Oregon State Bar Bulletin — AUGUST 2012
Profiles in the Law
Achieving Her Best Self:
Leta Gorman Reaches Personal Goals Through Competing
By Cliff Collins

Leta E. Gorman has to explain to people on a regular basis what she does — not what she does during her work hours, but during her off hours.

That is, if she really has any off hours. The amount of time she devotes to what she does averages three to four hours a day.

What Gorman, a shareholder with Jordan Ramis, does as an avocation is called fitness, a subcategory of bodybuilding contests. In what is referred to as the fitness division of these shows, she does not have to pack on substantial muscle size or achieve extreme definition, but rather perform a two-minute routine incorporating dance, gymnastics and strength moves, as well as to display muscle tone and symmetry.

Gorman took up the sport quite recently — in 2009 — and despite being 15 to 20 years older, at 44, than most of her competitors, she has already won five of the nine contests she has participated in. That record qualifies her for national competition, which she says she will consider entering once she deems herself ready.

After doing ballet dancing as a child and then again later as an adult, she took up marathon running for a time. But Gorman says the redundancy of running bored her, and she also was discouraged that she was a little overweight despite all those miles.

“Lawyers have very, very busy lives, and it’s easy to forget we have to take care of ourselves,” she says. She discovered that setting a goal was the key to keeping motivated, and she was able to find that goal when she consulted a personal trainer who is also her nutritionist. In the trainer’s gym, she was working out alongside several women who competed in either bodybuilding or two other subcategories of it: figure and bikini. But she had seen fitness competitions on television and asked the trainer to help her become competitive in that arena.

“It sparked a bug in me,” Gorman says. “I wanted a different challenge.”

Each day year-round, she spends 45 minutes on cardio training first thing in the morning and then another 45 minutes again in the evening; lifts weights for an hour; stretches for flexibility for about a half-hour; and for four days a week participates in a dance or gymnastics class and practices her routine.

For diet, she eats six small meals a day and emphasizes a balance of foods. She monitors body fat and works on having “muscle in the right places,” but otherwise doesn’t consider her eating regimen restrictive. However, 16 weeks before a competition, “it definitely gets more strict,” she admits.

In the contests themselves, she and the other competitors are judged in two phases: Two-thirds of their scores are assessed for the routine itself — for strength, flexibility and endurance, but also for stage presence, appearance, originality and other factors; and one-third for their physiques — for firmness, symmetry and proportion in relation to height.

In large shows entrants are judged by separate height classes, but no consideration is given in either small or large contests to differences in age.

Competitors select their own music, themes and costumes and choreograph their own routines. “My theme for this year is the Queen of Hearts from (the film) ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ so all of my music is related to that.”

As in bodybuilding or beauty contests, the judging of fitness contestants is subjective — a factor that anyone considering entering the sport should be aware of and not mind, she points out. She says each judge is looking for something specific, and that you can’t let the outcome affect your self-image or make you feel negatively about your body. She views constructive criticism positively, and says it helps her improve, just as she shrugs off age differences, saying that competing against younger women is “just another challenge.”

“I stay involved because I really love competing and getting to express my personality through my routine,” Gorman says. “It’s absolutely fun: I get to do gymnastics, strength training and cardio. It’s really varied and is absolutely a stress reliever.”

Her friends, colleagues in her firm and her husband, Mark, all are supportive and interested in her pursuit. Mark attends her events, helps prepare her meals and washes her hair before contests when she is covered with sprayed-on tan.

But Gorman recognizes that bodybuilding and its attendant divisions represent a subculture, one that many people on the outside don’t understand. Some have a negative or uninformed view and think the sport involves only muscle size, vanity and performance-enhancing drugs. But she knows that many folks who take up the sport are like her: They compete to stay fit.

“To me and my friends, it is about trying to achieve your best self,” she says.

Developing a Specialty
Born in Portland and raised in Portland and Vancouver, Wash., Gorman was the first woman in her family to graduate from college, and she dreamed of pursuing a career in politics when she majored in international studies at the University of Washington.

“I was very interested in working as a foreign service officer for the U.S. Department of State or as an operations officer for the CIA,” she says. “I love learning about other countries and people. It is also one of the reasons why my husband and I host foreign exchange students. We have hosted students from Slovakia, Egypt, France and Austria; our next yearlong student just arrived from Russia.”

But once she entered Seattle University School of Law and competed at both the local and regional levels at the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court and the Mock Trial Competitions, she set her sights on eventually becoming a trial lawyer.

After graduating with honors from law school, her first job was with Deloitte & Touche in Seattle, where she had spent one of her summer clerkships. She had done well in tax classes in law school and liked the accounting firm but found she didn’t feel passionate about the work.

Gorman began to gain trial and litigation experience after moving to Stoel Rives (initially in Seattle and then in Portland), where she tried several bench and jury trials. She later joined Bullivant Houser Bailey to pursue the defense of product manufacturers. Her practice allowed her the opportunity to successfully defend manufacturers in cases such as those involving automobilies, industrial equipment, drugs and medical defenses.

After seven years with Bullivant, Gorman joined Jordan Ramis as a shareholder in May 2011, where she serves on the firm’s product defense team.

“I love it,” she says of her position there. “It’s given me an opportunity to really develop that area for the firm.”

Gorman is active in the American Bar Association and the Defense Research Institute. She is named in The Best Lawyers in America for product liability litigation (for 2011-2013) and is also recognized by Oregon Super Lawyers for product liability defense.

Another outside involvement that has helped Gorman develop professionally is the International Association of Defense Counsel, a peer-reviewed, invitation-only organization of 2,500 lawyers. Attorneys must practice law a minimum of eight years before being considered for membership.

Gorman is active in leadership positions in the group and its foundation, previously chairing the products liability committee and teaching other attorneys trial skills through the association’s trial academy, held at Stanford University.

“Everything Leta does, she does exceptionally well,” says Amy Sherry Fischer, a colleague in the association and a practicing attorney in Oklahoma City. “She gives tirelessly of her time.”

In 2010, Gorman served as a faculty member at the IADC Trial Academy for a team of six attorneys, including Thomas W. Southerland III, senior counsel for litigation for FedEx Corp. in Memphis, Tenn. He says Gorman’s role was to give specific advice and critique him and the others as individuals and as a team on their courtroom arguments and procedures.

Southerland notes that Gorman’s being asked to serve on the trial faculty is an honor. “I greatly appreciated the time that she dedicated to that,” he says.

Gorman loves the opportunity to be a trial attorney in court and to give her clients a voice.

“I love what I do, being able to help companies resolve their problems,” Gorman says. “Lawsuits are not fun for people. They leave their problems to me to get the best solution. That’s what’s satisfying to me: to have people who trust me to solve their legal problem.”

As for her fitness hobby, she plans to stay with it for the long haul. “I will continue to do it until my body doesn’t allow me to,” she says. “As long as I’m having fun, I’m going to keep doing it. I love the energy I get from working out. I really like having goals and achieving what you set out for yourself.”

Cliff Collins is a Portland-area freelance writer and since 1991 has been a frequent contributor to the Bulletin. Reach him at tundra95877@mypacks.net.

© 2012 Cliff Collins

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