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Richard Leslie's zest for life is so vibrant, it's practically contagious. He calls himself a lucky man, with a family he loves, a profession he's still passionate about, and a lifelong avocation: tennis.
Skilled on the tennis court since his youth, Leslie found a natural legal home in the competitive realm of the courtroom—and enjoyed it to the hilt.
"I always loved being a lawyer," says the career litigator. "I never had a day when I said, ‘Ugh, I have to go to work.'"
In gratitude for the education that led to his successful career, Leslie has given to the Law School Fund every year since graduation a half century ago.
A college tennis scholarship brought Leslie from his native Chicago to the University of Florida, where he graduated early and, before coming to Michigan Law, played professional tennis on the European circuit. He fondly remembers Professors Sam Estep, Marcus Plant, Paul Kauper, and especially William Bishop, who taught admiralty law.
"The education Michigan gave me was the basis upon which I built my career," Leslie says.
The doctrinal courses provided theoretical tools that he put to good use in two summer clerkships, one in New York, the other in Chicago. "That was terrific," he recalls, "because we didn't have much practical experience in school at that time."
After graduation, Leslie worked in Chicago briefly before heading to Florida, where cases moved swiftly through the courts, and a young litigator had abundant opportunities to make his mark. He joined Shutts & Bowen in Miami when the firm had 15 lawyers; today it numbers 200.
During his career Leslie tried 200 cases to verdict, most jury trials. He argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits, the Florida Supreme Court, and the state's five appellate courts. Upon his mandatory retirement at 70, he had the longest tenure of any equity partner at the firm: 40 years.
The father of five (including three trial lawyers) and grandfather of eight continues to work on cases with his children and remains active in professional associations. He's still a competitive tennis player and a veteran of several Senior Games.
A member of the reunion committee for the class of 1961's 50-year celebration last month, Leslie continued his unbroken giving record by making a generous pledge to the Law School Fund.
"I'm very appreciative of my Michigan education," says Leslie, who remembers when the Fund was created. "I was proud to pledge again for our 50th."—BF
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