Keleher & McLeod 100-Year Story

The law firm of Keleher & McLeod traces its history to August 11, 1915, when W.A. Keleher began his law practice. But the story begins long before the formation of one of New Mexico’s most prominent law firms. It begins with the Keleher family.

With ties to Albuquerque dating back to 1879, the Keleher family is undoubtedly one of the most well-established and iconic families in the community. William A. Keleher, founder of Keleher & McLeod, is best known for his community impact, the law firm that bears his name and for being a prolific writer.

In his book, Memoirs: 1892-1969 A New Mexico Item, he wrote, “My interest in, and love of New Mexico, particularly Albuquerque, my home town, are, I think, established facts. The people have been friendly, kind and generous to me, and I have tried to reciprocate by helping to make Albuquerque a good place to live.”

It was with this sentiment that he lived his life. Similarly, it was with this philosophy that he built one of the most notable and philanthropic law firms in the state and left a large and lasting impact on the Albuquerque community. William A. Keleher’s contributions to the community can still be seen today; not only in the firm, but also with his land donations that include the land occupied today by the Albuquerque Little Theater, St. Pius High School and several public parks in Albuquerque.

He began his journey to community influence and impact in the early 1900s. Because his father became ill while he was in the eighth grade, it was necessary for him to drop out of school and provide financial support for his family. Without the benefit of high school or college, he was later admitted to law school at Washington & Lee University and graduated with a law degree in 1915. In that year, he began practicing law. Keleher was joined in 1929 by A.H. McLeod, who went on to become one of New Mexico's best known and most effective trial lawyers.

Over the decades, three of his sons, William B., Michael L., and Thomas F. Keleher joined the firm. Along with many other excellent lawyers, they have carried on Keleher’s tradition of service and positive impact on the community. The legacy of excellence that started 100 years ago still remains the guiding principle for the work done by the firm.

Known for its dedication to its clients, Keleher & McLeod has been a driving force in the Albuquerque community and the state of New Mexico. The firm’s commitment to helping those in need has resulted in a significant amount of pro bono work for low-income individuals and families facing legal issues. Lawyers at the firm have been active in the Volunteer Attorney Program of the New Mexico Bar Association and Second Judicial District Pro Bono Committee.

Throughout the 100-year history of Keleher & McLeod, attorneys and employees have maintained strong relationships throughout the community and have been involved with a variety of foundations, boards and charitable organizations. Members of the firm have been active and instrumental in many areas of community building, including fostering the arts, education, economic development and more. Their work with the community ties back into the principles and values of excellence and service upon which the firm was founded.

In recognition of their contribution to the business and philanthropic community of the state, Michael L., Thomas F., and William B. Keleher were all honored at the 2014 New Mexico Spirit of Achievement Awards. With a lengthy resume of involvement and service to the city they call home, they have served on a number of boards, including: Bernalillo County Unit of the American Cancer Society, New Mexico Diamond Jubilee/U.S. Constitution Bicentennial Commission, University of Albuquerque Board, City of Albuquerque Environmental Planning Commission, Center for Civic Values, Albuquerque Museum Foundation, Executives’ Association of Greater Albuquerque, Valles Caldera Trust, Albuquerque Economic Development Corporation, Casa Angelica Foundation, and Kirtland Partnership Committee, among others.

This philanthropic mission of the firm has continued throughout its history. Keleher & McLeod is known for its Holiday and Thanksgiving gifts, in which the firm selects a family in need and provides them dinner and/or gift cards for presents. For decades, they have also opted to provide holiday gifts to a lengthy list of friends and business associates in the form of charitable donations made on the gift recipient’s behalf. These contributions have been made to United Way, The Children’s Safehouse, The Children’s Hospital of New Mexico, and many other organizations throughout the years, and have amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars given back to the Albuquerque community.

The firm has also provided the “Running Horses” sculpture at the Albuquerque International Sunport, which welcomes travelers and those returning home to Albuquerque.

