Women in Law 2023



L eslie Smith is a Kirkland & Ellis litigation partner and long- time member of the Firm’s Global Management Committee. She concentrates her practice in the areas of products liability, antitrust, class action and consumer fraud litigation. She is also chair of the Firmwide Pro Bono Management Committee. In 2022, Kirkland devoted nearly 150,000 hours to pro bono matters — some representing classes of individuals, some involving significant legal issues, and all important, sometimes life-altering, to the people and organizations represented. She also serves as a Keystone board member for Shirley Ryan AbilityLab; secretary for Metropolitan Family Services; a board member for the Legal Aid Society; and a fellow for the American Bar Association. The Legal 500 stated that Leslie has a “good strategic approach,” “demonstrates personal commitment to the company’s cause,” and “acquires and deploys the best firm talent appropriately.” Leslie is highlighted as a “2017 Life Science Star” by LMG Life Sciences and was named as a “Best Lawyer” in commercial litigation from 2016 to 2023 and for “Product Liability Litigation – Defendants” in 2024 by The Best Lawyers in America. Leslie has been named to Benchmark’s “Top 250 Women in Litigation” list and recognized as a “Litigation Star” each year since 2013. She is not only a successful trial lawyer for such high-profile clients such as Syngenta and 3M on bet-the-company matters, but she is also an important mentor to lawyers throughout their careers. She has made an impactful difference in many lawyers’ lives from the very beginning of their careers to a time when they are now leading cases at Kirkland, other law firms or as in-house counsel at companies.

Among the lawyers she’s mentored is litigation partner Christa Cottrell: “Leslie is a legend. She single-handedly has mentored dozens and dozens of attorneys at this Firm, shaping careers in-house, in government and inside Kirkland. She is brilliant and the most strategic person I know, which leads to her providing invaluable advice. She is often the busiest person inside these four walls, but her door is always open -- whether it be work, home or anything in between. She also leads by example: She is brilliant; she is fierce, but she is also the person you want to work with, every time.” Partner Diana Watral would agree: “Leslie has been my mentor for the last 12+ years, since the first day I worked at Kirkland. Everything I know as a lawyer I learned from her. She’s always been the hardest worker, the smartest lawyer, and the most business-savvy person in the room. She pushed for me to get great opportunities from a really young age -- client exposure, courtroom arguments, and trials. And, most importantly, she’s led by example, caring deeply about every person and client with whom she works.” Leslie says mentoring is so important to her on so many levels. If you take the time to mentor someone you not only help the person you’re mentoring, but also the client and the Firm benefit from this mentorship because it improves a junior lawyer’s skills, judgment, and confidence. “To watch someone do well is one of the most rewarding parts of practicing at Kirkland.” If you give someone a new opportunity and talk them through it for the first time, they get better at what they do. Leslie is married to Michael Uzer, a gastroenterologist. They have a son and daughter, Emily and Max Uzer.



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