Introducing the 2022 AL DÍA Top Lawyers Honorees
These six legal professionals of Hispanic descent will be awarded for their work and impact within their profession.
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For the sixth straight year, the annual AL DÍA Top Lawyers event will honor a number of exemplary lawyers of Hispanic origin.
The annual event recognizes those who exemplify the highest standards of professionalism and ethics, who have demonstrated professional excellence and achievement, leadership, community service, recognition among their peers, and dedication to improving the legal profession within the Greater Philadelphia region, and beyond.
Five lawyers will be honored this year as AL DÍA Top Lawyers in the categories of small firm, mid-large firm, government, non-profit, and in-house counsel. In addition, a sixth will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
This year’s advisory board members have selected the legal professionals who will be honored during next month’s event.
The 2022 AL DÍA Top Lawyers are:
Small Firm: Michele Perez Capilato
Michele Perez Capilato is a solo practitioner licensed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, serving the Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, Berks, and Delaware counties.
Her practice focuses on consumer bankruptcy, debt relief, and financial rehabilitation education.
With a career that has spanned over 20 years, Perez Capilato has helped countless families save their homes from foreclosures and tax sales, and helped her clients rebuild their lives after suffering financial ruin by debilitating medical conditions, job loss, divorce, and other family tragedies.
In addition to running a successful solo practice, Perez Capilato currently serves on the Merit Selection Panel in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and also plays a continuous fundamental role at the Consumer Bankruptcy Assistance Project of Philadelphia (CBAP), where she provides pro-bono representation to low-income Philadelphia families in financial distress.
A native of Philadelphia, Perez Capilato earned her juris doctorate from Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law, after earning her Bachelor of Arts degree from Widener University.
Mid-Large Firm: Julia López
Julia López is a litigation partner and attorney in Reed Smith LLP ‘s Life Sciences Health Industry Group, where she practices in the areas of products liability litigation and commercial litigation.
She primarily defends pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers. Her experience includes working on single plaintiff matters, coordinated cases, and multidistrict litigation in both federal and state courts.
Throughout her career, López has counseled clients in all aspects of litigation from early case assessments and initial filings through resolution including trials.
López is also a diversity and inclusion leader, where she leads the firm’s diversity initiatives as the national partner chair for the Hispanic/Latinx Business Inclusion Group, known as UNIDOS.
She currently serves as the Hispanic National Bar Association’s National Finance Director, where she helps implement national initiatives for Latinx attorneys and students, the community, and its strategic partners. She also leads a team of lawyers and professionals across the country who are tasked with communicating with the bar’s supporters and sponsors to ensure the sustainability of the HNBA.
López previously served as the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey’s 39th President, and also founded the first Scholarship Endowment for the organization. She also remains an active member of the New Jersey State Bar Association and has served on various committees.
López received her bachelor’s from Georgetown University and her juris doctorate from Rutgers School of Law-Newark, and is admitted to practice law in New Jersey and New York.
Government: Christina Pastrana Hernandez
Christina Pastrana Hernandez is the Chief of Staff at the City of Philadelphia.
In her role, she oversees the Mayor’s Office of Legislative Affairs in their efforts to advocate Administration priorities on the local, state and federal levels. She also serves as the Administration’s liaison for a portfolio of departments including Finance, Law, and the Public Safety cluster in the Managing Director’s Office.
Pastrana Hernandez has worked with the Kenney administration since February 2016. Over her nearly seven years, she has worked her way up from Assistant Director of Legislation to Director of Legislation, before becoming Deputy Chief of Staff, First Deputy Chief of Staff to now Chief of Staff for the Mayor.
She had previously spent over four years as Assistant District Attorney prior to joining the Kenney Administration.
Pastrana Hernandez is a graduate of Penn State University, were she earned a bachelor’s in history & Spanish before going on to earn her law degree from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law.
Non Profit: Juan Baez
Juan Baez is the Deputy Managing Attorney at the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, a nonprofit public-interest law firm that provides free legal assistance to people living with HIV and those affected by the epidemic. It is the nation’s only independent public-interest law firm dedicated to people living with HIV.
Baez first worked with the AIDS Law Project while he was a student at the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Drexel University. After graduating, he joined the Project as a staff attorney specializing in consumer debt, tax, estate planning, social security disability and student loan cases.
In addition to his current role as Deputy Managing Attorney, Baez is also Commissioner for the Philadelphia Fair Housing Commission, where he helps ensure that renters have safe spaces to live, that landlords follow housing laws, and also help people know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to renting a property.
He also serves on the board for the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania, where he served as president from 2017-2018.
Baez is admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, and is a graduate of Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law with a Master’s in Law in trial advocacy.
In House Counsel: Suzanne Prybella
Suzanne Prybella is Senior Counsel at PNC Bank in its Commercial Banking & Finance Group.
In the role, she is responsible for providing broad and varied legal guidance and support, which includes providing legal advice and support to loan product managers, relationship managers, credit officers, paralegals and documentation specialists on commercial lending matters of varying complexity; collaborating with clients and colleagues to improve internal processes and enhance efficiency consistent with PNC’s risk framework; advising internal loan administrators and operations; and various other responsibilities.
Prybella’s areas of law include commercial, advertising, real estate, and tax and estate.
She began her professional career as an associate for White and Williams LLP, and is a graduate of Princeton University. She earned her juris doctorate and master’s from Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law.
Lifetime Achievement: Romy Diaz
Romulo L. Diaz, Jr. is Principal of Turtle on Post, LLC.
In the role, he seeks board positions with companies that benefit from his senior-level experience navigating complex challenges across the entire range of operations. He also shares his deep experience with organizations pursuing innovative and sustainable solutions for customers and communities.
Diaz has had a long career spanning over 40 years. He had recently spent 12 years with PECO, in role such as associate general counsel, vice president of governmental and external affairs, as well as vice president and general counsel, before retiring in 2020. He has also spent time working for the City of Philadelphia, as chair of commercial and regulatory law and city solicitor.
In addition, Diaz spent three years as assistant administrator for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
He began his career with the U.S. Department of Energy. Over 17 years with the Department, he filled a number of roles — director of international operations, deputy chief of staff and counselor to the secretary, deputy assistant secretary for international affairs, and director of regulatory coordination.
Diaz is a graduate of The University of Texas School of Law, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree before later obtaining her law degree.
Each of these six extraordinary individuals will be honored for their respective work and impact within the legal field.
The 2022 AL DÍA Top Lawyers Forum & Reception event will take place Friday, November 18 at 5:30 p.m. at The Pyramid Club. To secure your ticket, click here.