Areas of Practice
- Nevada, 2002
- California, 2003
- J.D., University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall), 2002
- M.A., Education, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1997
- B.A., with honors, Zoology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1991
Debbie Leonard is a partner based in the firm’s Reno office and is co-chair of the firm’s Appellate Practice Group. Her practice focuses on litigation and appeals deriving from real property, land use and natural resource disputes. Before becoming a lawyer, Ms. Leonard worked for the United States Forest Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service on resource management issues and environmental assessment. She has also taught science at the secondary and college levels. Prior to joining the firm, she served as a Law Clerk to the Honorable David W. Hagen in the United States District Court, District of Nevada.
Ms. Leonard received her law degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) with a certificate in environmental law. She also has a master’s degree in education from the University of California, Santa Cruz and graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin, Madison with a bachelor’s degree in zoology.
Ms. Leonard represents clients before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Nevada’s appellate courts and the California courts of appeal on a host of appellate matters, including direct appeals, writ practice, petitions for review and amicus briefs. She also handles appeals from administrative decisions. From ensuring that appellate issues are properly preserved in the trial court, to delivering succinct and persuasive arguments in briefs and at oral argument before appellate courts, Ms. Leonard guides clients in all aspects of appeals.
Water, Environment & Natural Resources
Having worked as a biologist before becoming a lawyer, Ms. Leonard is well positioned to assist clients with a host of water and resource-related issues. She handles water rights transactions and litigates water and real property disputes. Through a combination of effective advocacy and negotiation, she helps clients with permitting and regulatory matters before Nevada and federal agencies. She also advises clients regarding environmental due diligence.
Ms. Leonard is a trained mediator and has successfully assisted parties to resolve all manner of disagreements, from complex business litigation to attorney-client fee disputes. With her practice area focus in water and real property law and her background in natural resource management, she is particularly suited to mediate conflicts between and among land owners, water rights holders, environmental advocates, public agencies, utilities and the agricultural community. Ms. Leonard serves as a Nevada Supreme Court settlement judge and is a volunteer mediator and arbitrator for the Nevada State Bar’s Fee Dispute Resolution program.
Commercial & Complex Litigation
Ms. Leonard litigates a variety of civil matters in state and federal court in both Nevada and California. As a former federal law clerk, she is particularly skilled in procedural issues before the United States District Court. She has had considerable success with motion practice, which has repeatedly led to the resolution of her clients’ cases without the expense of trial.
Awards and Recognition
- Super Lawyers – “Mountain States Super Lawyers”
- “Top 20 Under 40” award for Young Professionals in the Reno-Tahoe Area
- Nevada Business Magazine, Legal Elite” 2017
- Women of Achievement Award Recipient
- Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated
- Editor, Nevada Appellate Practice Manual (2016)
- Nevada Supreme Court Settlement Judge
- Chair, Appellate Litigation Section of State Bar of Nevada (2013 – 2014)
- Volunteer Mediator and Arbitrator, Nevada State Bar Fee Dispute Mediation and Arbitration Panel
- Advisory Board, Nevada Land Trust
- Pro Bono Legal Counsel, Tahoe Pyramid Bikeway
- Lawyer Representative, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (2016-present)
Business professionals often complain that the lack of case law in Nevada creates a climate of uncertainty for business decision-making. The Nevada Supreme Court has been working to change that…
Two Law Review Articles, Written by Debbie Leonard, are Cited in Briefs to the United States Supreme Court in the Case of Coachella Valley Water District v. Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
The petitioners seek review of a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case and ask the Supreme Court to address the scope of state power to regulate groundwater when there are…
The Supreme Court had a very productive summer, issuing numerous wide-reaching published decisions. For this month’s column, I thought it might be useful to discuss briefly a few cases in…
You have chosen to send an email to McDonald Carano. The sending or receipt of this email and the information in it does not in itself create an attorney-client relationship. If you are not already a client, you should not provide us with information that you wish to have treated as privileged or confidential without first speaking to one of our lawyers. If you provide information before we confirm that you are a client and that we are willing and able to represent you, we may not be required to treat that information as privileged, confidential, or protected information, and we may be able to represent a party adverse to you.
I have read this and want to send an email.