Today on the podcast Jim and Tyson joined Hunter Cavell. Hunter primarily focuses on real estate litigation, business formation and litigation, plaintiff’s consumer protection cases, plaintiff’s personal injury related to automobile collisions.
Hunter has experience with contract dispute resolution for companies large and small, and he has represented both landlords and tenants in housing matters. He has litigated cases at the trial court and appellate court levels on the State of Ohio, as well as both the Northern and Southern District Courts of Ohio and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Hunter is focused on early dispute resolution and resolving client matters as quickly as possible in a cost-effective and time-saving manner, whether that be via settlement or through the court system.
Hunter has published articles on Florida’s stand your ground laws and their national effect, and the adoptive business records exception to hearsay and its use in Ohio courts.
Hunter was also named a Rising Star by Ohio’s Super Lawyers for the past four years. This honor is only awarded to the top 2.5% of Ohio attorneys under 40, or who have been practicing for less than ten years.
5:11 a law firm side hustle
6:35 letting go of the safety net
8:58 niche down
12:42 you’ve only got today
13:53 startup surprises
Jim’s Hack: “Square peg round hole”. Be aware enough to know when something isn’t working.
Hunter’s Tip: Any interaction that is positive send them a link via email to leave you a review.
Tyson’s Tip: Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, like marketing on one social media channel.
Watch the interview here.
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Run your law firm the right way.
This is The Maximum Lawyer Podcast.
Your hosts, Jim Hacking and Tyson Mutrux.
Let’s partner up and maximize your firm.
Welcome to the show.
Jim: Welcome back to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. I’m Jim Hacking.
Tyson: I’m Tyson Mutrux. And, Jimmy, you’ve got some energy today. I can feel it in your voice.
Jim: I was up this morning shooting videos. I’m trying to get ahead of the game, so I don’t miss my streak when we’re at the conference next week. We’re recording this episode just seven days before MaxLawCon 2021 and we’re hosting our friend and Guild member, Hunter Cavell.
Hunter, welcome to the show.
Hunter: Well, thank you for having me, guys. It’s a privilege to be here.
Tyson: Hunter, I’ve got to say like I feel like you are like just the ultimate like dream, like the success story, like you go from like wanting to start your practice to like launching your practice. Like, we’ve gotten to see it from like the very, very beginning. And we’ve had like this window to look inside to see you grow. So, it’s fantastic. But tell people about your journey.
So, I went to law school straight out of college. I’ve been a lawyer in Cleveland, Ohio since 2013. The recession was kind of bad so I took the first job that promised trial work that I could find. Learned a lot there. We were local counsel for a regional firm based out of Wichita. That firm decided to open up a Cleveland office. But then, unfortunately, something happened. They decided to close all their regional offices, so I had to scramble. So, that was the first time I’ve been laid off.
I went in‑house, to a mortgage company. Didn’t like it at all. Went to personal injury, to learn that, because I felt I learned there. That was a little interesting because I was working for one other guy which has its good stuff – you get to learn but bad stuff, you don’t really get that. You kind of get siloed.
So, then, I went to work for a mid‑size firm in Cleveland. They brought me on because they had a huge case and the huge case settled. So, at that point, I was really kind of like, “What do I do? I’ve been laid off twice.”
I decided to take a little bit of a break. I became an anti‑money laundering analyst. And then, a couple months into that I said, “I really want to follow my dream and start my law firm but I’m not quite ready yet.” So, in August of ’19, I started while working full time. Super fun. That November, I was diagnosed with cancer so everything kind of went on hold. Became in remission February of 2020. And then, the whole world shut down the next month.
Eventually, I started getting enough clients to where I was making more money in my law firm than my nine to five. Met up with a guy who– we have a pretty good arrangement for his office, use of his staff. I helped him with some cases and we do a little bit of sharing. Went full time April 19th of this year and projected to quadruple what I made at my nine to five.
Jim: Tyson’s right. That’s been a great thing about having you in the Guild is that you’re one of the people that like posts your results which I really appreciate because they’re very concrete and you always do it with a little bit of flair and a little bit of “Holy cow, guys! You can’t believe this.”
And then, tell us, if you can remember, Hunter, a couple of your holy‑cow‑guys‑you‑won’t‑believe‑this post.
It’s kind of funny I kind of call it calculated vulnerability. I like to let people in on my life through my Facebook post but, especially, I let Maximum Lawyer in on it. And, definitely, The Guild is where I share a lot.
