As a litigator who has represented corporate clients in state and federal court for three decades, Leo Presiado knows the importance of organizing his time.
It starts in the water where he swims and surfs.
“There’s a calming effect to surfing the same breaks I have been surfing since I was a kid. Being out in the water on a clear day, I can see Catalina Island and look back toward the shore and see the San Gabriel mountains—snow-capped if winter,” he says. “Often, there are dolphins out there playing in the waves. It’s a good environment to get your day in order.”
His day includes all aspects of complex business litigation as partner at Brown Rudnick LLP, which represents companies, partnerships, entrepreneurs, and high-net-worth individuals.
Based in Orange County, California, Presiado represents clients at the trial and appellate levels, including Alorica, a billion-dollar company that provides outsourced customer relations to household names such as American Express and Walmart.
Presiado was born in Los Angeles and moved to Orange County when he was young. The middle of three children, he grew up understanding the value of consistent work habits. His parents owned and operated the oldest Mexican restaurant in the South Bay section of Los Angeles, Leo’s Mexican Food, where he began working at the age of ten. A few years after he opened the restaurant in 1945, his grandfather Leo, whom Presiado was named after, invented the “wet burrito”—a burrito covered in enchilada sauce and cheese.
His parents did not want their children joining the grind of the restaurant business, and their daily commitment paid for all the siblings to attend college. “We owe a lot to that restaurant,” Presiado says. The restaurant closed in 2022 after seventy-five years in business.
He earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Berkeley, and attended the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law—becoming the first in his family to be an attorney. After clerking at Rus Miliband & Smith, the firm hired directly following his law school graduation. Presiado became a partner in five years.
“We did really well, and at the time, Orange County was the smaller market. Los Angeles was the behemoth,” he reflects. “But over time, Orange County and Los Angeles became a single market because of the different industries flourishing down here.”
In 2013, Brown Rudnick expanded its practice to the West Coast and merged with Rus Miliband & Smith. Collaborating with colleagues of all experience levels, Presiado appreciates seeing the development of associates as they prepare for arbitrations and trials. His favorite part of any case is the organization and presentation of witnesses and exhibits.
“It’s storytelling in the form of testimony tied in with documents,” he explains. “The general outline is chronological, but like a good book or article in a magazine, you want to get the trier of fact’s attention upfront. You want to frontload it with some of your best facts, your best witness, or your most provocative witness. And you want to finish strong—either a great fact witness or great presentation witness, a witness you know is going to grab the attention of the trier of fact and leave them viewing your case in a positive light.”
Presiado admires how Brown Rudnick runs a robust diversity, equity, and inclusion program and pursues it as a value and culture. In addition, associates receive billable credit hours for pro bono projects. “It’s gratifying because what I do on a day-to-day basis is very insular as far as who it affects,” he says. “It’s nice to be able to be to contribute to the community, particularly those who cannot afford legal services.”
The attorney is also active in efforts to create a pipeline for the next generation of diverse lawyers. He joined the Hispanic Bar Association of Orange County after he passed the bar exam in 1993 and served on its board for ten years. The organization’s efforts include providing mentoring, mock trial events, and law school scholarships to first-generation Hispanic law school students.
He is quick to provide realistic advice to aspiring lawyers about the reality of the job. “You have to put in the work. It’s not an easy road,” he says. “Ultimately, the law has to be something that you really enjoy and are passionate about to have a successful legal career, but it starts with an interest. As a young person, you can determine if you’re truly passionate about it if, when it gets tough, you still want to do it.”
A married father of three adult daughters, Presiado faces the common work/life balance challenge: the lack of control over timing.
“Generally, you know you can anticipate your workload based on trial dates or other important dates within the context of a lawsuit, but there’s a lot of matters that pop up that are beyond your control that can take up a lot of your time. It always seems to happen at the worst time,” he admits. “However, you learn how to deal with the time commitment and delegate to those you have mentored.”
Just as it assists with his personal organization habits, a surfboard and the Pacific Ocean can help with time management.
“It’s like therapy. I did not think of it in those terms when I was younger, but it eventually dawns on you: surfing is an essential activity not simply because it is enjoyable and because it’s good to stay active. Mentally, it’s huge,” Presiado says. “That’s why I would likely never live somewhere where I could not routinely surf. There aren’t that many choices.”