“It’s mass chaos, but it’s chaos that I love,” Leslie Feifer said about her job as a real estate attorney. Another thrill is getting to help people. A partner with Jaspan Schlesinger LLP in Garden City, Feifer focuses on all phases of residential and commercial real estate. “I can see in the end the benefit that I give to my clients and it really pumps me up to keep going.”
Yet being a lawyer wasn’t her childhood dream. Feifer graduated from Cornell in 1989 without a job. Her cousin, a partner at Fried Frank in Manhattan, offered her a position as a paralegal in the corporate department that year. “All these lawyers were coming out of Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Cornell and they were talking down to me,” she recalled. “I didn’t like the way that I was being spoken to and I was like, ‘I can be a lawyer, too!'”
Feifer, one of Pulse’s top attorneys of 2018, received her Juris Doctor degree from Hofstra University School of Law in 1994. During that time, women attended law school at lower rates than men—it was only in 2016 that women accounted for more than 50 percent of students at accredited law schools across America. But Feifer never focused much on statistics. She credits her supportive father with giving her the confidence to be able to excel in a male-dominated field. Decades since starting, she continues to negotiate, help clients through difficult moments and inspire women to follow in her footsteps.
What is your proudest career moment to date?
I represented a client buying a new construction project from a very well-known developer. When you do that, you lose your down payment if you don’t close. She got diagnosed with breast cancer and I got her down payment back. The client didn’t even ask for the down payment; she just wanted to move on with her life and get out of the contract. That [moment] made me happy.
I’ve had other proud moments for tremendous deals that I’ve done. I’ve worked on $60 million acquisitions. I’ve worked on 1031 exchanges. That’s a professional proudness because I’ve accomplished those things through negotiating.
What’s your every day like?
Every day is different. Wednesdays are my really long days. I have a networking meeting at like 7am till like 8:30am. I get into the office by 9am. I hate when people ask to meet me for lunch or breakfast because it takes away from my day. On the snow day, I came in and I had to get my regular stuff out of the way, which was preparing two residential closings and then making sure I was ready for a 2pm closing…I came back [to the office], I did a refinance on [a client’s house] and then I drafted a closing statement. Then I was like, “It’s 8:30pm, I need to go home and see my dog and my husband.”
Would you consider yourself a workaholic?
I had breast cancer four years ago and it made me appreciate life. I’m better now, I take vacations now, I will leave in the middle of the day to go see my nephews. I definitely used to be [a workaholic] and I have the potential [to still be]. But I make sure I know what the important things are.
How were you able to juggle such a demanding job while going through breast cancer?
I went up to Schlesinger and the people here and they said, “Just get better because if you don’t get better, this place doesn’t mean anything.” I had stage 1 cancer so the only days I missed were the days I had to go for chemo…The appointment would be like 2pm in the afternoon so I’d come into work from 9am to 12pm and I’d go for chemo and then I’d come back in the next day. I’d never miss a day of work. And I’ll never forget, I had my surgery the Thursday of Christmas week and I was like, “I’ll be in tomorrow.” They said, “Don’t you dare come in here tomorrow.”
Through the years, have you faced any obstacles being a woman in this field?
A couple of years ago I did a closing—I was a buyer’s counsel in a residential deal. We were done with the closing and the guy—he was an old-school guy, he had to be in his 70s—looks at my finger and goes, “You’re married, wow. Your husband would be really proud of you.” It’s little things people have said. But it’s never affected my career; I’ve always risen.
What is your advice to women wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I teach a class at Hofstra and I meet a lot of female law students and they ask me that all the time. I always tell them, “Nothing worth it is ever easy.” You can’t always get what you want. I didn’t get the first job I wanted. I’ve had a lot of setbacks, but they make you stronger. You just have to keep pushing ahead because really everything works out the way it’s supposed to. You may not see it at the time, but I am living proof. If you put the work in, you will get where you want to go.
How did you move past your setbacks?
I’ve had deals fall apart, I’ve had people screaming and cursing at me. My first job, I screwed up something royally. I messed up some foreclosure action and the firm took it over and they litigated it and they won. I was waiting to get fired but they were like, “Everybody makes mistakes. You have to pick yourself up and move on. You can’t dwell.” You just have to be more careful and learn from your mistakes and never make the same mistake twice.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Long Island Pulse is celebrating inspiring females leaving imprints on Long Island and beyond. Check back later to hear from New York wellness coach Melody Pourmoradi.