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40 Under 40 Edition


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Leslie Ritchie Robnett, 39

Kelly Hart & Hallman LLP, Attorney

Leslie Ritchie Robnett is a sixth-generation Texas attorney who focuses her practice on complex commercial trial law, with a specialty in appellate and regulatory matters.

Prior to joining Kelly Hart & Hallmzn, she spent almost a decade in Austin representing sophisticated clients as a public affairs and litigation counsel with two national law firms.

“There is nothing that Leslie cannot do. Her energy –  combined with her keen intellect, her superior people skills, and her business savvy – make her unstoppable,” said Marianne Auld, Managing Partner at Kelly Hart & Hallman.

“Leslie Robnett is a creative thinker and outstanding problem solver. If there’s an opportunity to make a process or project better, she doesn’t hesitate to take that opportunity,” said Lars Berg, Partner at Kelly Hart & Hallman.

“Leslie balances motherhood, her career, and her responsibility to the community. She has given up-and-coming women attorneys a great roadmap for achieving their personal and professional goals. She does not do these things for recognition, but she is certainly worthy of praise for her contributions to and leadership in the legal industry,” the nomination said.

– Paul K. Harral

What other profession would you like to try?

I think in another life I was a ballerina or a Broadway star! But since talent and flexibility would eliminate me from that pursuit almost immediately, I’d legitimately like to flip ranches. That dream job still probably won’t stop me from becoming a relentless stage mom to my future-ballerina daughter, Arleigh Kay (2)!

Tell us about an influential person in your life, how they influenced you and why he or she was important.

Several women who hold a special place in my heart because they all created their own set of rules in very different Games of Life, yet emerged with happiness and success. After she got divorced, my mother, Pam Merker, built a children’s fitness business called the Fitness Funhouse in my childhood home so that she could be present for me and my sister in a way that a traditional job would not have allowed. Her infectiously child-like zeal for life teaches that if I follow my passions with blind fearlessness, anything can happen.

My mentor in the law, Kim Yelkin, adopted and raised her daughter while maintaining a nationally ranked tier-one government affairs practice and managing the Austin office of a major law firm. Her tenacity teaches me that you can play in “all the worlds,” but you have to be honest, committed, and show a round-the-clock devotion to your clients, family, and office to earn your seat at the table.

Another mentor, Holland O’Neil, is the most successful female lawyer I know who raised two sons to become successful young men while holding onto a happy marriage and building an amazing bankruptcy practice in the process.

She once told me that being able to handle the feeling that she’s bad at everything all the time without losing the passion for it all was the secret her practice. Knowing that such an effortlessly talented woman also felt sub-par while she was simultaneously growing her family and business inspires me during the (often) times that I feel like a mediocre lawyer, sub-par wife or absent mom for my three kids Elisha (8), Cyrus (3) and Arleigh Kay (2).

What is your favorite song?

Don’t Stop Me Now, Queen

Tell us about your photo shoot prop.

Two pieces that my husband framed when I graduated law school. One is my great-great grandfather’s calligraphy law license issued by the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1897. The other is a composite of the four Ritchie men in my family who practiced law before me. The caption on the photo is the same phrase displayed above the doors of the University of Texas School of Law: “That they may truly and impartially administer justice.” Each day, these props remind me that my work is both a calling and a privilege.


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