116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
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Caitlin Slessor is not afraid to take on a challenge or a difficult conversation. In fact, she relishes the opportunity.
As a lawyer at Shuttleworth and Ingersoll in Cedar Rapids, Slessor represents clients on a variety of litigation matters, primarily in family law, including contested divorces, custody cases, guardianships and conservatorships.
She also does a fair amount of work in the juvenile court realm, and has also done work with clients who have been not been treated well by law enforcement, she said.
“I feel really passionately about having and encouraging hard conversations between people,” she said, noting that has played a big role in her leadership positions.
“I see a lot of miscommunications because of a reluctance to have some of the conversations people perceive will be more difficult. Having those conversations is really appealing to me.
“While some people see it as negative or a hand-wringing situation, I see it as an opportunity for growth and change. Most of the time when those straightforward conversations occur, it's a real catalyst for improvement. So that’s my guiding philosophy.”
Slessor said she operates by giving people the benefit of the doubt and talking to them in a straightforward manner.
"I really like to have interactions with people that leave them better off than when they first met me," she added. "When I have a client I am working with, I really hope that in some small way I help make their life better."
She said the same goes for mentoring new lawyers at her firm, especially young women.
"Litigation is still largely male-dominated, so I think I am able to offer them some perspective on the challenges women face in the profession. I also try to help share that perspective with leaders in our firm."
Slessor credits strong female leaders in her life, which she hopes she is paying forward so far in her career and in years to come.
Her approach has garnered Slessor larger roles on the job. She is a practicing attorney and the practice chair of the family law department, as well as serving in a leadership role within the firm.
"I'm also one of the five managing partners, an elected position that helps run the strategic planning and the day-to-day operations of the firm," she said.
"Not only do I enjoy being a lawyer, but I'm also very interested in how we practice law and how we run our business and show up in the community. I want to be part of building a law firm where I want to work for the next 25 years and where I can feel really proud about bringing on new young attorneys, who want to stay here for 30, or more years, too. Being part of that visioning process is really important to me."
Not surprisingly, Slessor said she has also gotten a lot of enjoyment from being active in the profession through the Linn County and Iowa State Bar Association, serving in leadership and committee member roles.
“Those are places where you can be part of the driving force behind the changes people see in the law in general, and increasing access to justice,” she said.
Slessor is halfway through a term on the judicial nominating committee for the state, a role she took on with the goal of specifically increasing the number of female judges across the state.
“It’s been a passion of mine to ensure that our judiciary looks like the population of our state, whether that’s gender, racial or geographical balance,” she noted.
Slessor started her career, after graduating from the University of Iowa Law School, working with Iowa Legal Aid.
“I got what I would describe as like the perfect dream job right out of law school,” she recalled. “I was providing legal assistance for low-income Iowans and I got a lot of experience in the courtroom and gained a lot of empathy for people.”
Some of her experiences there have shaped the way she practices law and thinks about her firm and the profession still today.
"As part of my leadership, I've been very interested in ensuring that our firm is taking an active role in building a diverse law firm that can serve a wide variety of clients and that continues to improve the diversity of our workforce, at the attorney and staff level," Slessor said.
Outside of practicing law, Slessor finds time to not only spend time with her husband and three children, but also give back to community organizations. She serves on the board of the Cedar Rapids Metro YMCA and New Pioneer Co-Op — two organizations she sees playing a role in making the community a healthier, and better place to live.
"I'm a mom who goes to work every day and I don't see too much that is unusual or special about the way I live my life,” she said.
“But now that my kids are older, I can look back and say my ability to stay in the workforce has made it so that here I am at age 40 and I'm on par with most of my male peers in my earnings because I didn't have to take five years off.
“But I have had the kind of jobs where I've been able to kind of weave together a schedule that works for our family. But because we have so much privilege and we've been able to do that doesn't mean that everybody else can or that we shouldn't be creating systems where that's the norm, right?”
Business 380 spotlights some of HER Magazine’s Women of Achievement, published by The Gazette. The awards were sponsored by Farmers State Bank.