Some people feel the call to practice law, like Jeffrey Leiken.
“When I was in high school, my father told me to be a lawyer,” he recalled. “In my household, back when I grew up, my father was the man who decided those things.”
Not that Leiken regrets the decision. He said working as a law clerk for a local firm while he attended Cleveland-Marshall College of Law showed how much he could help people. During his more than 30-year career as a civil litigator, he feels it was the right choice.
“It’s a wonderful way to help people through a difficult time in their lives,” he said.
During his career, Leiken has helped to resolve more than 500 cases, including traffic accidents, wrongful deaths and workplace injuries.
Leiken and his family’s roots run deep in Cleveland. He is the son of Milton Leiken, the late founder of Leiken Motors Companies, which remains in the family and run by his brother, Ronald. He has been a lifelong Cleveland resident, except for the four years he and his identical twin brother, James, a local accountant and small business owner, attended the University of Colorado.
After earning his bachelor’s degree, Leiken returned to Cleveland and worked a fulltime day job and attended law school at night.
After more than 30 years at a large firm, Leiken opened his office in 2017. In the two years he’s been a sole practitioner, he said he has gotten back to his roots and is enjoying having more meaningful contact with clients.
“I would tell clients it’s an impersonal process,” he said of his days litigating at a big firm, where a team of clerks, assistants and paralegals handled most of the direct client communication where he could be dealing with as many as 150 cases at one time.
“It was kind of disheartening,” Leiken said. “That relationship with the client and the ultimate feeling of helping people out was really why I was in it. I’ve found a lot of that coming back to me in my solo practice.”
Leiken said most of his case are settled out of court. However, when circumstances warrant, he relishes the opportunity of trying a case in front of a jury.
“I am a litigator,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun (to be in court), to be honest with you.”
Leiken, who serves on the Orange School Board, enjoys spending evenings with his family, including his wife, Tracie, sons Max, 18, and Jared, 16, and his daughter Lindy, 12, at school events. Both boys play varsity baseball and basketball. Lindy is preparing for her bat mitzvah, which will take place on a family trip to Israel.
Leiken also coached the mock trial team at Orange High School in Pepper Pike and is active with the booster and alumni organizations.
Beyond work, family life and community service, Leiken said he is a devoted fan of all Cleveland sports teams.
“I’ve been a season ticket holder for 26 years with the Indians,” he said. “And my family has had season tickets for the Browns since before I was born. I have been going to games since I was 8 years old.”
Impressed with the work ethic of this year’s Browns, Leiken said he admired their tenacity.
“They never gave up,” he said. “They never gave up in a single game.”
Nona Nelson is a freelance writer.