Brian Y. Furuya: A New Heart, A New Life

By Amy Ortiz

[Lawyers] take the major things—the demons that plague people in their lives and make it so that they can’t sleep, so that they get no peace—and [they] break them down and help people conquer those demons.

— Brian Y. Furuya

Deputy County Attorney, Brian Y. Furuya (’07), is living a life full of selfless service at the Coconino County Attorney’s Office in Flagstaff, Arizona. For years, Furuya has served the legal community. He is currently filling a term as president of the State Bar of Arizona, and a member of its Board of Governors. He also served as part of Arizona’s Volunteer Lawyer Program, “giving advice and having conversations with tenants, people who were in some of the most distressing situations of their lives because they [were] about to be put out onto the streets.” Furuya helped educate them on their rights and taught them how to handle tough situations, as well as gave them the skills for working effectively with landlords.

Furuya has also tried to serve in the broader Flagstaff community. He graduated from the Flagstaff Leadership Program, where he was able to participate in a revitalization of a large public park and help in multiple fundraisers and programs around town. 

Although he currently strives to provide service for others, Furuya explains that his focus was once much different. As a teenager, Furuya struggled to find purpose and direction. 

“Back then, I really only had one vague ambition,” he said. “And that was to be rich. I was kind of aimless and [my goals] were definitely selfish because there was no plan or drive behind it, other than being comfortable, [and] I think that it was obviously destined for failure, at least at that point.”

However, at age 16, Furuya began rethinking his priorities and made a choice to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “It completely changed my life,” he said. “Everything that I have now, everything that I am, everything that I’ve achieved has all come as a result from that singular choice.

“Joining the Church taught me that I needed to have a bigger perspective, one that recognized that I wasn’t the most important thing in the world. Once I started slowly awakening to that sense of purpose it shifted my life’s course away from selfishness and geared me towards service.”

After awakening to this greater sense of purpose, Furuya attended Brigham Young University to earn his B.A. in Political Science and then his J.D. from BYU Law School in 2007. These accomplishments further enabled and prepared Furuya to fulfill his desire to do good in the world and go into public service. 

The path has not always been easy or free from trials. Furuya, who spent the first 8 years of his legal career in a private law firm, points to one of his biggest losses in a case. When he was just beginning his legal practice, Furuya was involved in a very legally complex case. “It was a business case, [and] there was a lot on the line,” Furuya said. “I knew what the theories were. I was confident I had read the cases right . . . and I found what I thought was a path through a very thorny road.” 

After his mentor voiced concern, suggested caution, and perhaps settlement of the case, the client turned to Furuya and asked him for his opinion. 

“I think we should fight,” Furuya responded.

“And that’s what we did,” he lamented. “We chose to fight, and we lost. At the end of the story, I lost my client a whole bunch of money.  He paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the privilege of losing. Thinking back on it now, I realize that I had used my skills as an attorney to convince my client to go down a road that I was convinced was going to vindicate my own theories.”

“I’ve since realized that was a selfish move,” Furuya admitted, “one that ended in disaster for my client, but one that taught me that you have to be humble. You have to put aside your arrogance. It’s not about you. It’s about your client, and you have to put your pride in a box and do what’s best for the client.”

To current law students, Furuya offers some advice: “First, hold to what it is you know to be true and let that be your guiding star. Never let the practice of law, the temptation of fame, fortune, or accomplishment change you.

“Number two, do what completes you. We all have to make a living. We all have to feed ourselves and our families, but there are lots of ways to do that that will also feed your soul. We spend far too much time at work to hate what we do. Be sure you find fulfillment in what it is you do.

“Number three, balance humility with confidence in your abilities. You need to be humble, that’s for sure. But, humility is compatible with a drive to be better or hunger to make a difference.

“And finally, honor and integrity are everything. Lawyers, maybe more than many other professions, rely upon reputation to do a lot of the work for them. You need to guard your reputation zealously. Be mindful of the things that you do, how you act, what choices you’re making, and how that’s going to reflect on your reputation. Reputation is key to professional success in the law, so guard your name.”