ABOUT PELAYO M. DURAN
A successful and visionary entrepreneur, Pelayo’s smile, charisma and warmth have with no doubt, also helped him climb to the top. Born in Weehawken, New Jersey, the son of Cuban immigrant parents, Pelayo chose his career out of a true love for the law.
“My parents were both Cuban immigrant, living in a foreign land, so they always wanted me to study”.
“My parents saw America, as a land of opportunity, but they also realized that reaching one’s dreams was not going to come easy. Thus, they impressed upon me the value of a good education as the only way I had to achieve my goals”.
“I was always attracted to jurisprudence; my parents were always fair and compassionate, so that was my main example.”
With these strong values engrained (at the age of 16), he enrolled in Miami-Dade Community College and obtained his Associates in Arts Degree in Pre-Law in 1990. Thereafter, he transferred to St. Thomas University, where he co-founded and became President of the “Pre-law Society.” In 1993, he graduated with honors and obtained his Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice from St Thomas University. However, he was determined to go-on to law school.
“I knew I had to first learn how to a run a business. I had lived in Miami since 1979 and I had seen a lot of change and was always exposed to an international atmosphere, so, in 1995, I obtained a Graduate Degree in Management of International Business. I always knew my practice would need to have an international perspective, since most of my clients would be immigrants.”
During his undergraduate studies, he always worked part-time. First in and International Bank and then as Bank Teller in Sun Trust. While completing his Graduate studies, he worked full-time selling advertising for the Chicago Tribune’s Exito! Magazine.
“That’s how I polished the art of working on my own and being a salesman, which I now realize, has always been instrumental throughout my business career.”
Immediately after finishing his Graduate Degree, he moved to Lansing Michigan to study Law at the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law. There he completed his first year of law school and eventually came back to South Florida where he eventually obtained his Juris Doctorate degree at Nova Southeastern University in 1998 while doing two internships, one in Baker and Mackenzie in Venezuela and another at the U.S. Securities and Exchange commissions, Miami Office.
“I finished my legal studies and passed the Florida Bar in record time: two years and five months. Four months later, I opened my own law firm,” said Pelayo proudly.
He humorously recalls that when he started his legal career was practicing “door law”, because he would take all the cases that walked through his door.
Even though he has always worked for his own law firm, he is always eager to obtain new practical experiences, so he often joins forces with many other prominent colleagues to learn and improve his advocacy skills in different areas of the law.
“I began handling civil, personal injury, criminal, bankruptcy, real estate, and employment matters. Basically, just getting to know my profession, as I went along.” Pelayo knew he had a big challenge ahead of him.
“But I acknowledge and remember the many colleagues and mentors who have helped me become who I am today,”
“I have devoted myself (for over 20 years) to the areas of the law that less fortunate and humble people need when they think of a lawyer. Areas such as: the arrest or injury of a family member, buying their dream home, defending a foreclosures, seeking bankruptcy protection, being involved in a lawsuit or employment discrimination.
Those were the cases most in demand by my clients and they have guided my career”
Many years have now gone by, and he now has a team of excellent lawyers and professional working alongside of him at the Law Office of Pelayo Duran, P.A.
Today, he can look back with great joy and satisfaction at what he has been able to accomplish.
“It’s rare for me to go out in South Florida and not run into someone that I have helped at a time of need. This fills me with a lot of pride. I know I provide a good service to my community. I also fight to preserve the dignity, of my career”.
But the facts speak for themselves:
He has obtained verdicts awarding of as much as $3.9 million for his clients, and many others settlements totaling $2.5 million, $2.1 million and several other cases over one million dollars each.
“I’ve done many large cases but I have also handled over 2,000 bankruptcy cases; over 5,000 traffic cases; over 1000 labor and employment cases including large overtime collective actions, over 1000 real estate and business closings, refinances, short sales and foreclosure cases over 2000 criminal cases and civil cases including over 350 Federal ADA Discrimination actions filed under Tittle III.
But the Law Office of Pelayo Duran is not limited to those areas. With his dynamic and highly qualified legal team, he also takes on cases in other highly specialized areas, like medical malpractice, catastrophic personal injury, wills, trusts, asset protection and asset preservation and even several class actions or collective actions.
In the area of Civil Rights litigation, employment law and wage and hour, Tittle III ADA Discrimination, class action or collective actions, he teams up (for the last 20 year) with Roderick V. Hannah. In the area of medical malpractice, cruise-ship accidents, catastrophic personal injuries or pharmaceutical class-action lawsuits, he works with many other prominent professionals in our community and when a case merits it, and when I need to go to trial on a large case, with Gonzalo Dorta.
