Leslie Gattas Coleman is an accomplished attorney, mother and lifelong Memphian. As a teenager she experienced an unfathomable headline-making experience, which shaped her into the strong and talented woman she is today. A graduate of St. Agnes Academy, Leslie went to LSU for an undergrad in psychology, but missed Memphis so much she returned home to attend law school and build her legal career. Together, she and her business partner run Pounders Coleman, a family law firm in East Memphis. Leslie has earned many awards and accolades throughout her career including most recently being named as a Fellow in the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers, a position only given to those who have mastered the art of advocacy and whose professional careers have been marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct and professionalism. Without further ado, we are pleased to introduce Leslie Gattas Coleman, today’s FACE of Memphis.
What made you decide to become a lawyer?
As a young child, I always wanted to be a doctor. When I was 15, I was kidnapped and held captive for four months. It turned me into a fighter, so it made perfect sense that as I got older I wanted to fight for people who can’t fight for themselves. Being a lawyer certainly fit the bill.
What an incredible story! So how did you get to where you are today after that life-altering experience?
I graduated from LSU with a psychology degree. A large part of practicing family law requires listening to people’s problems. My psychology degree certainly has enhanced my ability to do that. You have to listen carefully to what the problem is before you can help solve it. I have definitely been blessed with having remarkable mentors. After I graduated from law school, I did a clerkship with a judge who I admired greatly. My first job as a young lawyer was with a prestigious local firm. I had an incredible mentor there who taught me so much about practicing law. No one has taught me more about not only being a good lawyer but being a good human being as my law partner, Dorothy Pounders. She is the best lawyer and best human being I know. She and I have been practicing law together for 23 years. Besides my law partner, my parents have been incredible role models. They have been my cheerleaders my whole life. There is not a day I haven’t felt loved by them. I hope my children will feel the same way about me as I feel about my parents. Blessed is an understatement.
What has been the most exciting part of running your own firm? What has been the most challenging?
The fun part of running a firm with a female partner is that we think so much alike. It may be hard to believe, but we have never disagreed! The most challenging part of running a law practice is the fact that it is running a business despite the fact that all we lawyers want to do is practice law. Having to make business decisions with practicing law can be challenging.
What is a typical work day like for you?
My typical work day is in court or meeting clients. I am always honored when someone hires me to represent them. Someone having that much confidence is me is remarkable — I never want to let a client down.
You mentioned that when you were young you wanted to be a doctor. If you weren’t a lawyer, would you still rather be a doctor?
If I was not a lawyer, my dream job would be anchor of The Today Show. I know, pie in the sky …
What are your hobbies? How do you unwind?
Recently I discovered yoga. What a great way to unwind. Namasté!
What is the first place you take out-of-towners when they visit you?
The first place I take out-of-towners is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It might sound strange to take someone to a hospital, but the tour of the hospital is remarkable. Danny Thomas’ vision is alive and well. We, as Memphians, should be so proud of this hospital and what has been accomplished. I am extra proud because, like Danny Thomas, I am Lebanese, and this hospital is a great tribute to our Lebanese heritage.
What is your favorite Memphis attraction?
My favorite Memphis attraction involves food — the Rendezvous, of course. The wonderful thing about growing up in Memphis is that I’ve gotten to grow up with wonderful families like the Vergos family, who owns the Rendezvous. When I think Memphis, I think ribs!
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment is being a mother. My boys, Carter and Mac, are 20 and 17, and they are everything to me. Sometimes it has been hard juggling it all and being a lawyer, but it has never been hard being a mother. They are growing into fine young men. I am so proud of them, and they make me laugh all the time.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by my clients. You never really know someone until you see them under the worst of conditions. My clients are usually going through a divorce, and I am always amazed at the class and restraint shown by them at the worst of times.
Finish this sentence: If I had a superpower, it would be …
That’s a no-brainer — being invisible, of course! I could rule the world!
What are your guilty pleasures?
My guilty pleasure has and will always be the almighty Oreo cookie. I can eat them like potato chips!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I ever received was from my father after I returned from being held captive. There were many offers for books, movies and talk shows. He said, “Let’s not prosper from this misfortune. Let’s make God real proud of us and just move on.” Best advice ever and I took it.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
The biggest surprise about me is that I am the most non-confrontational person you will ever meet. I know — hard to believe about an attorney!
What three lighthearted things can you not live without?
I can’t live without hot water, socks and a heated blanket. Yes, I am cold-natured.
Thank you, Leslie! To learn more about Leslie’s law practice, visit pounderscoleman.net.
Thanks to Micki Martin for the fabulous photos of Leslie!
Subscribe to StyleBlueprint, and meet more fascinating women of Memphis!