Obituary: Attorney Leslie Miller Altman was a trailblazer for women

  • Article by: JANET MOORE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 15, 2012 - 6:40 PM
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Leslie Miller Altman, center, with daughters Mirian Altman and Lauren Altman.

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Attorney Leslie Miller Altman was drawn to the legal profession because she wanted to make a difference. And in the process, "she lifted everyone around her up," said her husband of 35 years, Frank.

The 58-year-old Minne-tonka resident died of cancer on Sept. 6.

A graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School, Altman worked as a staff attorney for Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey III and found she had an affinity for workers' compensation claims. The daughter of a physician, "she liked the medical side of it, but she also liked uncovering facts and getting to the truth of things," her husband said.

As she moved up in her career, she became a mentor to many women following her, and a trailblazer, too. When others contemplated a challenge, Altman would declare, "Go for it!"

She was the first female judge to be appointed to the Minnesota Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals, and, while in graduate school, was hired as one of the first women to serve as a Minneapolis Park Patrol agent. "Back then it was an all-male bastion, so they put her on foot patrol in Loring Park with just a radio," Frank Altman says, recalling dicier days in the Minneapolis park's history.

Her long résumé includes stints as head of the Minnesota State Bar Association's Diversity Task Force; she was a member of the association's Women in the Legal Profession Committee, past president of the Minnesota Women Lawyers Association, and a former director of the National Conference of Women's Bar Associations. She was deeply involved in promoting diversity in her profession, as well.

She was a highly regarded attorney when she joined the law firm Littler Mendelson in 2005 and was "immediately impressive," said Marko Mrkonich, CEO of the firm, and a friend. She handled her expertise and renown quietly, he noted. "She was someone who managed to create a presence without demanding to be the center of attention."

Her husband said she enjoyed spending time at their cabin on Cross Lake, grilling out among friends and family, including their daughters, Lauren and Miriam. "She used to joke that there was no grill big enough for her," he said.

The two met while undergraduate students at Brown University in Rhode Island. "We were at a friend's birthday party and we ran out of cake. Leslie had a car, so we went to Dunkin' Donuts." It was a life partnership spun out of sugar.

A New Yorker, she followed her husband, a native Minnesotan, to settle in the Twin Cities. "She was my best friend, she had such a sparkling personality she engaged with everybody," Frank Altman said. "There was nothing superficial about her. She had deep understanding about people and a high sense of standards."

Those standards weren't always trained on the legal profession -- they included her would-be husband's wardrobe, too. "When we first met, she told me my wardrobe wasn't up to snuff," he said, laughing. That meant the quick end to a fringed vest that he favored at the time. "I'll never have another one," he said.

In addition to her husband and daughters, she is survived by a sister, Jacqueline Rosenthal. Services have been held.

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752

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