum laude. “All I did was read and write.
I read all of Shakespeare’s 37 plays. Who
“There’s a saturation scheme for
can say they’ve done this? It was just an
incredible time of focus. At the same time,
I knew I was going to law school. I was not
going to abandon that dream.”
Graduating from the University of
Montana School of Law in 1986, Faure
gravitated toward the intrigue and
complications, the fears and fallout that can
attend the workplace. “I love the psychology
of relationships, and employment law is all
about analyzing what motivates people,” she
says. “It’s challenging from a philosophical
perspective to get into the framework of the
person who’s lost their job.”
Deducing motivations and strategizing
best outcomes is a particular cat’s cradle in
Montana, the only state that is not “at will,”
meaning employers in Montana must show
good cause for termination.
termination, a very intensive process of doing
it right,” says Faure, who at this stage in her
career represents employers exclusively.
“There are essentially three [good causes]:
failure to perform duty, disruption of
operation, and—you’ll like this—other
legitimate business reasons.” Faure laughs.
“How you define that last one becomes the
Faure has overcome personal challenges,
too, if ones that led to a propitious outcome.
“I lost two very close male friends and
“One of my favorite jury trials was a case I
mentors in the first decade of my legal
practice,” she says, mentioning that one died
in a small plane crash. “When [law partner]
Jason Holden became an associate in our
former firm, it seemed as if he had been sent
to fill the void. Outside of my marriage, he is
my best friend.”
Faure, a self-confessed “news junkie”—
“and I don’t know how I could live without
Twitter”—says she has contemplated going
back to school to get her Ph.D. “The law
allows you to write a great deal, within
parameters. I would like to write, not the
next Great American Novel, but it would be
great to write fiction.”
Until then, she fondly recalls another bit
of writing, one directly related to the law.
tried years ago with the now United States
District Judge Ron Leighton,” she says. “The
jury reached a verdict in favor of our client.
On the line designated for damages, they
simply wrote, ‘Everything they asked for.’”