In efforts to help Albuquerque businesses succeed and grow, Keleher & McLeod has often been paving the way and preparing businesses for changes in law. With workshops instructing businesses how to shift, adjust, and make sure that they are in compliance, the firm led the way on informing Albuquerque business owners on milestone issues such as equal opportunity and more.

Additionally, supporting and encouraging youth of the community has been a priority since the firm’s inception. The firm maintains a special relationship with Jefferson Middle School and has sponsored an 8th Grade Leadership Award every year since 1989. The award is based on grades, community service, and extra-curricular activities, and is highly coveted by students. Keleher & McLeod also partners with the school in mock trials, where the attorneys and staff are available to provide professional support for the students. In continuing their commitment to helping foster a positive overall experience for the kids at Jefferson, the firm also adopts a family at the Holidays and provides them with gift cards for food and presents.

To provide enhanced education opportunities, Keleher & McLeod offers a summer clerkship for law students to spur along their legal career, and students with an interest in pursuing a career in law may participate in job shadowing with employees at the firm. These opportunities give young people the chance to be a part of a legal team, to grow, and to foster a learning environment. Through these programs, the firm works to encourage leadership and excellence—with academics and in community—among the next generation of Albuquerque leaders. The firm established the Keleher & McLeod Endowment, which is a permanent endowment for a law professor at UNM as well as funding a lecture room at the State Bar of New Mexico.

The story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Russell Moore and Charlie Pharris. Russell, who joined the firm in 1957, spent his 48-year career with Keleher & McLeod, 8 years as its president. Known as a leading litigator, and legal strategist, he had a heart of gold and quietly helped many in our community. During his years of practice, he played an important role in many of the most significant cases in the state. Russell Moore had a heart of gold, and he worked for years on some of the firm’s most important cases. Charlie also served as firm president and president of the State Bar. Lawyers throughout the state continue to ask about Charlie, who recently retired to live a life of skiing, hiking and fishing in Colorado.

In its 100th year, the firm is very much a part of the Albuquerque community and is well known as an advocate for all—from students and clients to the business community and to those in need. Keleher & McLeod remains a great place to work where employees are appreciated and enjoy coming to work. This fact is evidenced by the large number of employees who have remained at the firm for decades. The employees state that the firm is much like a family, with people who take care of each other, complete with fun events, special treats and the invaluable opportunity to be a part of something bigger than just a job—the opportunity to help out in the community by giving back.

Throughout the past century, one thing has remained steady, and that is Keleher & McLeod’s dedication to helping make New Mexico a better place to live, work, and learn, for this generation and for future generations. With a look back at the past and the foundation of this great firm comes a look ahead to the future. Continuing in the footsteps of the former generation, Keleher & McLeod looks forward to maintaining the same level of excellence and commitment for decades and centuries to come.

Looking Back at 100 Years

There have been 5 locations:

The Cromwell Building at 2nd & Gold

First National Bank Building at 3rd & Central

Alvarado Square at Fourth and Silver

2055 Louisiana Blvd. NE in Uptown

201 Third St. NW

In 1915 – the firm had one attorney. Today there are 33.

16 people have been with the firm for 25 years or more:

William B. Keleher – 55 years

Michael L. Keleher – 50 years

Arthur O. Beach – 41 years

Thomas F. Keleher – 41 years

Elizabeth Blackburn – 37 years

William S. Reid – 37 years

Clyde F. Worthen – 36 years

Thomas C. Bird – 33 years

Kathryn Ann Schroeder – 32 years

Brenda J. Balok – 31 years

Kurt Wihl – 31 years

James Lujan – 29 years

Lucille O. Cebada – 27 years

Charles S. Archuleta – 26 years

Devon B. Westphal – 26 years

Running Horses © 1989: Gray Mercer A sculpture provided for the City of Albuquerque Public Art Collection by Keleher & McLeod, PA. On display at the Albuquerque International Airport.