Though law firms nationwide still struggle to reflect the country’s diversity in their leadership, national law firm Quarles & Brady bucked that trend when it named Scottsdale resident Leonardo Loo managing partner of its Phoenix office in September.
Loo, who was born in Venezuela and has familial ties to China and Mexico, previously worked as the firm’s Phoenix Business Law Practice Group Chair.
He practices in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, commercial financing, international transactions, securities, and general corporate law involving clients in a wide variety of industries.
“I love the practice of law because I love helping the clients and learning about the process during a deal,” Loo said.
Loo represents a small but growing contingent of lawyers with minority backgrounds taking leadership roles at law firms.
Though non-white persons make up 23.4 percent of the population in the U.S., that diversity is not reflected in leadership at the country’s major law firms.
According to National Association for Law Placement’s 2017 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms, minorities account for just 8.42 percent of partners at major law firms in the U.S.
While there has been growth in diverse representation at law firms across the country in recent years, progress has been slow.
“During the 25 years that NALP has been compiling this information, law firms have made steady, though very slow, incremental progress in increasing the presence of women and minorities in the partner ranks,” according to the report.
Black lawyers had the lowest representation among partners of the minority groups represented in the study at 1.83 percent, up from 1.71 percent in 2009.
Diversity is important for a variety of reasons, as Stanford University law professor Deborah L. Rhode wrote in the Washington Post in 2015.
“The legal profession supplies presidents, governors, lawmakers, judges, prosecutors, general counsels, and heads of corporate, government, nonprofit and legal organizations. Its membership needs to be as inclusive as the populations it serves,” she wrote.
Loo has been recognized for his professional and civic achievements by an array of organizations, including the Phoenix Chapter of the National Association of Asian American Professionals, the Black Chamber of Arizona and AZ Business Magazine.
Loo, who speaks Spanish fluently and has two teen children with his wife, Taj Loo, said his background gives him a unique perspective.
“I do think I can relate to different cultures much more easily. I have always had my feet in different cultures throughout my life, the Asian culture and the Latino culture,” Loo said. “My wife is African American, so I can relate to the African American culture as well.”
Loo said that having lawyers of many backgrounds is an asset that makes business sense and that is reflected in his own team that includes members of different genders, ethnicities and religions.
“Many of our larger clients are requesting to have diverse teams,” Loo said. “Diversity can be many things in terms of gender and diversity in thought, which can service a client’s situation.”
Kevin Walsh, a partner at Quarles & Brady who works closely with Loo, said, “Leo is extraordinarily approachable and is a great mentor.”
Loo’s commitment to supporting diversity extends beyond his practice as well.
He currently serves on the board of directors for Chicanos Por La Causa and is the immediate past chairman.
Chicanos Por La Causa is a nonprofit organization that provides housing, health and human services, and economic development opportunities for underserved communities in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.
Max Gonzales, a member of the advocacy committee executive board at Chicanos Por La Causa while Loo was chairman, said Loo “was an asset based on my observation and his inclusive, diverse style leading the board to make good decisions.”
In addition to his leadership roles within Quarles & Brady and Chicanos Por La Causa, Loo serves as general counsel for both the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Black Chamber of Arizona.
Loo also participates in the Arizona Asian Chamber of Commerce and provides services to the Asian American community. He is also involved with the Arizona Asian American Bar Association and, in 2013, was honored by the Phoenix Chapter of the National Association of Asian American Professionals with its Community Leader of the Year Award.
In 2015, Loo was honored with the Black Chamber of Arizona’s Chairperson’s Award for his positive impact and dedication to both the chamber and community at large.
As one of Quarles & Brady’s community projects, the law firm coordinates with Capitol Elementary School.
“We do all our work at Capitol Elementary School, which has the highest percentage of homeless students who are on free or reduced lunch,” Walsh said.
Dozens of attorneys and staff members act as role models for these students by donating supplies and participating in classroom holiday parties.
“I enjoy being out in the community,” Loo said. “I think it is part of my duty to give back and it doesn’t hurt that it is comprised of great people as well.”