John Daniels has the “secret sauce.”
To him, change and equal opportunity are the indispensable ingredients for a society in which people can develop and invest.
Daniels, a real estate lawyer with an emphasis on large urban projects, joined Quarles & Brady in 1974 and is now chairman emeritus of the firm. During his career of more than 40 years, he has served as the president, vice president, chairman and director of dozens of organizations.
He is nationally recognized for his representation of the credit corporations of Fortune 500 entities, public pension funds and life-insurance companies. Daniels’ education began in a segregated school in Birmingham, Ala., but finished at Harvard Law School. In addition to a laundry list of legacies, he became the first black man to chair an AmLaw 200 firm.
“I tell people that my career is very simple to describe, in the sense that I believe change is possible,” Daniels said.
Change has worked for him. Through his leadership during a shift in Quarles & Brady’s operating model, the firm was able to expand significantly throughout the U.S.
He has helped establish a company culture that promotes equality and value – an achievement reflected in both his workplace motto “everybody counts, every day,” and the various national accolades that have been received for workplace diversity.
“The thing I enjoy most is making sure that our law firm in the community finds ways to solve the most difficult problems,” he said. “Don’t shy away from things that can improve the community.”
To support young people in the community, Daniels founded the Fellowship Open golf tournament and helped found the MKE Fellows program. In 16 years, the Fellowship Open has raised $1 million for more than 100 local organizations.
Daniels said he has watched some of these children excel throughout their lives, from middle school through college. Some are even applying to law school.
“I’ve had the benefit of getting a law degree, and a law degree is obviously about helping your clients, but it’s equally important that you use those talents to help those who aren’t as fortunate,” he said.
Daniels has been called a go-to leader and an example of ways to achieve professional growth and fairness. He is recognized for his contributions to the Milwaukee community, whether they be to economic development, education or improving the opportunities open to young men of color.
To Katie Perhach, the Milwaukee Office Managing Partner at Quarles & Brady, says this is a chance to honor his lifetime of achievements.
“He’s amazing, is really what it comes down to,” Perhach said.