For the past 29 years, Leoncio de la Peña has advised individuals and corporations from around the world in all matters of corporate law. “As far back as I can remember, I would tell people that I was going to be a lawyer when I grew up,” de la Peña said. He was encouraged to follow in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, who was a prominent attorney in Cuba.
Not wanting their son to grow up under a communist dictatorship, de la Peña’s parents first fled Cuba to Spain; then five years later, the family immigrated to America. “My parents came here in search of the American dream, and thanks to them and the values they gave me, I knew that if I worked hard, I, too, could have a shot at it, and I am definitely living it now.”
After earning his Bachelor of Science from the University of Florida, de la Peña graduated from Shepard Broad Law Center at Nova Southeastern University and managed the burgeoning Latin American practice for a prestigious Miami law firm before going out on his own.
Since 1994, De La Peña Group has crafted solutions for clients utilizing both legal skill and discretion in a spectrum of corporate business areas including dispute resolutions arising in mergers and acquisitions, shareholder relationships, financing and securities transactions, partnership dissolutions, real estate transactions, as well as a broad range of commercial litigation matters concerning international banking issues, securities, business torts, breach of contract, and insurance. De La Peña Group’s attorneys and affiliated professionals are intimately familiar with the current federal legislation and U.S. government regulations governing financial and business activities and routinely carry out complex and sophisticated work on behalf of global clients.
“We provide a spectrum of services in a ‘boutique’ environment. I want to do certain things and I want to do them very well,” said de la Peña of his practice model. His boutique law firm seeks to provide real-time insight regarding changing trends in major economic and cultural climates globally to ensure that clients have the best information necessary to make appropriate management decisions. It is this philosophy that keeps clients returning.
For example, in a case between an Irish international investment company and a prominent El Salvadorian family, de la Peña knew the case would eventually end up in the hands of El Salvador’s Supreme Court. He needed to make sure that the U.S. judgment could be domesticated. He researched the laws of domesticating a case in El Salvador and was able to ensure that the case would stand under their law. “If you go to a lawyer in most parts of the United States, they may not think to timely consider the other country’s laws,” said de la Peña.
“The reality is that we try to work under United States law, but we do deal with laws in other countries,” said de la Peña. The firm’s global network of prominent legal consultants provides insight into the laws and tax rules of other countries. “I am an American lawyer; I am not going to advise my client on the law in El Salvador,” he said. “I want someone who is licensed in that area that lives it everyday to confirm it. It is my duty to my client.”
MORE THAN JUST LITIGATION
While de la Peña has gained national and international renown for his reputation as a litigator, he recognizes that business attorneys are no longer just defined by their ability to litigate a case. “A really good lawyer is a problem solver,” de la Peña said. “We advance our clients’ interests and try to solve their problems. When I conduct a business transaction for a client, I am trying to solve a problem as well. I think it is implicit to being a good lawyer that you are practical and have a great deal of common sense.”
Outside of his boutique practice, de la Peña’s clients come to him for referrals when they need other legal issues addressed. “We get them to the right person,” said de la Peña. He admits, however, that recommendations are something that he considers seriously. “It is not just my client’s interest, but our relationship on the line,” he said.
BEYOND THE COURTROOM
De la Peña’s other passion is focused on growing the international business and legal community. In 2002, he was elected to the board of the Spain-U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a Miami-based nonprofit organization devoted to promoting trade and commerce relations between Spain and the United States.
De la Peña was elected because of his intimate familiarity with the legal and tax systems in both counttries. “Miami has become very important to Spain,” de la Peña said. “This is what Miami is all about; it is the gateway to the Americas.”
In his work with the chamber, de la Peña was a key player in arranging for the attendance of former Spanish prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, at the Spain-U.S. Chamber of Commerce Gala, during which Aznar was honored with the “2003 Hombre del Año” award for his successful management of the Spanish economy and his strong support of Spanish-U.S. relations.
For the past few years, de la Peña has collaborated with a group of prominent international lawyers from Latin America and Europe to help advance a myriad of international legal issues. Meeting with lawyers from Spain, Brazil, Israel, and even Hong Kong, he has developed relationships that translate into increased opportunities for his clients.
The group understands the implications that business globalization has on the legal system and aims to increase the ease of business transacted between countries. “My mission is to help un-complicate the legal system as the world becomes increasingly smaller,” de la Peña said.
Highlighting a need in the international business community for a neutral ground when resolving international disputes, in one of de la Peña’s past cases, the dispute over where to try a case captured international attention. In that case, he represented a Miami telecommunications company against a state-owned Ecuadorian phone company. After a series of corruption allegations and arrest threats, de la Peña was able to obtain a successful conclusion in Miami rather than Ecuador.
As de la Peña works toward facilitating more global business solutions for his clients, he continues to support those seeking the infamous “American Dream.” With his help, more businesses are able to thrive and realize the same success that he has achieved, and that makes him profoundly happy.