Shannon del Prado
Throughout her legal career, Shannon del Prado has focused on helping people in need. Before even attending law school, she investigated human rights cases in Central America on behalf of the U.S. State Department. Del Prado went on to work for the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, managing a judicial reform program focused on human rights. Now, as a Miami trial attorney, she’s a dedicated advocate for clients in serious personal injury and wrongful death cases.
“There’s a true parallel between human rights violations and plaintiff’s work,” says del Prado, a partner at Pita, del Prado & Muñoz. “In both situations, you’re dealing with a person who has suffered an injury. That person needs someone to listen to their story, help with immediate needs, and serve as their advocate in seeking justice through the courts.”
Del Prado is also a passionate advocate for individual rights. She serves on the board of the Miami-Dade Justice Association and is a member of the Florida Justice Association. “I salute the justice associations’ work on behalf of citizens’ rights, which are constantly under attack and threat of erosion.”
Fluent in Spanish and English, del Prado comes from a cosmopolitan background. She lived and worked throughout Latin America and the Caribbean before earning her law degree from the South Texas College of Law.
In the mid 1990s, del Prado was working on her master’s degree in international business from George Mason University when she met her future husband, Howard “Skip” Pita. “We were both interested in Latin American politics. We didn’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on some issues, but we shared a common interest in the region,” del Prado recalls.
After marrying and moving to Miami, del Prado taught criminal law to graduate students at Florida International University. “In fact, that’s how I became a personal injury lawyer,” she says. “I wanted trial experience. I wanted be able to answer students’ questions about what happens in the courtroom.” At FIU, del Prado also worked on the effort to obtain approval for a public law school in South Florida.
The experience of helping people in personal injury and wrongful death cases was engaging and del Prado found that she could do more good for people as a practicing attorney. She joined a Miami personal injury firm and went right to work in the courtroom, winning a $485,000 jury verdict in her first trial. Then came a career-changing decision. In 1999, Pita opened his own firm and invited del Prado to join him. “We found that we got tremendous satisfaction from working together,” she says. “Now, I can’t imagine not working together.”
Like most attorneys, del Prado takes her legal work home as well. “It’s wonderful to bounce ideas off each other at home,” she adds. “And that helps keep us connected.” Sometimes del Prado and Pita take cases together, and sometimes they handle matters separately or with their firm’s third partner Richard Muñoz.
Maintaining the right balance between work and family is important to del Prado. She and her husband have three children: Luke – 11, Jade – 8, and Casey – 5. “We love spending time together as a family on the water, cheering our son’s BMX bike races, or watching our girls perform,” del Prado says. “Like any parent, I want to be a good example for our kids. I want them to love what they do in life, to be good people, to give back. We try to lead by example. We volunteer where we can.” Toward that goal, del Prado sits on the board of her children’s school fundraising arm and volunteers in other roles as her time and caseload permit.
In the past few years, del Prado and Pita have taken their “giving back” philosophy to a higher level. In 2005, her parents Guido and Sandy del Prado moved to Peru and opened a medical clinic for the underprivileged. Since then, del Prado and Pita have been organizing and funding “Project Peru”, which sponsors annual volunteer medical missions to the South American country. “The nurses and doctors are the real heroes of the project,” she says. “Project Peru medical teams have performed about 180 surgeries so far. In fact, a Project Peru plastic surgery team went to Peru in May. It is a gift for our family to able to participate and we are proud to be part of the Project Peru team. ”
Inside the Courtroom
While del Prado may be a “softie” when it comes to helping people in need, she’s a tough and aggressive advocate for her clients in the courtroom. del Prado is a member of the Million Dollar Advocate’s Forum. Her most recent victory involved a $600,000 life insurance payment to the family of a deceased Colombian man following a five-year battle with the insurer.
“Skip and I joust about who is a better researcher,” says del Prado. “I love digging into the case law as well as finding the facts. But more than that, I enjoy the human aspect – the interaction with our clients. We and the client are a team. And the tougher the case, the more connected we become.”
Today, del Prado handles a wide range of cases related to trucking, premises liability, product liability and medical malpractice. She is licensed in both the state and federal courts and belongs to the Florida Association of Women Lawyers, Florida Justice Association and the Miami Dade Justice Association.
“Our firm’s challenge is being selective in what we take on, so we can give our clients the time, attention and resources they deserve,” she says. “One of the hardest things for me is turning a case down. But you can’t spread yourself thin, and you owe it to your existing clients to be judicious about what you take on.”
Asked what makes a good PI attorney, del Prado says it’s a matter of understanding your clients, listening to them and pushing their cases aggressively. “You really have to stay on top of these matters, and make the defendant treat your case as a priority,” she adds. “In personal injury, when someone is injured, the case is personal and clients need an advocate who’s attentive to their needs.”
Clearly, del Prado relishes her professsion and her ability to make a difference in people’s lives. “I truly love PI work,” she says. “I learn our clients’ stories, prepare the cases, and help them navigate the whole process. To me, helping clients through the process is the most rewarding part of the job. Getting paid for what I love to do is a wonderful thing.”
South Florida Legal Guide Midyear 2012 Edition