“They are not only my colleagues, but they also my business partners, friends and mentors”.
Pelayo understands that problems are often resolved face-to-face, and, unlike many other lawyers, he always likes to meet with all his clients and evaluate each of their cases personally.
“I like meeting my clients because they are real people, with real needs. They don’t come to me by accident or coincidence. They come to me to attempt to resolve really serious and important problems in their lives. That is why I always strive to do an excellent job for all my clients, one case at a time, above all else,”.
This explains why his clients return to him time and time again.
In addition to his professionalism, he always works few cases at a time, because he prefers “quality over quantity”. This philosophy, undoubtedly, is what has allowed him to successfully litigate thousands of cases over many practice areas over the last 20 years.
He thinks legal matters should never be taken lightly, that people should always seek the advice of an attorney before doing anything.
“Everyone should try to obtain the best possible legal representation, that they can afford”.
“In our society, if you have a good lawyer, you can go further than if you don’t, that’s is the truth of the matter….”
“That’s the bottom line……”
Paradoxically, even though he is well known in our community for his commitment to excellence and his high ethical standards, there are no large companies or well-known personalities among his clients.
“I prefer to protect the rights of people who are underserved and underprivileged, the kind of people who would otherwise not have the benefit of a lawyer like me to represent them. I identify keenly with clients who are trying to do the right thing, who are trying to remedy a wrong or simply trying to obtain a just and fair result.”
“The Idea here is, that in the end, truth and justice can prevail over lies, power, influence or wealth.”
“I know the kind of psychological and emotional harm that these sorts of legal problems can cause to a human being”. When the case of my father came my way, I could see it both, as a lawyer and also as a son, I saw firsthand, the devastating effects and the humiliation that people endure when they are mistreated or abused by those in positions of power over them, or people who feel that they can control, uproot and destroy people’s lives.”
While defending the rights of the less fortunate, his photo has often appeared in local Television channels, The Miami Herald, The New Times and Daily Business Review.
Since 1998, he been a Member in good standing with the Florida Bar and real estate title agent member of Old Republic/The Fund. Although he devotes most of his professional time to practicing law, representing his clients and managing his business, he is also a practicing Certified Civil Circuit Court Mediator and a Licensed Real Estate Broker.
Notwithstanding his impressive résumé, and professional career, when asked the secret of his success, he answers without hesitation:
“Success? To me success has a very different meanings.
Success to me is about trying to achieve human harmony, in the familial sense, in being a good colleague, a good mentor, a good husband, a good father, a good son, a good brother, a good uncle, a good lawyer. Day by day, I make an effort to be emotionally present in my life and the life of those around me.
Everything else – winning the case, money, fame – these are all just the icing on the cake.”
He strongly believes that there has to be a balance in life, thanks to his family, his partner and all his children.
“Behind every great man, there is always a great woman”
Referring to Elizabeth Santiago-Duran, a brilliant, compassionate and business savvy woman who devotes her professional time to managing investments for ultra-high net worth international private banking clients.
“She is an amazing partner; she brings a great balance to my life. I can always count on her for peace, wisdom, motivation and support; she gives me hope and helps me tremendously with Andrés, Cristian and Julián (his three children):
Together, they are raising their niece, Daniela and their son, Johan
When he is not in court or in his office, he is involved with his children in all kinds of different activities. They are the reason he is so grateful for all his blessings and never forgets his roots.
“In this profession, it is easy to forget where you came from, the legal profession can be self-absorbing, it gives people a false sense of power, an ambition for money and success that can easily blind you. Luckily, I am very nature friendly and family-oriented, so I spend my free time with my children and Liz in the Florida Keys and I really enjoy our time with our family enormously,”
In addition to his professional work, he is actively involved with the Boy Scouts of America, Troop 76 where he serves as a leader with his 3 of his boys. He also advocates for older children in Colombia that are seeking to be adopted by their “forever families” with Kid Save, (an international organization that matches children in need with suitable permanent/ temporary families). He is also a former director of Lawyers to The Rescue, a non-profit organization created to help redefine the negative stigma associated with lawyers.
“We do community work, like building houses or providing free legal resources to people who cannot afford a lawyer, or the case of a natural disasters”.
In his law firm, he continuously mentors many underprivileged and disadvantaged young adults who need guidance, support and a first job, he has given many young adults their first opportunities and he helps molds them into proud and productive human beings.
Just the sheer number of satisfied clients that Pelayo Duran has successfully represented during his career, speaks volumes for his work and ethical conduct.
He is simply a lawyer you can trust to provide:
“Solutions and Advice for Peace of Mind”.