As a litigator focused on business and commercial litigation, financial institution and bankruptcy litigation, insurance defense, and appellate advocacy, Leslie Behaunek addresses diverse business disputes every day. “I see something new almost every day—a new challenge or a new question or a new issue,” she says. “There are similarities to what you’ve done in the past, but there is always something new that requires innovation and keeps things interesting.”
For two years after law school, Leslie honed her skills as a judicial clerk for the Honorable James E. Gritzner on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. She followed that with a one-year clerkship with the Honorable Jane Kelly on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. “When you clerk for a federal judge, you are the judge’s attorney, counseling and advising them based on your legal research and analysis,” Leslie says. The opportunity to see quality written and oral advocacy as a judicial clerk allowed Leslie to immediately put the things she learned into practice upon joining the firm.
Since joining Nyemaster, Leslie has litigated a variety of cases, including: ERISA life, health, and disability benefits cases; ERISA and breach of fiduciary class actions; finance lease enforcement matters; bankruptcy matters on behalf of creditors and Trustees; and health care and labor and employment claims. She also works on general commercial matters and provides appellate representation before the Iowa appellate courts as well as the Eighth Circuit.
For Leslie, a strong involvement with outside activities expands her view of law and keeps her connected to the broader Iowa community. Through professional and community organizations like Polk County Women Attorneys, Leslie demonstrates her commitment to empowering women and girls to reach their potential. Leslie has actively helped guide nonprofits like the Des Moines Choral Society and assists in developing political organizations like Emerge Iowa. She continues to encourage and grow tomorrow’s leaders through Iowa American Legion Auxiliary Girls State—knowing she learned valuable lessons from participation in that program that shape who she is today.
Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch
Appellate Practice, 2021
Great Plains Super Lawyers
Rising Stars, 2018–2020
Des Moines Business Record Forty Under 40
Phi Beta Kappa
Dwight D. Opperman Scholar
Order of the Coif
The Order of the Barristers
Moot Court Board
National Moot Court Team
Rodney L. Hudson Senior Advocacy Award
Jeffrey and Elizabeth Goodman Distinguished Advocate Award
Eight American Jurisprudence Awards
PROFESSIONAL & COMMUNITY AFFILIATIONS
American Bar Association
Bar Leadership Institute, 2016
DRI, Defense Research Institute
IWIRC, International Women's Insolvency & Restructuring Confederation
2020 Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference
- Conference Planning Committee Liaison for the Southern District of Iowa
Iowa State Bar Association
- Federal Practice Committee, 2016–present
- Chair, 2020-present
- Vice-Chair, 2019-2020
- Diversity Taskforce, 2018-present
- Diversity Taskforce, 2018–present
- Public Relations Committee, 2016–present; Chair, 2017–2019
- Young Lawyers Division
- Communications, Chair, 2013–2017
- Diversity Committee, 2014–2016
- Mentoring Taskforce, 2014–2016
- Young Lawyer Fast Action Taskforce, 2015–2016
Polk County Bar Association
Polk County Women Attorneys
- Past-President, 2018
- President, 2017
- President-Elect, 2016
- Communications, Chair, 2015
- Annual CLE, Co-Chair, 2014
- Professional Development, Co-Chair, 2013
- Basket Auction, Co-Chair, 2012
Iowa Organization of Women Attorneys
C. Edwin Moore Inn of Court
- Community Outreach Committee, 2015–2016
- Associate Member, 2012–present
- Board Chair, 2018–present
- Organizing Committee, 2017–2018
Des Moines Choral Society
- Past-President of the Board, 2018–2019
- President of the Board, 2016–2018
- Vice President of Community Outreach, 2015–2016
- Board Member, 2012–2014, 2015–2019
- Center for Law & Society, Board Member, 2009–present
- Young Alumni Advisory Committee, Chair, 2014–2016
Iowa American Legion Auxiliary Girls State
- Government Staff, 2011–2014, 2017–2018
- Counselor, 2005–2007
Iowa American Legion Auxiliary Girls State Alumnae Association
- Board Member, 2011–present
- Secretary, 2017–2018
- Secretary-Treasurer, 2014–2017
Women Lead Change
Central Iowa WLC Conference Student Track Committee, 2015
Host family for international student, 2015–2018
GreatAmerica v. Monge & Associates, No. 18-1233 (Iowa Ct. App., August 7, 2019). Affirmance of summary judgment decision in favor of finance lease company in breach of contract case.
Venditti v. Unum Life Insurance Company et al. – No. 18-cv-25 (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, January 17, 2019). Judgment upholding decision of life insurance company in ERISA appeal.
United States et al. v. Crawford County Memorial Hospital et al. – No. 5:15-cv-4034 (U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, December 6, 2017). Partial dismissal and complete summary judgment for hospital in qui tam / False Claims Act case; upheld on appeal by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (No. 18-1022).
GreatAmerica v. Joan Dachs – No. LACV088300 (Iowa Dist. Ct. for Linn Cnty. November 8, 2018). Summary judgment in favor of finance lease company in breach of contract case.
Krapf v. Board of Regents et al. – No. CVCV052002 (Iowa Dist. Ct. for Polk Cnty. October 28, 2017). Summary judgment for individual regents regarding the application of the Open Meetings Law; upheld on appeal by the Iowa Court of Appeals (No. 17-1745).
