PJ Puryear: His Heart on His Sleeve

PJ Puryear
2024 Feature Nominations

“I am a heart on my sleeve kind of guy,” says Raleigh attorney PJ Puryear. It’s easy to get swept up in his exuberance, whether you are discussing personal injury law, his family, or his chickens. More on the chickens later…

Puryear joined Zaytoun, Bellew & Taylor last year. His practice will be split between commercial litigation and plaintiff’s practice, such as civil rights, medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, premises liability, and maritime law. “I am enthusiastic about this growth after 12 years with a large, reputable Raleigh firm in which our clients were more often companies than individuals.”

“I know I can’t fully fix someone who suffers a brain injury from being hit by a truck, and who suffers an unwanted change in personality,” said Puryear. “Money does not fix that. But helping that person find justice and helping them make the best life they can for themselves, that is rewarding. It is still tough, though. I empathize with these people. But I’m learning to harness that energy in a way that I hope makes me the best advocate I can be.”

The Art of Leverage

“Litigation is about creating leverage,” said Puryear. “From my prior experience, I realized that litigation should be viewed as just one tool in the toolbox. To understand how to effectively use it, I need to know my client’s objective and tolerances. From there, I learn how to build cases to create moments of leverage that may get the client to an acceptable objective in a more economic fashion or open up new possibilities.”

Puryear said leverage can be equally effective in personal injury cases. “You still have to understand how to build your case, and you have to understand what is going to get you to an acceptable resolution in the most economic fashion, both before you file, and if necessary, once you file. Ultimately however, some cases just have to be tried.”

Puryear has handled cases in federal and state courts across the country and before the American Arbitration Association, the NC Office of Administrative Hearings, the NC Business Court, and the NC Court of Appeals.

“Sometimes lawyers get myopic and forget that a part of the art of persuasion is understanding what motivates not you, but your audience. Courts and people from different areas of the country are persuaded by different things. I try to remember that my job is to look past what I think sounds the best and instead remember what’s going to be the most effective for my clients. Having a broad range of experience helps me do that,” he explained.

Puryear was born in Greensboro, the son of a high school principal and Moravian matriarch. After graduating from UNC, the gregarious Puryear found success as a fundraiser for the NC Academy of Trial Lawyers (now the NCAJ) and then for politicians, including NC Congressman Brad Miller. But, turned off by the cyclical nature of political fundraising, he pursued his passion for law and earned his Juris Doctor with high honors from the UNC School of Law.

Family and Fostering

Puryear and his wife Courtney, a nurse practitioner, are certified foster parents. They have assisted roughly a dozen kids under the age of seven.

“I feel very lucky to have lived the life that I’ve lived, and I believe that we’re called to give back where we can. By our works, we are judged. Fostering is something that my wife and I agreed would be a good way to give back and provide for other kids who need help. It has also been a tremendous experience for our kids, Noelani, who is 10, and Penelope who is 8.”

As for the Chickens

Guess what else has been a tremendous experience for the kids? Raising chickens. “It’s something Courtney has always wanted to do, so I acquiesced,” laughed Puryear. They now have nine hens and a rooster. “Eggs are worth their weight in gold right now. I guess it helps withstand the risk of contingency work. With two young girls, you can imagine we go through a lot of eggs.”

Bob Friedman

Robert "Bob" Friedman is the publisher of Attorney at Law Magazine North Carolina Triangle. He contributes articles and interviews to each issue.

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