Escondido, CA

BIZstory: Lounsbery, Ferguson, Altona & Peak

“A lawyer’s time and advice are his (her) stock in trade” – Abraham Lincoln

It was March 15, 1996 – the Ides of March – when a new law firm was formed from the roots of a larger regional firm.

After working together for many years at Higgs, Fletcher & Mack, Ken Lounsbery, Dave Ferguson, Erick Altona and Helen Peak formed a new law firm. The four partners brought diverse skills to the venture. Originally, they all spent a lot of time in the courtroom. Then they began to specialize – municipal law, land use, real property and business transactional law cases crammed the calendar. However the firm never shies away from litigation in any field and has taken cases from trial all the way to the State Supreme Court!

The firm’s focus on the growth industry has led to one unique specialty – the use of the citizen’s initiative to reach a long term land use or public fiscal goal. Most notably, the firm drafted and defended Proposition B, the pension reform measure for the city of San Diego.

Previously the firm drafted and obtained voter approval of the City of San Marcos Charter, which became the template for three other cities.

Like other successful businesses, the firm gives back to the community. Helen has served as the Chair of the Armed Forces “Y” and supports the San Marcos Boys & Girls Club and is now the City Attorney of San Marcos. Erick has chaired many charitable boards, most recently the Children’s History Museum in Escondido. Dave headed up the Board for the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, for nearly ten years. Ken was the City Attorney and later the City Manager for Escondido, followed by a term as City Attorney for San Marcos. He’s a founder of the Escondido Charitable Foundation. Ken, Dave and Erick all served as the Chair of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce. An associate with the firm, Kristen Steinke, now holds the same post.

Dave Ferguson shared the following sidebar about the Ferguson clan in Escondido: “Judi and I met at a Chamber of Commerce mixer in 1986 and were married at Jack Raymond’s house a year later. Back then we had offices next to each other (Judi is also an attorney) on Escondido Boulevard. Now we have offices in Jack Raymond’s office building. I handle development matters and she handles bankruptcy matters, so I’m busy in economic booms and she is busy during recessions.

“My daughter Catherine was born at Palomar Hospital, met her fiancée at San Pasqual High School, went to law school at University of San Diego, and now works for me in Escondido handling real estate, land use and environmental matters. She loves the atmosphere in Little Italy but realizes that Escondido is the place to live if you want a yard and a dog.

“In 2000, my son Bryan was Escondido’s representative to Escondido’s sister city in Japan, Maebaru. While living there and working in the Maebaru City Hall, he met his wife Rie.

“My son Aron worked for Stone Brewing and helped open the Stone Brewery in Berlin. Erick Altona (who was Stone’s attorney) and I went to Stone’s grand opening in Berlin in 2016. While working in Berlin, Aron met his wife Simone.”

When asked about the firm’s history, Ken Lounsbery said, “I can’t complain. Things have gone pretty well. Of course, nothing goes without a hitch. I remember when we moved into the new office we built with Jack Raymond. Like any move, it was chaos – NO MORE MOVES. I joke that the building plans should have included a crypt because I’m here to stay.”

According to Ken, firm management is a slate of divided responsibilities. “Erick watches the treasury, Dave covers work load management and Helen watches the office. That’s why the place looks so good and runs smoothly. I just lay low and keep quiet to avoid blame.” Actually all management issues are addressed by the partners, together in monthly meetings.

Firm growth has been steadily managed. One of the most gratifying things about growing is the addition of young lawyers, said Ken. There is one important point the four founding partners recognize: their young associates are the future of the firm.

Asked why the firm has succeeded, Erick Altona had a quick answer, “Our job is to help our clients. If we do it right, their problems are solved and we will see them again.” The history of the firm proves the point as its client base is made up of loyal, long time business people, and new clients are referred by established clients and other attorneys. According to Dave Ferguson, “We have never had to engage in active advertising. Our work product speaks for itself. Of course we appreciate it when the good word is spread.”

Helen Peak made one point that may be at the heart of the firm’s success. “We are four partners who trust each other to do the right thing, for each other and our clients.”

Lounsbery, Ferguson, Altona & Peak (760) 743-1201

Good business. Great people.


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