I can still remember the first one. It was when I was going through chemo and I was completely bald and the first check showed up. And that was the time I realized “I can do this.” And I looked at my wife. I was like, “You’ve got to take a picture of this.” And I immediately posted it in Maximum Lawyer. I was like, “You won’t believe this. Through all this bullshit, it’s finally happening. We’re going to go.” Sorry for swearing there. It’s just exciting.
Another holy cow. I remember talking to Ryan McKeen. He’s like, “You need to make a Q4 goal and post a check. Like, just keep checking in your drawer.” And I made a lofty goal. I didn’t hit it. And I was fully aware of that, but I still made a post like, “Hey, didn’t hit my goal but that’s okay because I got these connections. I got the irons in the fire.”
Then, I started, I put a huge goal for me, at the time, of 10,000 a month. In February, I believe, I hit six grand and I, again, made this holy cow post like, “I had this huge goal. Didn’t hit it, but I made six grand and I can do this.”
The holy cow post which I didn’t post about but talked about in our meeting was I hit six figures the other day of just my law firm, nothing else. So, I guess, I’ll say it now, “Holy cow! We’re in six‑figure territory and I cleared over 22,000 last month. So, not only are we in six figures, but I made over 80 since April, even with having a bad and worse May.” So those are the holy cow posts.
The other ones I like to talk about are my four year old and my wife and say, “Holy cow! I get to go to this parent‑teacher conference and I get to leave. And I get to show up at work at seven in the morning if I want to because I get to get out at three o’clock.” So, those are kind of the holy cow moments and they come every day.
Tyson: All right. So, Hunter, people usually when they do this, when they start their own firms, they’ll either quit their job and then do the firm or they’ll get fired and start their own firm, like one of those kinds of things. It’s like, boom, right?
You did it differently. You had a job. You were doing both. You kind of had like the side hustle, which was your law firm, which has now turned into your full‑time hustle. Thinking back, would you have done it the same way or would you have pulled the band aid off a little sooner?
Hunter: You know, I’ve listened to the podcast for years because I’ve known I’ve wanted to do this. And I remember listening to the Burn the Boats episode. And that’s the only one I’ve kind of respectfully disagreed with. And the reason why is a lot of people who burn the boats are in a position either they’ve made a bunch of money at a law firm and can go out on their own, or they have enough money from a spouse or something like that.
Me, my wife works, which is great, but I also have a four year old and daycare is expensive. So, for me, it wasn’t an option. It was going to cost me– I want to say paralysis by analysis. Just knowing myself, I would’ve been too overworked and too anxious to do it. So, I dipped my toe in. And, eventually, I started working more and more in my nine to five. And I got lucky, honestly, with the pandemic because I worked from home for a year. So, I could do 40 hours for my nine to five job pretty much whenever I wanted, so that I could still have Zoom appearances for court.
So, for me, it’s more of the time and circumstance that allowed me to do it. And I would definitely advocate doing what you’re most comfortable with. And burning the boats is just not a feasible option for me, mentally or financially.
Jim: We’ll have to put an asterisk by the Burn the Boats episode (*).
Talk to me about when you did finally let go of that safety net of the other job. Like, talk to me about the days leading up to it and then the days when you’re like, “It’s me, dude. It’s me, dude. It’s me.”
That was probably about February of this year, of 2021. I was making a decent amount of money that kept coming in. And a lot of it was supplementing for a former boss of mine. And I realized more work was coming and I could do it. And I started making more money in the 10 hours I was working in my law firm, like billable, than I was in the 40 elsewhere. So, I started looking at it and crunching the numbers and saying, “Okay. How much money do I have to make to afford the office?” And I’ve updated my business plan since 2016‑2017. So, it’s just kind of a plug and chug the numbers.
And then, as luck would have it, just networking, I met another lawyer in Solon who I knew his brother who’s a lawyer that he’d started his own firm and I asked how he did it. And we’ve had standing coffees about once every six months for the past four years. And I can still remember the day because I was home sick with a cold and this guy, I don’t know, calls me up and says, “I think you’re what I’m looking for.” He said, “I’ve got too much work but it’s only a couple of clients. And if I lose them, I don’t want to have to fire an associate.” He’s like, “I know you’re starting your practice. Maybe you could do a couple hours every day. I’ll give you the office. I’ll give you the staff. And we’ll give you a set– basically, a salary while you work this.”
