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About Pelayo Duran

Pelayo Duran is a lawyer you can trust

In addition to his impressive reputation in the legal arena, Pelayo Durán is known in Florida as a lawyer you can trust. “My goal is definitely to establish a relationship that goes beyond lawyer-client. I try to communicate on a human level because, above all, I am interested in the human aspect: their personal situation, their pain and repercussions,” said Pelayo.


A successful and visionary entrepreneur, Pelayo’s charisma and warmth have no doubt also helped him climb to the top.


Born in Weehawken, New Jersey, the son of Cuban parents, Pelayo chose his career out of a true love for the law. “My parents were Cuban immigrants in the United States, so they always wanted me to study. They saw this as a land of opportunity but they also realized that reaching one’s dreams was not always easy, so they stressed the value of education as a way to achieve my goals,” he recalls. “I was always attracted to jurisprudence; my parents were always fair and that was my main example.”


With this goal in mind, as soon as he graduated from high school, he enrolled at Miami Dade Community College when he was only 16 years old. He later transferred to Saint Thomas University, where he co-founded and became president of the “Pre-law Society.” He graduated with honors and obtained his Bachelor in Criminal Justice in 1993. But he was determined to go on to law school.


“Immediately afterward, I enrolled for a Master’s degree in International Business because I knew I needed to learn how to run my business’s internal operations and I had an international perspective, since I knew most of my clients would be immigrants.” Pelayo finished his master’s degree in International Business in 1995. “During that time, I also sold advertising for Exito! Magazine and that’s where I learned to be a good salesman, which I realize has been very important in my career.”


After finishing his master’s degree, he decided to move to Michigan to study at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He studied his first year there but eventually came back to south Florida where he got his Juris Doctorate degree from Nova Southeastern University.


“I finished my studies in record time: two years and five months, and four months later I opened my own law firm,” said Pelayo proudly. He humorously recalls that at that time he was a “door lawyer” because he would take the cases of people who knocked at his door.


Even though he worked on his own, he was eager for new experiences, so he would talk to his colleagues and learn about all areas of the law. “I began handling criminal cases, bankruptcy and 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 who helped me to become what I am today,” he added.


In February 1999, he opened his first law office and as time went on, he began to acquire a reputation as a serious, efficient and trustworthy lawyer.


“I devoted myself from the beginning to the area of the law that humble people need when they think of a lawyer, such as the arrest of a family member, buying their dream house, declaring bankruptcy, filing a lawsuit or employment discrimination. Those were the cases most in demand by my clients and they guided me in my early days,” he said about the many facets of his professional life in those days.


Years went by and now he has a team of lawyers working with him in the Law Office of Pelayo Durán.


Today, he can look back with satisfaction and joy at what he has been able to accomplish. “It’s rare for me to go out and not run into someone I helped at some point and this fills me with pride. I know I am of service to my community and that I fight to preserve its dignity,” he explained.


But the facts speak for themselves: he has obtained verdicts awarding as much as $3.9 million to his clients, and others totaling $2.5 million, $2.1 million and several cases totaling over one million dollars each. “I’ve also handled over 2,000 bankruptcy cases; 1000 traffic cases; hundreds of labor cases and thousands of criminal cases,” he concluded.


But he is not by any means limited to those areas. With his dynamic and highly qualified legal team, he also takes on cases in other areas, such as medical malpractice or employment discrimination.


In the area of employment discrimination, he teams up with Rodderick Hannah, in the area of medical malpractice, catastrophic accidents or class-action lawsuits, he works with Spencer Aronfeld and when a case merits it, with Gonzalo Dorta. “They are my colleagues, but also my friends and mentors,” he said.


pelayo-duran-florida-attorneyPersonalized Legal Attention

Pelayo understands that problems are resolved face-to-face and, unlike many other lawyers, he always meets with his clients in person.


“I like doing it because these are people with real needs. They don’t come to me by accident, but to resolve important problems. That is why I make an effort to do a good job for my clients, above all else,” he explained.


This explains why his clients return to him time and again, since, in addition to his professionalism, he always works one case at a time, because he prefers quality to quantity. This philosophy, undoubtedly, is what has allowed him to win thousands of cases of different kinds.


He thinks legal matters should not be taken lightly and that people should always seek good legal representation. “In our society, if you have a good lawyer, you can go further than if you don’t, that’s the truth of the matter.”



Paradoxically, even though he is known for his commitment to excellence and his ethical behavior, there are no big companies or well-known personalities among his clients.


The reason? “I prefer to protect the rights of the many victims that have no one to defend them. I identify with people who have been victims of discrimination or an accident, so that justice can prevail. I know the kind of psychological and emotional harm these things can cause,” he said emphatically, since he lived through a similar experience with his own father.


“When a case of that sort came my way, I could see, as a lawyer and son, the devastating effects and the humiliation people endure when they are mistreated by those in positions of power who feel they can control your life.”


His photo has appeared in the Daily Business Review and he is a real estate broker and co-owner, with his brother, of Fresh Start Real Estate. He is also a member of National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.


Getting Personal

Notwithstanding his impressive résumé, when asked the secret of his success, he answers without hesitation: “Success? To me success if related to human harmony, in the familial sense, in being a good colleague, a good mentor, a good son, a good brother, a good lawyer. Day by day I make an effort to be emotionally present in my life. Everything else – money and fame – are just the icing on the cake.”


He believes there is balance in his life, thanks to his wife and children. “Behind every great man, there is a wonderful woman,” he says referring to his wife, Shelley A. Durán, a generous Cuban-American woman who devotes much of her time to helping children with special needs, especially those who suffer from autism, in addition to working in Pelayo’s office.


“She is a terrific mother and a delightful person. I can always count on her support; she gives me strength when I need it,” he says of his relationship with Shelley and their three children: Andrés, Cristian and Julián.


When he is not in court, he takes his children out to different activities. They are the reason he is so grateful for his blessings and never forgets his roots. “It’s easy to forget where you come from because this profession can be absorbing; it gives you a sense of power, an ambition that can blind you. But I’m a very family-oriented person, so I spend a lot of time with them and enjoy our time together enormously,” he adds.


In addition to his work, he is one of the directors 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 legal resources to people who cannot afford a lawyer,” he explained.


The number of satisfied clients Pelayo Durán has helped during his career speaks volumes for his work and ethical conduct. He is truly a lawyer you can trust.


November, 2010


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