From film director to financial adviser to personal injury trial lawyer, Daniel Zuniga, has had an interesting life. After graduating from Emory University, Zuniga moved to Los Angeles, intent on making it big in Hollywood. “I went to film school, worked on a few movies, I even won an award, but in the end, it wasn’t enough to break into the industry.”
Looking back on his days as a producer and director, Zuniga sees invaluable experiences for his trial practice.
It was while working as a financial adviser – cold-calling prospective clients – that Zuniga knew he wanted something different. “When I learned lawyers weren’t allowed to solicit clients, I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” He enrolled in Hofstra School of Law in New York and never looked back.
Over his legal career, Zuniga has witnessed a transformation in the industry. “Attorney advertising has evolved in a way I am not convinced is in the best interest of the public,” he said. “Excellent attorneys are struggling because they don’t have the million-dollar advertising budget of some of the big firms.”
Looking at the average American, their income is too high to qualify for legal aid, but not high enough to afford the price tags that come with quality legal service. “We need to find creative ways to bring legal services to this segment of the population,” he said. “I applaud the efforts of the Florida Bar president, Greg Coleman, and Florida Supreme Court chief justice, Jorge Labarga; their Access to Civil Justice commission will study this problem.”
As he entered the legal field, Zuniga was taken under the wing of David Prather at Lytal Reiter and many others. “I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, Reza Rezvani, who was my trial team coach in law school, but there are so many others I cannot list them all. I am a firm believer that success is a collective effort.”
It was through this training and tutelage that Zuniga was able to find success in the courtroom. Zuniga recalled a particularly difficult product liability case, a refrigerator caught fire and burned down the home of an 82-year-old WWII veteran. Zuniga was facing off against the elite of a national law firm. “It was my first true test in the courtroom,” he said. “Most people at my firm didn’t believe we could prevail.” He was pleased to share that following a tough trial, the jury ruled in favor of his client.
Now, having established his career, he looks forward to giving back to younger attorneys. “I’d like to coach a law school trial team,” he said. “I know firsthand the important effect trial advocacy can have on a young lawyer.”
While Zuniga emphasizes the privilege of practicing law, he understands the business end is an essential cog. “We can get so caught up in work that we forget about marketing and networking,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but I always wanted to start my own firm, build a client base and select the cases that feed my own intellectual hunger.”
In his own practice, Zuniga is able to choose which cases he wants to work on and still have the opportunity to work on some pro bono cases for those he finds worthy. “I’ve managed to meet and foster great relationships through my pro bono work,” he said.
Now the co-founder of his own firm, Personal Injury of Florida, Zuniga is excited to see the one-year anniversary looming around the corner. “It’s true what they say; the first year is the hardest. Once you hit that one-year mark, you’re here to stay. And trust me, we’re here to stay.”