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 managing partner at the Older Lundy & Alvarez law firm in Tampa. “If they won’t listen to me, what can I do to help them?” Lundy says about his clients as he sits in his office off Cass 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 out early that he had developed a talent for reading people, a skill he says still serves him well.
“I can usually 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 was attracted to it because the dysfunction is an opportunity to fix some things and I like that feeling of making a difference and helping.”
Lundy 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. Every summer, beginning in eighth grade, I had a job.
Lundy earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Yale University and in addition to his tedious curriculum, his part-time jobs included running the campus laundry service and working as a clerk in a local liquor store.
””From a very early age, even if I just wanted $10 to go out with my friends on the weekends, I had to earn it,” Lundy says. “My parents always had a job for me to do instead of just handing me a dollar. The only thing my parents always said they would just give to me was an education,” he said. “I think that really shaped who I am, in terms of work ethic, and understanding the value of hard work.”
“The truth is that I ended up going to law school by default. It wasn’t like one day I thought ‘I’m so passionate about the law. I’m going to become a lawyer,’ ” he says.
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 earned the honor of becoming a member of the Order of the Coif, an honor society for U.S. law school graduates, and graduated magna cum laude.
“I graduated law school and moved to Atlanta, where I got my first job. I basically hated Atlanta and my first post-grad job. 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 securities and merger and acquisition law in New York, working on very large matters and grinding away. His last project before he threw in the towel was on the Enron bankruptcy case.
“I wanted to do something where I could represent real people. I wasn’t going to try to save the world, but I wanted to represent individual people with real issues and I wanted to 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, or in the Northeast, I decided I was going back home to Florida,” Lundy says. “I called Ben Older, who had been a close friend from law school, and said, ‘It’s time to start the law firm we used to joke about.’ ”
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.
“I joke that he suckered me into coming to Tampa. I had been to Tampa once in my life, to take the Florida 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 a glorified attic. You could barely stand up in our office. We went to Office Depot and bought two landline phones, a baby printer and had two desks touching each other. We didn’t know what we were doing. It was just a lot of 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.
“It was my idea to focus on family law,” says Ben Older, partner at Older, Lundy & Alvarez. “It was smart from a marketing perspective.”
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 another 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.
“Those early days, we were pushing a cart through Office Depot trying to figure out if we could afford one or two reams of paper,” Older says with a laugh.
The firm now has 12 full-time family lawyers and several more lawyers practicing in other areas. There isn’t an area of law someone at the firm can’t handle. The firm 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, perhaps to Pinellas and Sarasota.
“It was always fun and continues to be fun. He’s still my best friend,” Older says.
Philanthropy is important for the partners and attorneys at OLA. Most attorneys at the firm have leadership positions at 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 Friends of Joshua House. We also contribute to these organizations with our time and our firm’s resources,” Lundy says. “Giving back to our local community is very important to us.”
LUNDY’S FAMILY LAW
Somewhere along the path of building a multimillion-dollar law firm, Lundy found love. He met his wife, Andrea, on a blind date.
“I almost cancelled the date last minute to stay home, watch Bravo, and wake up early the next morning to go for a run,” says Andrea. “Michael emailed me to ask if I wanted to just get a drink, or roll the dice and commit to an entire dinner. I emailed him back and told him I’m not much of a gambler, so we should stick with drinks. Thank goodness at the time I had recently splurged for a DVR.”
Lundy says he is grateful she said yes.
“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 few years 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 plan 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 literally paradise. I really don’t want to spread the word, because there’s enough people out there already.”
The Lundys travel as often as possible. They love having Tampa as their home-base, but their friends and family say they are always jet setting out of town for a weekend trip or family getaway. “Pre-kids, our trips were more exotic but now that we have small children, we usually stay in the country.”
“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. “I also really like being home.”
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 and more sensitive to the things that have long-term impacts on children.”
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 in some of the cases you’re really just trying to make some compromises, and make a deal, which has enabled me to draw on all of my contract and M&A experience, to help people make deals and make compromises so that they can just move on with their lives.”
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 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.
“Litigating cases is, and should be, the last resort,” he says. “Even if you hit a home run at a trial it’s likely to be so painful for the participants that’s it’s very hard for them to feel like they got a ‘win.’”
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. “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 the world of family law is to go back to the classroom and share my methods with other young lawyers.” ♦