And I was like, “What’s the catch? Like, I’ve been laid off twice. Like, where is this going?” And, honestly, what it came down to was kind of a little bit of a leap of faith. I had a couple lunches with the guy. I brought my wife in for it because she’s an excellent judge of character and I wanted her to see the blind spots and what I was missing. And we agreed that this was a mutually beneficial relationship that could take off.
So, in April 19th, I started. Full time on it. Started email blasting clients. Got my Facebook up and running, just to say, “Hey, I’m here. If you need me, let me know.” And it kind of took off from there. I got a few referrals from LinkedIn of people that were conflicted out. So that way I knew, with those retainers, that I could make it a couple of months. And then, they started paying and replenishing those retainers. And I was getting more clients. And I realized I could hire a marketing team to help get my message out there. And the phone just started ringing more. And I could stop taking certain clients and stop being a door attorney. And I was able to niche it down. And it’s been to where I make all my expenses that I need in the first week. And the next three are just gravy. So, that’s kind of how I dipped into it.
Tyson: So, tell us a little bit, Hunter, about what you plan on taking this thing to because I’m not sure I’ve necessarily heard that, you know? And I know it’s in your brain. I know you’ve thought about it but I’m not sure I’ve heard it. Like, what’s your plan? Like, what do you want to build this thing to?
Hunter: Right. It’s a great question you asked. I’m honestly working on that every day and the plan changes.
The first plan was to niche it down, which I did. So, I do three things. And I like to think I do them pretty well. I do real estate litigation, business litigation, and the flip side of that – business formation to keep you out of trouble. And, as well, I do clear liability car accident cases.
I did a lot of consumer cases. Those are just– hats off to Stephen to be able to defend those. Those are a little bit different, a little bit more challenging, and you kind of have to have that niche. So, I decided to kind of forego that and transition out of that.
Now, the next goal. Everyone talks about working on the business versus working in the business. And I’m a firm believer that if I can get someone in here to help with the day‑to‑day work of answering the phones, maybe a lawyer to handle some motions, and I can handle the big stuff, I’m going to be happier. I don’t see myself ever as not having any cases. It’s just I like using my brain in that way. And I like doing it.
But I think the next goal, honestly, is to transition my phones from going to my cell phone to my staff. And that’ll kind of allow me more time to dive into everything and work it. Hopefully, after that, I’ll start looking at possibly contract attorneys for a few hours a week to offload some things when stuff starts coming in more, such as discovery.
Jim: Hunter, in the questionnaire that Becca sent you about the podcast, one of the things that you wanted to talk about was sort of dealing with being a cancer survivor and a law firm owner. And, you know, we’ve talked to a lot of people on the show who’ve had sort of those crystallizing moments where something happens in your life – it might be the birth of a child, or a sickness, or something that makes you sort of realize that, you know, it may– I think it gives people all different kinds of realizations. I’m wondering, having had that interaction with cancer and that diagnosis and treatment, how did that impact your life plan?
So, I was fortunate enough to where the first life event– or second, I guess, with my kid being born or on the way, was I got life insurance immediately because my dad died young of cancer and I wanted to make sure that’s happened. So, that was huge.
And what happened with the cancer was, I remember, we were moving houses. We just bought a new house. And I was picking up boxes and I felt this pain in my chest. And I had lost 15 pounds. I thought I was working out and it was fine. And I went– you know, I was like, “I have this pain in my chest.” “You probably pulled something, moving the box. Here, have a muscle relaxer. But in case you have a blood clot, go get an X‑ray.” So, I went back to work. That night I went in X‑ray. Halfway home, they said, “Get to the ER right now.” I was like, “Why?” They’re like, “Well, you’re either bleeding out of an aortic aneurysm or you have cancer.”
Okay. Three of the worst weeks of my life followed because it took ‘em three weeks diagnose me. So, I didn’t know– honestly, I didn’t know if I was going to live or die. And that kind of makes you appreciate everything. And I was like, “Well, at least, I’ve got a job that’s stable, and I’ve got health insurance, and I know I’m not going to go broke. I have a 90% chance of living.”
But, at the end of the day, I kind of looked at it and said, “All right. Right now, I’ve got to focus on this.” I’ve got three rounds, four rounds of chemo to get through. They knocked it down to three which I had to cut back my hours at work. So, I kind of put the law firm on pause.
But, in about February, I realized that I wanted more. It was kind of like my own burn‑the‑boats moment. It kind of was the death of complacency would be an interesting way to put it. Like I said, my dad died when he was 50 and I was 18. So, like, for me, it’s always kind of been in the background that you only got today. And I try to live that every day.