GreatAmerica v. Plymouth Life Incorporated – No. LACV038102 (Iowa Dist. Ct. for Plymouth Cnty. October 2, 2018). Summary judgment in favor of finance lease company in breach of contract case.
GreatAmerica v. Hills Drug Store, Inc. – No. LACV088818 (Iowa Dist. Ct. for Linn Cnty. September 20, 2018). Summary judgment in favor of finance lease company in breach of contract case.
GreatAmerica v. Sneider – No. LACV089233 (Iowa Dist. Ct. for Linn Cnty. September 17, 2018). Summary judgment in favor of finance lease company in breach of contract case.
GreatAmerica v. Lane – No. LACV088779 (Iowa Dist. Ct. for Linn Cnty. July 17, 2018). Summary judgment in favor of finance lease company in breach of contract case.
Coleman v. Select Specialty Hospital - Des Moines, Inc. No. LACL134824 (Iowa Dist. Ct. for Polk Cnty. July 5, 2017).Judgment for employer following bench trial in action alleging violation of Iowa Drug Testing Act.
Baldwin v. Global Atlantic Financial Group – No. 2:16-cv-00202 (U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, February 23, 2017). Dismissal of suit in federal court in Utah due to forum non conveniens.
ARAG N. America, Inc. v. Turjanica, Case No. LACL133599 (Iowa Dist. Ct. 2015). Granted motion for temporary injunction enforcing noncompetition agreement and prohibiting former employee from working for competitor or misappropriating trade secrets.
State v. Mootz, 808 N.W.2d 207 (Iowa 2012).Reversal and remand for new trial based on Iowa Supreme Court's holding that improper denial of a criminal defendant's peremptory strike based on a reverse-Batson challenge is presumptively prejudicial and requires automatic reversal.
State v. Robinson, 817 N.W.2d 495 (Iowa Ct. App. 2012).Reversal and remand for entry of dismissal due to violation of the speedy indictment rule.
SPEECHES & PUBLICATIONS
“An Open Book: Social Media and COVID-Related Discovery Issues in Litigation”
Iowa State Bar Association Annual Meeting, 2020 (speaker)
"Gender Matters: How practitioners and judges can address and eliminate bias, harassment and discrimination in the Iowa legal profession"
Iowa Lawyer, Feb. 2020 issue
"Gender Transitioning in the Workplace: Employer Obligations and Best Practices"
Nyemaster Labor & Employment Seminar, 2019 (speaker)
“An Open Book: Social Media Discovery Issues in Litigation”
Iowa State Bar Association Annual Meeting, 2019 (speaker)
“Gender Matters: An ongoing search for practical solutions to address and eliminate bias, harassment, discrimination in the Iowa legal profession”
Iowa Lawyer, Nov. 2018 issue (co-author)
“Gender and the Courts”
Iowa ABOTA Annual CLE, 2018 (co-speaker)
“Improving Civility and Professionalism in the Legal Profession”
Polk County Women Attorneys, 2018 (speaker)
“Gender Matters: Practical Solutions for Tackling Bias & Unprofessional Conduct in the Iowa Legal Profession”
Iowa State Bar Association Annual Meeting, 2018 (panelist and moderator)
“#MeToo: A Panel Discussion About Employers' Responses to Allegations of Sexual Harassment”
Nyemaster Labor & Employment Seminar, 2018 (panelist)
“Where Are We Now: A Legislative & Regulatory Review”
Nyemaster Labor & Employment Seminar, 2018 (speaker)
“Strategies to Prevent Hazing on Campus”
Nyemaster Higher Education Seminar, 2018 (speaker)
“Gender Bias, Discrimination, and Harassment in the Iowa Legal Profession”
Polk County Women Attorneys Annual CLE, 2018 (co-speaker)
C. Edwin Moore Inn of Court, 2018 (co-speaker)
“#MeToo—Where Do We Go From Here?”
Central Iowa SHRM, 2018 (speaker)
“Gender Matters: Tackling Bias & Unprofessional Conduct Toward Attorneys, Part II”
Iowa State Bar Association Federal Practice Seminar, 2017 (presentation coordinator)
“The Proposed Changes to Model Rule 8.4(g)”
Iowa State Bar Association Labor & Employment Seminar, 2017 (panelist)
“Improving Civility and Professionalism in the Legal Profession”
Polk County Women Attorneys, 2017 (co-speaker)
“Gender Matters: Tackling Bias & Unprofessional Conduct Toward Attorneys, Part I”
Iowa State Bar Association Federal Practice and Polk County Women Attorneys Joint CLE, 2017 (moderator)
“Update on Gender Identity and Transgender Issues in the Workplace”
SHRM, client presentations, 2016, 2017 (speaker)
“Student debt: A battle young attorneys cannot fight alone.”
Iowa Lawyer, Sept. 2016 issue (author)
“You’re a Lawyer, You Should Know Better: Anecdotal Tales of Workplace Inappropriateness”
Iowa State Bar Association Annual Meeting, 2015 (presentation coordinator)
“Advice from the Bench to Advocates and Future Advocates”
Polk County Women Attorneys, 2014 (panelist)