Growing up in Arizona, Gregory Zele was interested in mainly two things: sports and writing about sports.
He played baseball and lacrosse, and wrote for his high school and college newspapers. At night, while enrolled at Arizona State University, he edited the sports page for the now-defunct Mesa Tribune. And in 1991, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Zele’s career was heading down one path: sports journalism.
That was, however, until one day a news story rocked his proverbial boat.
In 1991, a video of four police officers beating a man mercilessly surfaced. It saturated media outlets, it attracted national attention, and the trial that subsequently ensued, engrossed millions of Americans, including Zele.
It was the infamous Rodney King trial. And for Zele, it awoke an otherwise sleeping interest within him.
“I became entranced by it. … You see that video, you think those guys [police] are guilty, but then you see them get off,” he says. “That’s when I thought, ‘I should go to law school.’”
Today, the 46-year-old is a reputable defense attorney and co-owner of Zele Huber Trial Attorneys. With offices in Jupiter and, as of November 2014, in Stuart, Zele and his partner, Gregory Huber, focus on cases involving personal injury, wrongful death, product liability and property damage.
When Zele first set out to be a lawyer, he didn’t know what he wanted to practice. He graduated from Stetson University in 1997, and spent the first five years searching for the right fit. “I think I had five different jobs, but the good thing is they were all a step up the ladder in terms of experience and income,” he says.
Zele dabbled in criminal law, insurance defense, commercial litigation, and he even worked for an appellate judge before finding his niche as a trial attorney. He got a job at West Palm Beach’s Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath in 2002 – a place he stayed for seven years and found his calling. There, he practiced trial law and was even able to reconnect with Huber. The two were longtime friends dating back to their Stetson days, but strangely enough had never worked a case together. While both were working for Lytal, they tried and a won a product liability case. They knew then that they were on to something.
The two wrote out a business plan, agreeing to always provide unwavering dedication to their clients, even if that meant taking fewer cases. “I don’t ever want to have 100 cases each or whatever the amount may be, where we can’t get to know the people, really work on their problems and help them,” Zele says. On May 4, 2009, they opened their doors.
Zele, who has kind eyes, a warm smile and a genuine cadence, is easy to talk to. It’s no surprise he’s been showered with professional accolades. Since 2011, Zele has been named a “Florida Super Lawyer” every year by Super Lawyers magazine, and he’s now the president-elect of the Palm Beach County Justice Association.
His firm is also involved with local non-profits. This year it has named the Edna W. Runner Tutorial Center as its 2015 Charity of Choice. An attorney, philanthropist, husband and father to three children, Zele is clearly busy. But he’s never too busy for the justice he believes matters.