So, I was like, “No. I need to figure out a way to make my law firm work.” I went to law school. I like litigating. I just need to be able to find clients that can trust me and hire me.
And it’s weird. I’ve always had this kind of impostor syndrome like thinking, “I’m not good enough. There’s always a better attorney.” And, eventually, I was like, “Well, if I can get through this, then I can do that. And if I don’t know something, I can learn it, if I want to.” So, that was kind of the defining moment. Like, you survived this. You’ve run a half marathon. You’ve survived cancer. You’ve had a kid. You’re still married to your wife of eight years and she still puts up with you. Like, go for it. So that’s kind of the moment. It was a real kick in the pants.
Tyson: So, Hunter, interestingly, you had like two reset buttons. Most people, during COVID, like that was a reset button for ‘em, right? They get to reset everything. And you had like back‑to‑back reset buttons which was interesting. But I think it’s great because you kind of get to reset and then reset again. And I think it’s a good lesson for anybody that, at any point, you can still hit the reset button, right? You don’t have to keep going down this path which I think is really, really interesting.
But, for you, what I wanted to ask you about is has anything surprised you about starting your firm? Because a lot of times we have this like vision of how things are going to play out. And then, they go completely different. I mean, do you have anything like that?
Hunter: Yeah. I thought, when I started, for sure, that I was going to be doing all PI all the time. And that’s really why I kept the job for a while because those cases don’t roll in. And the reality of it is, in my market, you’ve got to spend a lot to get those kinds of cases. You’ve got to be bigger. You’ve got to have the staff rolled out.
So, I had to figure out what else I was good at. And real estate’s always been fun for me. I can niche it. And I started having lawyers call me saying, “Well, what do you think about this?” And I’d give ‘em, you know, five seconds of advice or five minutes. And they’d be like, “Well, why don’t you just take this case?” And I’ve taken that and been able to transform it to where I’m the guy that my colleagues call for contested real estate.
And the market here is bananas right now. Like, I’m having sellers enter into contracts, you know, basically a year ago and buyers are trying to exercise the right and the sellers like, “No, no, no. We want 100‑grand more.” I’m like, “Well, that’s not how it works” because, in Ohio, real estate’s unique and you get specific performance. So, that has really been – I don’t want to say a cash cow because that’s the wrong word, but that’s been a healthy portion of my business.
Another crazy case. I posted something on LinkedIn, just kind of talking to the void, and I had a guy from California call me, running a huge company, saying, “Hey, I was conflicted out and my lawyer he said to call you.” I was like, “Who was it?” He’s like, “I don’t remember the lawyer, but he said he found you on LinkedIn. So, that’s just insane. The power of I don’t have to buy ads. I can legit stand in front of this webcam, turn on that flash, have this mic going, and talk, and post evergreen content to my website, YouTube, Facebook, and people respond to it. Not only that, I’ve also found it kind of easy to get Google reviews.
My advice is to always ask clients typically when they’re really happy, not at the end of the case, right? When they sign up. “Hey, can you give me a Google review? Here’s the link.” People that I can’t help or I send somewhere else. “Hey, can you give me a Google review if you found this helpful?”
Since April, I’ve gotten up to 38 five‑star reviews. And looking at the firm’s where I was laid off, one has two Google reviews. One one‑star. One five‑star. Another firm with like 30 lawyers have six Google reviews. I’m like, I’m running laps around these people. And it’s free. And it’s making the phone ring. That’s been the craziest part. I don’t have to spend much to make money. It’s just insane.
Tyson: The Guild is an insanely productive community of lawyer‑entrepreneurs with a growth mindset who share their collective genius and hold each other accountable to take their careers and businesses to the next level. But in 2021, we are upping the game. In addition to exclusive access to the group, FaceTime with the two of us, discounted pricing for live events and front‑seat exposure to live recording and podcasts and video, we’re mapping out, for members, the exact growth playbook with our new program, Maximum Lawyer in Minimum Time.
Jim: As a Guild member, you’ll build relationships and experience content specifically designed to complement your plan for growth. For a limited time only, The Maximum Lawyer in Minimum Time program will be offered for free to all new Guild members. Join us by going to maxlawguild.com.
Jim: You’re listening to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. Our guest today is Hunter Cavell. He’s part of the Northern Ohio Max Law contingent with our friends, Will Norman and Will Eadie.
Hunter, today is your birthday. How old are you?
Hunter: I’m 34 years old today.
Jim: So, 34 years old. I mean, I think you should be really, really proud of yourself. Aren’t you glad that you went out on your own and aren’t you excited about what’s coming down the pike?
