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Attorney Mike Leonard

Mike Leonard

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From Michael's interview for the Masters of the Courtroom series on

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the most rewarding aspect is probably

the relationships that you develop I

mean I still have relationships on a

social level with people I represented

you know in the early 1990s especially

in a criminal case it really is a

special relationship because you’re kind

of going through fire with that client

so I think to me that’s one of the most

rewarding aspects get to know people at

an extremely personal level and really

every aspect of their lives and I’d say

secondly the most rewarding thing is as

you get experience uh I think what

you’re really seeking is not just your

own self-approval but the respect of

your peers and I feel like over time

I’ve really developed the respect of my

peers as a trial lawyer here in Chicago

and and as well as nationally

to be successful in the courtroom I

think takes a wide variety of skills but

particularly in federal criminal cases

and state law felony cases you have to

be of a great comfort level of being in

the courtroom trying cases in front of

juries often a different group of people

each time that you appear so you have to

be able to operate at different speeds

and handle cross-examination of

witnesses and really have a sense of

what the appropriate tone and approach

is for every witness you know you can’t

be the lawyer like you might see on TV

that is always one speed that’s just not

appropriate and it’s not effective at

trial but I think also probably the most

important thing is just a comfort level

with yourself as you try more cases and

experience success I think it’s really

comes down to are you comfortable with

yourself so that the jury’s comfortable

to you that you’re credible with that

jury that they don’t think you’re trying

to sell them something and that they

believe you even though they might not

always go your way they believe that

you’re being truthful with them and they

can respect what you’re doing


Practice Areas

  • Federal Criminal 50%
  • Employment 20%
  • Whistleblower 20%
  • Commercial Litigation 10%

Bar Admissions

  • Illinois, 1991
  • U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 7th Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 3rd Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit


  • International Human Rights Law Group Pro Bono Service Award
  • Super Lawyers
  • Leading Lawyers
  • America's Top Trial Lawyers
  • Criminal Defense Top 10


Mike Leonard is a nationally recognized “go to” trial lawyer. His trial practice concentrates in the areas of Federal and State criminal matters, in addition to civil employment, whistleblower, retaliation, qui tam (False Claims Act), commercial and business, and injury matters. He has successfully tried to verdict dozens and dozens of cases in the Federal and State courts, including in Illinois and across the country. Mike has spent his entire thirty-year career as a courtroom trial attorney and litigator. 

Mike is believed to be the only presently practicing attorney to have attained at least six or more complete not guilty jury verdicts on all counts and charges in favor of his clients in Federal criminal prosecutions brought by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois. Mike’s recent Federal criminal jury trials include four not guilty verdicts on all counts and charges, a dismissal of all charges during trial, and a mistrial. This includes one of the very few Federal criminal not guilty jury verdicts in the Northern District of Illinois in 2020. 

Mike’s results have been equally impressive in civil trials in the Illinois State courts, including in Cook, Kane, DuPage, and Lake Counties, as well as in Federal courts throughout the country - ranging from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and Virginia. Mike’s clients have prevailed before juries in those jurisdictions in cases involving employment discrimination, retaliation/whistleblowing, securities fraud, civil rights violations, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and a variety of other commercial claims. 

Mike has been repeatedly recognized as an outstanding trial lawyer by, among others, Super Lawyers, Leading Lawyers, American’s Top Criminal Defense Lawyers, Top 100 Trial Lawyers, and America’s Top High Stakes Litigators.

Mike has litigated or tried to verdict Federal and State cases in at least the following Federal or State jurisdictions outside of Illinois: Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Kansas, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Florida, California, and Oregon.

Mike has appeared, briefed, or argued numerous appeals, including before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit; the United States Court of Appeals for Ninth Circuit; the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; numerous Illinois State Appellate Courts; the California Court of Appeals; and the Idaho Supreme Court.  

Mike also regularly represents and advises clients on employment-related matters, ranging from discrimination of all types, retaliatory discharge, False Claims Act/qui tam matters, employment contracts and separation agreements. 

Mike is a long-serving Adjunct Professor of Trial Practice at the prestigious Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.

He regularly lectures and instructs on the art and science of trial practice.

Mike is a 1991 graduate of Loyola (Chicago) School of Law, where he was a member of the Trial Team and the Law Journal. Mike completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa.


  • Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Chicago, Illinois
    • J.D. - 1991
    • Honors: National Mock Trial Team
  • University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
    • B.A. - 1988
    • Honors: Dean's List
    • Major: Political Science

Classes & Seminars

  • Trial Practice, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, 2008- Present
  • Federal Trial Bar Training Program
  • Pincus Education Programs

Past Positions

  • Phelan Pope & John/Pope & John, Associate, 1991 to 1994
  • Meckler Bulger & Tilson, Partner/Associate, 1994 to 2013

Fraternities or Sororities

  • Pi Kappa Alpha

Professional Associations

  • American Bar Association, Member
  • National Association Criminal Defense Lawyers, Member

Current Employment Position

  • Partner