Honesty, Commitment & Lots Of Laughter: Fennemore Dowling Aaron?s Leigh Burnside

Honesty, Commitment & Lots Of Laughter: Fennemore Dowling Aaron?s Leigh Burnside

As Fennemore continues to celebrate Women’s History Month in March of 2021, we’re now proud to spotlight Leigh Burnside, a woman who leads by example in our firm and out in the community. Leigh is the Fresno Office Managing Partner, a member of the firm’s Management Committee and a director in Fennemore’s estate litigation practice group who regularly counsels fiduciaries in their administration of trusts and estates.

In an effort to shed some light on what has helped her to evolve into the remarkable leader that she is, we asked her a series of questions about her journey.

Who is your hero – or someone who inspires you the most?

Without question, my mom and dad. They are hard-working people who instilled in me the values of honesty, commitment – and laughter.

Mentorship is critical in any profession, especially in the law. Who’s had the biggest impact on your career?

So many people have impacted my career in different ways, but I’d probably start with Mike Dowling and our California Region Chair, Richard Aaron. Both of these gentlemen showed me the ropes, and helped me become the attorney that I am today.

Name the best piece of career advice that you’ve received as a lawyer?

When I first started at the firm, Richard Aaron said: “All you need to focus on is learning how to become a good lawyer.”

As a third year law student, a very colorful law professor also said these words, which made our class roar with laughter, but still resonate with me to this day: “Don’t be an @#*-hole!”

At this juncture in your career, what aspect of being a successful attorney gives you the most satisfaction?

I most appreciate the intellectually challenging nature of my job and learning new things. I’m also blessed to work with a great group of people who value a true team approach. I love the flexibility that a career in the law offers, along with the opportunity to truly make an impact.

At this stage in my career, I’m also extremely appreciative of the judicial system that we have in this country. While it may not be perfect, our system gives people the opportunity to have their complaints heard and resolved. The outcome may not always seem right, but the opportunity to have one’s claims adjudicated in an independent court of law is a right not available to many people in the world, and it’s a right we should not take for granted.

What would you tell the next generation of women preparing for careers in the law?

Don’t get discouraged – it’s a lot of hard work, but you can build a successful career and have a family, if you want. The roles of lawyer, wife and mother are all possible, even if you can’t go full-throttle in each role 100% of the time. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to other women attorneys; many times, you’ll find a mentor who is willing to help you in your career journey. And ask questions. There is likely someone who stood in your shoes and can offer meaningful guidance. 

What was your first job?

I started my career in fast food as a Subway® sandwich maker. I make a pretty mean turkey on wheat. I learned quickly the value of a dollar and hard work. The people skills also last a lifetime: I learned how to smile and do my job even when dealing with rude customers.

You’re throwing a lavish dinner party – post-pandemic. Name the three people (from any time in human history) who you’d invite:

Winston Churchill
Abraham Lincoln
Amelia Earhart

Tell us about your new role here at Fennemore Dowling Aaron – and what’s your vision for Fennemore’s Fresno office?

As our merger was only finalized in November of 2020, I’m still navigating the new role, but it’s very similar to the part I played here for our team in Fresno. I address questions and concerns related to the procedures that are new to us while continuing to help respond to people’s needs within the office. I like being a sounding board, and this office and its clients are like family to me. It’s an exciting time, and we’re basically a “new” firm, so along with the normal growing pains, there are also so many innovative opportunities.

Tell us about your “Why?” What should clients know if they are going to hire you?

In terms of my trust and estates litigation practice, I usually get called in when something is not right – and my team and I need to solve a complex problem in a way that is time efficient, as well as cost efficient.  Trust and estate assets have a finite financial size, and those finances dwindle the longer the fight continues. I act as an advocate for my clients, finding an efficient solution that’s reliable and appropriate – and to their advantage.


Here’s to Leigh Burnside, and all of the women attorneys and allied legal professionals at Fennemore: your contributions are vital to the success of our firm, and your diversity of thoughts and ideas profoundly impact our clients and the communities we serve.

To learn more about Leigh Burnside, her professional background, community involvement and accomplishments, please visit: https://www.fennemorelaw.com/people/attorneys/a-d/burnside-leigh-w

To learn more about Leigh’s team and our approach to offering multidisciplinary resources and creative solutions for sensitive and pressing family concerns in dealing with prosperity, values-based wealth transfer, and business succession, please visit:


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