Leonard "Leo" Ware, co-founder of the Palo Alto law firm Ware Fletcher & Freidenrich, which later merged with DLA Piper, died on Dec. 19 at his Palo Alto home with his wife of 62 years, Jeanne, and his dog, Jake, by his side. He was 93.
Ware and John Freidenrich established their firm in 1969 during the early days of Silicon Valley's tech boom, when startups often turned to San Francisco-based practices for legal services. Part of the goal for the two lawyers was to keep those companies at home on the Peninsula. The partnership was based on a handshake, Ware told this news organization during an interview in 2017.
Richard Yankwich, a former partner at Ware Fletcher & Freidenrich, recalled, "I remember Leo and John Freidenrich talking about what they wanted to do was build a wall across the Bayshore (Freeway) and get people to stay at home and use their firm."
The firm set the standard for the kinds of legal services offered to help nascent companies with little cash grow into prominent businesses — from establishing a culture of deferring fees to having attorneys work directly with angel investors to secure financial support.
The law office prospered, growing into a firm with several hundred lawyers.
Ware was born in Everett, Washington, on Jan. 19, 1928, to Dwight Ware and Ruth Hulbert Ware and was raised in Lake Forest Park in northern Seattle. He graduated from the University of Washington and then received a juris doctorate degree from Syracuse University College of Law School.
During the early days of his legal career in the 1950s, Ware served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Seattle, prosecuting criminal and civil matters. He moved to San Francisco in 1955 to set up a private civil law practice and then moved down to Palo Alto shortly after. In 1958, he met his wife, Jeanne Bailard Ware, whom he married two years later.
In 1965, Ware recruited other lawyers to go with him to Mississippi to register Black voters, an experience that reinforced his views on the need for strong enforcement of civil rights laws.
Inside and outside the office, colleagues described Ware as a great mentor and supporter.
"He was fair," said Pat McGaraghan, who joined Ware's firm when it first opened. "He was a really good lawyer, and he taught me so much not only about the practice of law but about how to live in ... a community like Palo Alto."
According to Tom French, a family friend and former partner at Ware & Freidenrich, the firm went on to represent many startups that turned into notable tech companies.
The firm later went through several mergers before it became a part of DLA Piper, a global law firm with more than 4,000 lawyers.
The scope of Ware's work and interest expanded beyond law. In 1979, when Bill Johnson founded Embarcadero Media, the parent company of Palo Alto Weekly, The Almanac and Mountain View Voice, Ware and his wife were among the original 15 shareholders. Ware served on the company's board of directors for 17 years, from 1991 to 2008, Johnson said.
"Leo loved newspapers and journalism as much as he did the law. And he had the writing talent to be a reporter or novelist," Johnson said. "He was a mentor to me and a constant source of wise business advice and great insights about the community. With a large, booming voice and a dry, quick wit, he could easily be intimidating. But his warmth and caring personality always prevailed. You never left a conversation with Leo feeling anything but respected and appreciated," Johnson said.
Ware was a founder and original board member of University National Bank & Trust Co., which Comerica acquired in 1994. He also served on the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission from 1965 to 1967. He supported many nonprofits, including East Side Prep in East Palo Alto and Peninsula Open Space Trust. He was a longtime member of the Palo Alto Club, a men's social club, and the Bohemian Club.
Ware was an avid amateur photographer, wine-maker and fancy poultry breeder. The family's Vanumanutagi Ranch in Morgan Hill, a place once owned by the widow of Robert Louis Stevenson, is a working farm at times with chickens, pigs, pheasants, peacocks, llamas and exotic birds, as well as vineyards named after Stevenson's most famous novels.
Yankwich, who was Ware's neighbor for the past 30 years in addition to a partner in the law firm, recalled Ware's sense of humor and open-mindedness.
"Leo was nothing but gracious and gregarious. He's one of those people that got along with everybody," he said. "He was a great neighbor. He'd invite you to watch football games or to argue politics, whatever."
Ware is survived by his wife, Jeanne; daughters Laura Nethercutt of San Rafael and Pamela Ware of Menlo Park; son, Lincoln Ware, of Portland; nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his brother Bill Ware and daughter Jennifer Ware.
Funeral services are pending.