Michael Lundy’s Philosophical Evolution – How fighting the good fight in family law has changed a man
Michael Lundy is a straight shooter, both in and out of the courtroom. He doesn’t mince words, a trait that has carried him far as co-founder and partner at the Older Lundy Alvarez & Koch law firm in Tampa, he says he has had to tell some clients to find other representation.
“If they won’t listen to me, what can I do to help them?” Lundy says as he sits in his office off of Platt Street.
Helping people is what he says he loves most about his job. and that is what is forcing him to look ahead and consider his future.
To understand what is driving Lundy’s self-described philosophical evolution, start at the beginning. Born in Hollywood, Florida, in 1974, Lundy is the oldest of three siblings.
“There’s really nothing incredibly horrendous or fascinating about my childhood. I had a very good intact family,” Lundy says.
He found early that he had developed a talent for reading people, a skill he says still serves him well.
“I can feel what somebody else is thinking or feeling very quickly, and I can make somebody comfortable or uncomfortable very easily,” Lundy says. “It’s probably why I’m effective at what I do. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I gravitated toward family law. I think I gravitated toward it because the dysfunction is an opportunity to fix some things, and I like that feeling of making a difference and helping.”
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Yale University, Lundy initially wanted to take some time off and figure out what he wanted to do next.
“I told my dad that I wanted to move to the family vacation home in Jackson Hole Valley in Wyoming and maybe be a ski instructor for a few years, and Dad said, ‘That sounds like a great idea. Where are you going to live?’ ” Lundy recalls. “I said, ‘I figured you’re not at your place. I’ll stay there.’ And he said, ‘That’s not an option for you. Where are you going to live and how are you going to support yourself?’ ”
This was nothing new to Lundy. He says his parents always expected their children to earn their keep.
“As successful as my family was (Lundy’s father was a surgeon), my parents never gave me anything without making me earn it. Even when I was in eighth grade, every summer I had a job. On the weekends if I wanted $10, I had to iron ten shirts or dig five holes, or whatever it was around my house that needed to be done,” Lundy says.
Lundy’s father said if he attended law school, he would get help to do so; otherwise, he’d be on his own. Lundy decided to attend law school.
“I ended up going to law school by default. It wasn’t like one day I was like ‘I’m so passionate about the law. I’m going to become a lawyer,’ ” he says. “I think that really shaped me in terms of work ethic and understanding the value of hard work.”
Law and Order
Lundy left the cold weather of Connecticut to attend the University of Miami School of Law.
“I enjoyed Miami probably a little too much,” Lundy says with a laugh.
Even still, he was an associate editor of the University of Miami Law Review and became a member of the Order of the Coif, an honor society for U.S. law school graduates.
“I graduated law school and moved to Atlanta, where I got my first job. I hated Atlanta. I made it about 11 months at my first job before I got a job at a very different firm. They quickly moved me to New York, and that’s where I was for the next few years.”
During this time, it became apparent to Lundy that he wasn’t clicking with the concept of being in a large law firm. He was practicing merger and acquisition law in New York. His last case before he threw in the towel was the Enron bankruptcy case.
“I wanted to go do something where I could represent people. I wasn’t going to try to save the world, but I wanted to represent individual people with real issues and be in the dirt and not in the sky,” he says.
At this crossroads, Lundy decided to reach out to an old friend from law school.
“Once I realized I didn’t want to be in a giant law firm and that I didn’t really love the practice, even though I really loved the people, I decided I was going back to Florida,” Lundy says. “I called Ben Older, who had been a very close friend from law school, and said, ‘It’s time to start the law firm we used to joke about starting.’ ”
Older convinced him to open an office in Tampa, with the caveat that if he didn’t like it they could relocate the practice to Miami.
“He suckered me into coming to Tampa, and I had been to Tampa once in my life to take the Bar exam and other than that, I had never spent a minute in the city of Tampa,” Lundy says. “We started in this little building that’s still there on Howard Avenue. Our office was the loft space above someone else’s office, which was basically an attic. You could not stand up in our office. We went to Office Depot and bought two landline phones, and a baby printer, and had two desks touching each other. We didn’t know what the hell we were doing. It was just fun.”
The duo didn’t set out to establish a family law practice, but found it was a niche that was needed in the area.
