Brandon Henderson

Founder of HMW Law

Brandon Henderson is the founder and managing partner of HMW Law, a criminal defense and personal injury law firm based in Cleveland, Ohio. Brandon’s firm has been in business for over 20 years, and he and his team have established a reputation for going above and beyond to help their clients navigate complicated legal matters that carry life changing consequences. Brandon was bullied growing up and knows firsthand what it’s like to be unconstitutionally arrested, which is why he is committed to using his legal talents to stand up for the underdog. Whether he’s dealing with a large insurance company that is trying to deny a legitimate personal injury claim or a DA who wants to press criminal charges to make an example out of someone, Brandon will fiercely advocate for his client’s rights and do whatever it takes to help them overcome any challenges they encounter.

Where did the idea for HMW Law come from?

The name HMW Law is the initials of our three founding partners: Brandon Henderson, Al Mokhtari, and Justin Weatherly.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I don’t have a “typical” day. I am actively engaged in the practice of law, trials, etc. However, I have taken on a larger role on the business side of our firm – working ON the business rather than IN the business. This position doesn’t really have a “normal” day. Each area presents its own set of complexities and unique challenges. However, I try to be as productive as possible by beginning my day early. I find it very productive to think and plan the day early, by myself, with no interference. Also, we have a great team at HMW Law that can be relied on, who trust one another and hold each other accountable. I can’t stress this enough, as this leads to a team over individual mentality that really increases our productivity.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Our firm’s culture is built on innovation, team work, and consistency. We have created a culture where our entire firm is taught to be humble, yet hungry. We stand on 7 main core values:
· Client First
· Team Over Individual
· Grow or Die
· Create More than You Consume
· Do Your Job
· Hustle
· Talent Sets the Floor, Character Sets the Ceiling.

We focus on automations, efficiencies, key performance indicators, systems, technology, and many other business aspects that many other law firms may not. This helps us execute our ideas while giving us a competitive advantage by providing better operations and customer service to our clients.

What’s one trend that excites you?

One is many of the Courts’ recognition that not every hearing, or small court date needs to be done in person. Many hearings are now held via Zoom or other technologies that don’t require us to drive around to different courts all day. This gives our team more time in the office to review files, work cases and collaborate which ultimately translates into better results for clients.

There is also a trend that law firms are beginning to operate more like businesses. This seems odd to say, but most attorneys go to law school to be great attorneys, not to be known for their business savvy. Doing the best for our clients means being great attorneys AND also delivering results efficiently and with great customer service. Implementing more of a business approach to the practice of law is a positive trend – having everyone on your team understand core values, our vision and what we are fighting for. Also, automations can be put in place to reduce human error and save time. Additionally, ensuring that systems and processes are evolved to add more value to each case and that each team member is in the right seat on the bus and we’re all headed in the same direction. These are all business concepts that add value to your client as you practice as an attorney.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Reading. I read often and enjoy the pursuit of knowledge. I read to stay abreast of current legal topics and trends, but additionally to better myself as an attorney. Whether it be books on cross examination or proving damages in a case, consistent learning is a passion. I also read a lot of books on business, systems, automations, process, operations, management, marketing, sales, negotiation and financial controls. These business books definitely assist me in becoming more productive as an entrepreneur.

What advice would you give your younger self?

To call my loved ones more and tell them how they are loved. Stop worrying so much about what others think. They don’t pay your bills, spark your creativity, or create your destiny. They aren’t learning for you after working countless hours by reading. They aren’t up with you early to put time in to grow and develop personally. I see a lot of people trying to “fit in.” I would remind my 20-year old self that though it is a harder road to be unique, it is more fulfilling and meaningful. I also like to think you have more fun along the way. I would tell myself that this is life and life only, and it is meant to be lived to the fullest as it can be gone tomorrow. I would tell myself if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. I would tell my younger self to start investing in a low-cost index fund, even if you just start with 20$ per month and build from there. But, get it on an automated withdrawal, the power of compounding interest is astounding. Travel, and learn other cultures to better open your mind and help you realize that life is not just in the bubble you live in. Read a lot.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

