Orlando’s No. 1 Readers’ Choice Personal Injury Attorney
Ryan Hayes seeks inspiration from many places. The thirty-seven-year-old personal injury lawyer works out of a cozy office just south of downtown Orlando with his partner and friend, Albert Yonfa, where their strategy sessions are observed by a few unusual spectators: a Daredevil statue. A framed photo of John F. Kennedy with a toddling John John peeking out from under his desk. A lightsaber. Hundreds of photos of his family: his wife, Judi (Garabo), and sons Jack (7) and Will (4). Each is a reminder of his commitment to helping others and making the world a better, and fairer, place. It’s an overarching theme in his work, his home life, and his commitment to serving others.
His career trajectory seemed rather formulaic, at one point: graduate from law school, get a job, meet a girl, fall in love, get married, have kids. Judi, also a lawyer, quit practicing to stay home with their first child, Jack, a funny, smart and kind child. Ryan moved from insurance defense work to personal injury trial practice, working for the largest plaintiff’s firm in the state, if not the country. He was a natural, easily conferring with clients and crafting legal arguments. A few years ago, he was named one of Florida Legal Elite’s Top Rising Stars and for the past two years has been named one of the Top 100 Trial Attorneys in the Country by the National Trial Lawyers. He has found the work interesting, and rewarding.
In February of 2011, he was preparing for a trial when his wife (pregnant with the younger son) called him and said “I think it’s time.” It was early, but she was right. William was born at 37 weeks, and he had a surprise for his family: Down syndrome. Despite prenatal screenings, they had no idea. “That’s not uncommon,” says Ryan, who is the immediate past president of the Board of Directors for the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida (DSACF). “Many of the people we’ve met along our journey have a similar story. Normal pregnancy, normal delivery, nothing out of the ordinary, and then a doctor steps into your hospital room looking very serious, and tells you your baby has Down syndrome.” It’s shocking, he admits, and there’s a better way to handle it. Will is four years old now, a charming and gregarious kid with a quick smile and a high five for anyone who wants one. The Hayes family presented to the medical students at UCF last year, Will included, on how to deliver a postnatal Down syndrome diagnosis. What not to say (“He can probably bag groceries someday.” “He could be like Corky from Life Goes On!” “I’m so sorry.”) and what to say (“Congratulations!”).
Family is the most important thing to Ryan. With that in mind, he left the big firm life in September of 2014 to start a boutique firm with Albert Yonfa (Yonfa Hayes). They wanted to offer more personal service to fewer clients, to meet them all personally and offer their full attention to each and every client. It was a big leap, and it wasn’t easy, but both partners had their families to support them and help get them on their feet. A year in, they’re starting to see the fruits of their labor. Clients are referring other clients. Business is good!
Ryan volunteers his time with the Board of Directors for DSACF out of a sense of obligation to help the next generation of parents of children with Down syndrome and in furtherance of his strong belief of full inclusion in our society of all people. Public education advocacy is another of Ryan’s passions, and he walks the walk. “Whenever I meet elected officials, I always ask: where do your kids go to school? I want to know who’s putting their money where their mouth is. My kids are perfect examples of how any kid can learn in public schools.”
Like many American families, soccer rules in the Hayes household! Both boys are playing for South Orlando Soccer Club this fall, in u8 and u5 divisions. Ryan coaches both teams, and plays in an adult men’s league, and in his spare time, he completed a certification course to become a soccer referee. “The yellow and red cards come in handy at home with the boys,” he jokes. They all enjoy going to Orlando City games, and Jack was fortunate enough to walk out on the field with the players and attend a training session. This summer, they stuck around after one game to meet Kaka and get an autograph.
“Our firm allows me to fight for those in their toughest hours and enables me to make a difference in their lives. Being a trial attorney allows me to champion their causes to a jury of their peers and I am honored each and every time that I get to do it.”
Ryan Hayes, Esq • Attorney at Law | Yonfa Hayes, PA | 826 Menendez Ct. Orlando, FL 32801 | O: 407-801-3250 | C: 407-446-9888