Hunter: I can’t believe it.
It’s funny. I’ve been listening to your podcast since about 2017. And then, I found the Facebook group. I forget who originally, in Cleveland, introduced– I think it’s Will Eadie introduced me to this. And I remember listening to the first couple of episodes and I immediately wrote a business plan. I was like, “This is what I want. Where are the markets? Where is it going?” So, to see that, from 2016‑2017, knowing I wasn’t there yet, I didn’t have the experience, in my opinion, maybe I did. But just seeing it come to fruition has been great. And it’s been, every month, I think I’m going to plateau and then I crush through the ceiling. It’s been leaps and bounds better than my wildest dreams.
Tyson: I absolutely love it.
All right, Hunter, we do need to wrap things up. Before I do, I want to remind everyone to join us in the big Facebook group. There’s a lot of great activity going on there. And if you want to join us in The Guild, go to maxlawguild.com for a higher‑level conversation and you also get to see people and talk to people like Hunter who’s a wildly successful story. I think we’ve got quite a few of those in The Guild, so. And Bernard Nomberg just joined us, too. So, that’s a great addition to The Guild, so.
But, Jimmy, what’s your hack of the week?
Jim: So, do you ever try to like plan something or you want something to happen? Amany and I have developed a lingo around this, about when you’re really trying really hard and maybe too hard to make something happen. And we’ve gotten used to using the shorthand language for when you’re just trying to push something too hard and we just call it “square peg, round hole.” So, like if we want to go out on a date but we can’t get everything to fall in line and just for some reason like we tried this, we tried that, we tried this, we tried that. And then, we just– then, somebody just sort of like yells out “square peg, round hole.” And then, we’re done.
And we use it at the firm too like with hiring an employee. Like, if there’s too much back and forth, too much rigamarole. And now, even Adela will say it. Someone will just yell out “square peg, round hole.” And then, we all just like walk away. It’s like a release valve. It’s really great.
So, just, if you’re in tune with what’s going on around you and you can just sort of yell that out “square peg, round hole.” Then, it just takes off a lot of pressure. You’re just on to the next thing.
Tyson: It’s Jim’s firm’s safe word is what it is, is what you say. I like that. I think that’s really good, Jim. I think that’s a great idea.
We did have like a firm phrase that’s kind of just yep, nope, done.
All right, Hunter. First of all, what’s your firm’s safe word? And, second of all, what is your tip or hack of the week?
Hunter: You know, it’s going to be a tip. It’s so easy to get Google reviews. They don’t have to be clients, just any interaction that’s positive. Immediately, follow up with an email with a link. Don’t make people work for it. Just, honestly, send them an email. Put a hyperlink over the words, get the Google review, and thank them for it.
Tyson: I love it. That’s excellent stuff.
So, my tip comes from something that happened yesterday. And for those of you that are listening to this, today is October 5, 2021. On October 4, 2021, Facebook was down, Instagram was down, WhatsApp was down. And I think I’m missing one. But they were all down, right? And then, everyone went over to Twitter and crashed Twitter. So, Twitter was down for a little bit. So, there was a– it was just a massive shut down. And the lesson is– and I actually posted something in our Cliq channel, with our chit chat channel, I said, “I’m extremely happy that we don’t have all of our eggs in one basket because we get cases from multiple sources. And the lesson is this, make sure you don’t have all of your eggs in one basket.” And what’s interesting is someone in the big group today posted that exact same thing too saying, “Hey, like, how many of you have actually thought about the fact that maybe all of your eggs are in one basket?” And I’ll tell you, a lot of our eggs are in our Facebook basket but not all of them are.
So, it’s a lesson that you need to kind of spread things out a little bit because, Jim, I think, if YouTube went down tomorrow, you might be in a little bit of trouble. I don’t know. But that would suck. So, it’s a good lesson.
And there are stories. We’ve heard plenty of stories from firms in the past that have had issues where something happened. Like, Google’s had multiple changes in the past. I’ve heard horror stories about basically people losing their businesses because of Google. So, it happens. Just be very, very careful about it and just spread it out a little bit. You don’t have to spread out a lot but spread it out a little bit.
All right, Hunter, thank you so much for coming on sharing your story. Thank you so much for being part of The Guild. And we’re very, very impressed with your results. So, thank you so much for coming on.
Hunter: Thanks for having me, guys. And we’ll see you next week.
Tyson: Happy birthday. See you next week, bud. Drinks on me.
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