Advocating for the Latinx legal community through education and mentorship
Daniel Mateo, a partner at Holland & Knight, is one of the few Latinx partners at a large law firm. His goal? To show the diversity within the Latinx community.
As the Hispanic community in the United States continues to grow, so too does the level of diversity within that community.
“It is important to remember that the Latinx community is not monolithic,” Daniel Mateo said during an interview with AL DÍA.
“As an LGBT, Latino lawyer, I am particularly sensitive to the need for our community to be inclusive and welcoming to all,” he continued.
Through his work in the law profession, Mateo is doing his part.
With 26 years of experience as a commercial litigator, Mateo is one of the few Latinx partners at a large law firm, Holland & Knight.
“Latinx people, and in fact many minority people, continue to be seriously under-represented in the legal profession as a whole, but particularly as partners [equity and non-equity] at large law firms,” he said.
Mateo joined Holland & Knight as an equity partner in July 2018, after spending 20 years in the Princeton and Philadelphia offices of an Am Law 100 law firm. His main focus at Holland & Knight is handling complex contractual and business disputes for pharmaceutical and other major industry clients.
“I love the challenge of helping my clients navigate and resolve thorny contractual problems and find creative and practical business solutions,” said Mateo.
Born in Nuremberg, Germany, to Puerto Rican parents who were stationed on an army base there during the Vietnam War, Mateo’s interest in law was formed by his mother.
His mother worked as a legal secretary for a personal injury lawyer, and he’d often work in the law office after school cleaning and running errands.
“It was my first exposure to law as a possible career,” said Mateo. “Seeing work the lawyers were doing piqued my interest in the law.”
Mateo is one of three law professionals who will be honored with the 2019 Top Lawyer Award during the annual AL DÍA Lawyers Forum & Reception event on October 1, 2019. He will specifically be named the recipient of the Top Law Firm/Corporate Counsel Award.
After attending Camden Catholic High School in Cherry Hill, NJ, he graduated from Rutgers College in New Brunswick, NJ, with a BA, later receiving his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philadelphia.
According to statistics from the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), Hispanics comprise only about 4% of U.S. lawyers, despite comprising 18% of the U.S. population.
“There are a number of reasons for the under-representation,” said Mateo. “but the lack of role models I believe is the most significant.”
“In order to create a pipeline, young Latinx students need to believe that becoming a lawyer is not only possible, but there is a roadmap that will help them achieve that goal,” he added.
Mateo praised the Hispanic National Bar Association and its many statewide affiliates around the country for providing a sense of community for Latinx lawyers and law students, calling the HNBA “a resource built on professional comradery, shared experience and lots of fun.”
As someone who has traveled the road as one of the successful Latinx law professionals, Mateo feels a responsibility to look back and help educate, mentor, prepare and support the next generation of Latinx lawyers, and help feed and foster that pipeline.
For the Latinx community, Mateo says, it’s important for aspiring Latinx lawyers to not see their Hispanic heritage as a hindrance, but rather an asset.
When he accepts his Top Lawyers award on Oct. 1, Mateo wants to use this recognition as an opportunity to change the narrative surrounding the Latinx community being a narrow one.
“This recognition will hopefully help demonstrate that we in the Latinx community are making important strides in the legal and professional communities while simultaneously staying connected to our culture and heritage,” he said.
To purchase a ticket for the 2019 AL DÍA Lawyers Forum & Reception, click here.