“We didn’t know what we were going to do, we just knew that we wanted to have a law firm, and we were friends, and wanted to build something,” Lundy says. “I didn’t know anything about family law. I took a class in law school, and I was interested in it, but I had no idea what it was really about. What we learned was people could not stomach the emotional and psychological component of family law cases.”
It didn’t take long for the practice to take off.
“Before we knew it, cases were coming in floods, and within a couple of years, we hired a lawyer, and in another couple of years we hired another lawyer. All of a sudden, we had staff and then we built an office. We started in the beginning of 2003, and in 2005, we just took off and we’ve been off to the races ever since,” Lundy says.
The firm now has 12 full-time family lawyers, is on track to exceed $10 million in revenue in 2019 and is expanding, with an office in Dade City and later down the road, Pinellas.
Philanthropy is important for the partners and attorneys at Older Lundy Alvarez & Koch. Most sit on boards of local charitable organizations.
“I’m on the board of the Spring of Tampa Bay. My partner Rick Alvarez is on the board of Metropolitan Ministries. Ben is on the board of Champions for Children. We also contribute to these organizations to financially, with our time and our firm’s resources,” Lundy says.
Lundy’s Family Law
Somewhere along building a multimillion-dollar law firm, Lundy found love. He met his wife, Andrea, on a blind date.
“We met in 2010. I knew very quickly that this was it for me. We were engaged like six months later. And then a year later, we were married. And a year and half or so later, we had a child: Jack, who is now 5. Then, 16 months later, we had a daughter, Stella, who is now 4,” Lundy says. “There is nothing on this planet that is more important to me than my family. Period. It’s probably the most motivating thing in my life.”
The Lundys finished building a house in Park City, Utah, in November 2018 and have spent a large portion of their free time there since.
“Park City is a place where we are going to make a lot of traditions and we’ve already started to do that. We’re all super active; everyone likes to be outside. We’re always on the move. Nobody in my family likes to sit still, except me sometimes,” Lundy says with a laugh. “The thing about Park City is you go out there in the winter and it’s amazing and then you go out in the summer and it’s paradise. I really don’t want to spread the word, because there’s enough people out there already.”
The Lundys also visit New York City two or three times a year.
“I love New York to visit; I just don’t want to live there. I also love California; Andrea and I will argue over northern or southern. I love Miami, I love all these places to visit, because three to five days in any of these places can be amazing, and then after that, I need to get out of there,” he says.
In the dirt
Lundy admits that about 5 percent of his cases, at times, are horrific.
“Watching people do things that hurt their children is difficult and it’s getting more difficult as I get older,” Lundy says. “I used to think I would eventually not feel anything about those cases, but it’s actually gotten harder because I’ve gotten less patient.”
He says part of it is becoming a parent himself.
“Sometimes, you feel like you’re giving therapy to people. Sometimes, what you’re really trying to do is set up bumpers for somebody in their life so they don’t go crazy or go off the cliff,” Lundy says. “Most of my cases are not eventful and that’s the way it should be. And some of the cases are you’re really just trying to make some compromises and make a deal, which has enabled me to draw on all of my contract experience and M&A experience, to help people make deals and make compromises.”
Lundy seems conflicted when he talks about the pros and cons of his work.
“It’s just painful at times. There probably will come a point in time when I say I’m not doing it any more custody cases, and it’s probably not that far into the future,” he says.
He says courts shouldn’t decide what families do, but rather, families should decide what families do.
“You will build a bigger business and be more successful in family law by settling cases, than you will by litigating cases,” he says. “Even if you hit a home run at a trial, it’s so painful for the participants that’s it’s very hard for them to feel like they got a ‘win.’ Then there’s irreparable damage to their relationships.”
Lundy says he’s also having a philosophical evolution about the practice of law—particularly, the practice of family law.
“Maybe it’s natural, as you get older. You start thinking about what impact you’re having on the world, or how am I going to affect positive change?” he says. “Our system, as much respect as I have for it, is totally ill-equipped to fix family problems. I can’t speak to the dynamics of other practices, but what I can tell you is there is a difference between two companies slugging it out over a patent and two parents slugging it out over a 3-year-old.”
Lundy says he has considered teaching. “Eventually, I think teaching is an option for me,” he says. “I think one of the ways I can affect positive change in family law is to go back to the classroom and share my methods with other young lawyers.”