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VADA Member Spotlight

Declan Leonard
Berenzweig Leonard, LLP

This month’s spotlighted VADA member is Declan Leonard of Berenzweig Leonard, LLP, in McLean, where he is a managing partner and heads up the firm’s employment law practice.  Declan is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University.  He currently serves as Vice-Chair of VADA’s Corporate and Commercial Litigation Section.

1.              Where were you born?

In Washington, DC—I am a life-long Northern Virginia resident.

2.         Spouse? Children? Pets?

Wife Lori, three kids (two are now adult age) and three dogs—Never a quiet house.

3.         What type of law do you practice?

Mainly employment on the management side, but as part of that I also do general business law counseling and transactional work.

4.         How long have you been a member of VADA?

I joined last year so I am a fairly recent member, but I am quickly realizing that I missed out all these years on such a great organization.

5.         What have you enjoyed most about your time in VADA?

Meeting other attorneys from around Virginia.  We co-hosted a Happy Hour this past September, and the turnout was great with all new faces for me.

6.         What do you like most about practicing law?

I have done a fair amount of litigation, mainly defending companies on employment claims, but at this later stage in my career I have to say that I really enjoy the counseling part of being a lawyer.  I see real value in working with my business clients on the front end to avoid messy problems on the back end.

7.         What is the one app on your phone you cannot live without?

I love music, so I would like to say Pandora/Spotify, but in all honesty DoorDash gets the most use.

8.         If you could have dinner with any famous person, living or dead, who would it be?

Not that I’m a Bible thumper, but I have always been fascinated by John the Baptist as depicted in the Bible.  He had so many followers and easily could have stolen the limelight from his cousin Jesus, but he didn’t.  So, dinner with him to see what made him tick, and perhaps have some of his humility rub off on me.  The only problem is the dinner menu, since he apparently enjoyed a steady diet of locusts and honey. 

9.         What movie or TV show can you watch over and over again, no matter how many times you have seen it?

I am more into documentaries than I am TV shows or fictional movies.  I can watch the ESPN 30 for 30 sports documentaries over and over again--they are just so well done.

10.       What is at the top of your bucket list?

I just got my EU passport because my mother was born in Ireland, so I want to make up for all the travel I missed up until now.  Having a little family getaway place in Galway, Ireland, would definitely be on the top of my bucket list, but this is probably more aptly a pipe dream.

11.       What was your undergraduate major?

I was a double major in business and political science.

12.       What was your first job?

I cut lawns most summers even up to the start of law school.  In fact, I got my first legal job as a paralegal by hitting up one of my lawn customers who was a name partner at one of the mega law firms downtown.

13.       When I am not at the office, I like to …

Ride my bike on the W&OD trail, see local concerts, and hang with family.

14.       If I wasn’t practicing law, I would be …

The drummer in the E Street Band (sorry, Max).

15.       If you were to visit my office, one of the first things you would notice would be … 

All the paper and files scattered around, including on the floor.  But if you looked on the walls you would see maps of the United States and Ireland, as well as my prized poster from seeing Bruce Springsteen on Broadway—best Father’s Day gift ever.

16.       What is your favorite travel spot?

I would have to say Rehoboth Beach based on how frequently I go there.  In less than a three-hour drive from where I am here in McLean, I can be in one of the coolest beach towns there is.  I am still amazed when I run into Virginians who say they have never been there.  You are missing out …

17        What is the last live concert you attended?

I see a lot of local shows, so the last one would have been a Neil Young tribute band called Broken Arrow at the State Theater in Falls Church—great spot for live music.  Last big concert was Morgan Wallen this past summer at Jiffy Lube Live with my oldest daughter--she has opened my eyes to country.  And of course, I’m hoping to see Bruce Springsteen on his upcoming tour, preferably in Dublin if I can make it work.

18.       What book is currently on your bedside table?

I am reading a book called Servants of the Damned, which is an expose on the darker side of big law.  It’s pretty eye opening and really shows how the pressure within the legal industry to make bigger and bigger profits can lead lawyers down some not so great paths.

19.       What is your favorite food and drink?

Favorite drink is easy—gin and club soda.  I pity the bartender who puts tonic instead …

Favorite food for the first 50 years of my life would have to be pizza, to the point where I would routinely have it as a late-night snack. Now I am trying to make up for lost time by eating a bit healthier.  The steak salad at The Palm is definitely a go-to for me these days.

20.       What advice would you give to someone who just passed the bar?

Get out and connect with other lawyers as often as you can.  It’s the number one predictor of having a successful legal career, hands down.  And it makes the practice of law much more enjoyable when you have so many professional and personal connections.

Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys

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N. Chesterfield, VA 23236


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