Maven to Know: LESLIE CRAIG HENDERZAHS, Partner at Church, Church, Hittle + Antrim (CCHA)
Leslie Craig Henderzahs is an attorney and the first female partner at Indy law firm CCHA. She lives near Conner Prairie in Noblesville with her husband, Allen, and their Havanese, Kingston—and more recently two of her “student children,” Madelyn (UIndy) and Caroline (IU Dental). They also have another daughter, Shelby, who lives nearby. Henderzahs describes herself as “55 biologically; 25 in my mind and 105 when it comes to keeping up with TikTok.”
“I love my neighborhood because it is full of wildlife like owls, hawks, deer, coyotes, foxes, and, of course, snakes which I could do without,” she tells us. “There are woodsy areas and beautiful ornamental flowering trees, lots of flowers and friendly neighbors.”
Maven superpower: “A superpower is a dominant position characterized by extensive ability to exert influence or project power. I don’t possess this. Rather, just the opposite. I find it helpful to try to illuminate extraordinary qualities in others which they sometimes have difficulty seeing in themselves and then inspire their desire to work to their potential.”
We chatted with her about her love of family law, glass ceilings, and her favorite legal drama, of course.
Did you always know you wanted to work in the law and why? Or if not, what in your education and career path led you to the legal profession?
My father and grandfather were car dealers who navigated that period in history when certain cars were defectively designed and others failed to meet standards of quality and performance and which could not be satisfactorily repaired. My father was deeply troubled if he was unable to correct a problem or otherwise satisfy a customer who, in the small town of New Albany, Indiana, was most likely a friend, neighbor, or brother Rotarian. When I was a child, as the dealer, my dad was involved in two lawsuits brought primarily against the car manufacturers. To me, the trials seemed to go on for months because my dad agonized over what seemed to him to be unfair applications of the law which left people in our community, our friends, without redress. I couldn’t understand how the law could leave good people with no remedy. Shortly, thereafter, “Lemon Laws” were passed to protect consumers. This mysterious concept of the “law” had me intrigued.
Tell us a bit about the type of law you practice and why you love it.
I describe my practice as litigation, but focus primarily on families and businesses that have reached an impasse, a “break up.” If there is a way to get people on the same page and create a solution for all involved, that is what I love. If out-of-courtroom discussions and settlement attempts have been exhausted and we are just not able to reach an agreed resolution, then I advance the case to the trial and advocate on behalf of my client combining the client’s goals, economics, and the best interests of the children or all involved to arrive at a reasonable outcome which I believe will appeal to the practicality of the court and on which the court will render a decision.
As the first female partner in your firm, and in an industry that still has many more men than women in powerful positions, what challenges have you faced and what advice would you give to women who ARE trying to break down barriers and glass ceilings?
Prepare: Be better and know more! Contribute: Share your preparation and knowledge with your team! Lift up your colleagues to help them be their best. Use your genuine qualities and sincerely lift up others professionally and personally. That kindness, coupled with preparation and knowledge, is the triple crown and penetrates all barriers whether it be a glass ceiling or deaf ears. I had the luxury of all male senior partners who treated me like I was the most important person in the world. Their treatment instilled confidence in me and motivated me to be the best I could so I could make them proud.
What do you think having women in executive positions brings to a firm or company?
Perspective, intellect, management, empathy, diversity in approach, thought, and methodology. Women are accustomed to nurturing ideas and people from a spherical approach rather than linear thinking. This means a multitude of ideas or people may be developed, improved upon, or cultivated to arrive at improvements or good solutions rather than linear thinking more narrowly focused in a particular order which may result in other good ideas to drop away from the discussion or task.
What is your leadership philosophy and how has it been shaped by your own experiences?
Listen to understand goals; ask questions to provoke and nurture thoughts and generate ideas; support and be positive allowing others to excel in formulating their own path or plan.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Use what you’re good at to do something bigger than you and lift others along the way.
Do you have a favorite legal film?
The Lincoln Lawyer, a character out-crafts a crafty criminal to do what’s right in the end.
If you could invite any three people to dinner, living or dead, who would they be and why?
First, Abraham Lincoln. I would like to know what he was thinking at the various stages of his life and what he thought about his failures and successes. How did he prepare himself to tackle the issues with which he was faced? How confident was he at the time with his decision-making abilities? Did he experience some indication that it was okay if he failed at a particular moment, because life was going to present him with greater issues that he would later successfully resolve?
Second, Rosa Parks. I would like to know whether she felt limited in her capabilities in such ways as she was told she was limited by others. What possessed her on that day and that moment to refuse to give up her seat on the bus? Did she have any idea it would result in a movement to end segregation of public facilities? What is it that causes an action by one to inspire a movement?
My third person for dinner is Sandra Day O’Connor. I would simply ask her to tell me stories of her favorite times and most interesting issues. I recall she told of a colleague who was gruff and burly, who didn’t like when she first came on the Supreme Court. She knew what he liked, so she would challenge him to a putting match to get him to talk with her. As long as they were doing something he enjoyed, he would talk as long as she pleased.
What do you love about Indianapolis?
Indianapolis is a big city with a small town feel. It’s large enough to afford anything and everything you could want culturally, financially, and entertainment-wise, but small enough to develop intimate and lifelong friends and relationships.
How do you unwind at the end of a busy day or week?
By catching up with others. I love to hear events of interest in the lives and professions of others. It’s easy to do outside while kayaking or walking. I love to swim, but it’s not so conducive for discussions.
Abby Gardner is Indy Maven’s executive editor who has clocked enough hours of Law & Order to fancy herself an amateur legal expert.