Heather Peláez (pronounced ‘pay LEYE ez’), who joined the Modern Law team as an attorney in 2022, is described by Modern Law owner Billie Tarascio as a “an exceptional and fierce advocate” for her clients.
The legal field is something she wanted to be a part of as early as fifth grade, but she came into it as a second career after banking, finishing law school at 30. This year, she’ll be heading into her tenth year as an attorney.
Her favorite part about working in family law is “having the privilege to be intimately involved in helping people improve their lives,” she says. “The reward of knowing someone feels less afraid or more capable after I have met with them or represented them outweighs the burden of helping them shoulder the stress of their legal matter.
When Heather first started as an attorney, she worked mostly in federal criminal defense — which she hated. “No, really, I HATED it,” she says. But she soon found a way to exit. “Three months into practicing law, I was introduced to family law by Ret. Judge Glenn Davis. Later I worked for Judge Stasy Avelar, who was still in private practice, and she changed the way I viewed family law. Judge Avelar became the role model for the kind of lawyer I still am striving to be.”
Perhaps because of her start in banking, she is a big fan of spreadsheets to keep track of her life, because of her many interests. When she’s not working on cases or studying law, she likes to learn new languages, cook something new in the kitchen, study science or math, and hang out with her nephews. She’ll also admit to playing video games, running on a treadmill, and “stalking Jennifer Lopez.”
She graduated from Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law after completing undergraduate degrees at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where she lived. She was in a hurry apparently, finishing high school at 15. Her other adventures include “smooth talking my way into a soundcheck with Gloria Estefan,” being nominated for “employee of the year” three times at a large credit union in Florida, and taking and passing the Bar Exam in my 3L year without taking a Bar prep class,” which is a phenomenal accomplishment for anyone studying law.
Life Changing Event
Heather suffered her biggest loss at 23, when her grandmother Mema died. “I lived with Mema periodically throughout my childhood and young adulthood. She was my very favorite person and the foundation of my world.” Mema was always proud of her granddaughter’s accomplishments, and while death can send someone into a tailspin of depression, Heather pulled herself out of it by thinking how disappointed her grandmother would be if she didn’t accomplish anything worthwhile. “I decided to re-enroll in school and finish my degree a few months after she died. I worked full-time during the day and went to school full-time at night, which allowed me to finish my degrees in three years. I became more involved in social justice while in school, which influenced me to consider becoming a lawyer. I took the LSAT and did well, so I just kept on that path.”
Clients don’t have to wonder about getting to the finish line with their divorce or family law issue with Heather driving the case. She is particularly adept at working with victims of Domestic Violence and abuse.
“I don’t get discouraged easily, and I always have a back-up plan when a strategy fails,” she says. “I agree with Jay-Z in that “to try and to fail are the two things I hate,” but if it’s in the client’s best interests, I will keep trying with the same gusto until we succeed.”
- Pro Bono Service Award, 2014
- Admission to Arizona State Bar, 2014
- Admission to United States District Court for the District of Arizona, 2014
- Southwest Super Lawyers Rising Star, 2020-2023
Find Heather on LinkedIn