In Ohio, you have to be an attorney to be a partner or share profits in a law firm. I think this will change and I’m not sure many folks agree with me on this. I understand this non-attorney ownership is based in steep tradition and I understand the arguments for it. Most States have legal ethics rules that prohibit partnerships between lawyers and non-lawyers when the business is the practice of law. I believe this will change in the next decade (or sooner) to allow individuals who are not attorneys to invest in law firms. This has recently happened in Arizona. I believe other states have announced hybrid models. This has been in place in England since 2007. As leaders, we must adapt to our vision of the changing landscape. If I am correct and non-attorney ownership is allowed, then outside players with vast resources will enter the market. We as attorneys and business owners need to be able to meet these changing demands. Again, most lawyers are not great business people as it is not their primary focus. So, when talented business minds come in, if your firm has not adapted to changes like this, you hurt your entire team, your clients and your community. We need to evolve.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Relentlessly hunt down inefficiencies in your business. If you really take a 20,000 foot view of your business, you can spot areas of inefficiencies. Then, you can hone down to the nitty gritty micro details. Then, you can one-by-one eliminate these and replace them with more efficient process. A lot of this is simply open communication with your team. Most of the time they are going to see issues you never even thought of – another reason it’s so important to have a great team where everyone can rely on each other.

Another thing I’ve touched on before that must be done over and over is learn and read about different areas of business in general so you have the vision to look to the future and evolve. If not, you get left behind. The higher up you get on the leadership scale, the further you need to see into the future. It’s just reality. However, the more you study the changing environments of life, the more you will spot these trends before it’s too late. This will allow you to take proactive measures rather than reactive measures.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

A large part of our strategy that has helped us grow is having the credibility that stems from relationships built between the leaders in our firm and everyone else on the team. Everyone has a voice at HMW Law. We don’t care what position you are in, if you have an opinion that is backed by merit you will be listened to. People have so many different life experiences that have put them in a unique position to offer insight. This helps us function as a cohesive unit so we remain efficient and continue to improve the world class customer service we are called to deliver. Our strategy is to cultivate a collaborative legal team that knows how to develop trusting and compassionate relationships with each of our clients. It’s a huge advantage when our entire team, whether it be in the Personal Injury Division or the Criminal Defense Division, truly enjoys building strong relationships with clients and puts their entire heart into each and every case.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I have had many losses and failures. Lawyers never want to talk about their losses. But if you’re going to be a good Personal Injury or criminal attorney, you’re going to have to deal with losing. Despite all your efforts, sweat and tears, you will lose cases. I have failed or feel like I have let down many clients whom I truly believed in. However, to overcome this you must realize it is your chance to take away valuable lessons that will only improve your skills and prepare you for the next time around. It’s a period of self-reflection and discussion with your team about what could have been done differently. Sometimes there is nothing. It’s hard to not take a loss or failure personally, but learning to confront and answer questions on why you weren’t persuasive or effective will help produce better results moving forward.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Our Personal Injury division takes cases that range from auto accidents, motorcycle, trucking accidents, nursing home accidents and catastrophic injury. In this division, two roles (amongst many others) have to be done efficiently and effectively to keep the clients’ case moving forward in pursuit of the best result. One, once the client is done treating for their injuries we need to get the medical records from each place they’ve treated. Second, once we have received those medical records (which can be thousands of pages), we need to draft a medical records summary to extract the relevant data from information not connected to the case from a legal perspective. We have attempted to use several services to not only get the medical records for us but also, do the medical records summaries. None have impressed us. A business idea for a nurse or other medical professional would be to set up a company that is reasonable in pricing and can provide credible, reliable services to Personal Injury attorneys. This would include retrieving the clients’ medical records as well as drafting a medical records summary. HMW Law and many of our colleagues have consistently found this to be a huge pain point.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Flowers for my wife. She was having a tough day and I knew it would cheer her up.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

We use various softwares for automations, CRM, etc. However, one piece of software we have recently embraced is Bonusly. It helps with creating better cultures, incentivizing our team, and recognizing our people for the great work they have done. To me, it’s a software of gratitude and showing our team how much we appreciate them, how talented they are, and how much we believe in them. The software allows team members to be given points in recognition for a job well done or productivity that can then be turned into gift cards and other incentives. This helps everyone’s productivity at HMW Law, being recognized for talent, hustle and hard work.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Oh boy. This is like asking for a favorite song or movie! One that I’ve read recently that has helped us put more organization and a better operating system at HMW Law is Traction – by Gino Wickman. It’s filled with actionable ideas, any one of which can really add a lot of value.

What is your favorite quote?

I have to give two:

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“To play a wrong note is insignificant, to play without passion is inexcusable.” Beethoven

Key Learnings:

  • Begin your day early, it helps with planning and deep thought when it’s quiet and phones aren’t ringing.
  • Focus on building a great team who trust one another and hold each other accountable so a team over individual mentality is fostered.
  • Build your organization on a set of foundational Core Values that you hire, fire, train and reward by. These Core Values also remind everyone of the vision and what we are fighting for.
  • Look for ways to automate and put systems and processes in place to reduce human error, save time, increase productivity, and eliminate inefficiencies.
  • Make sure each team member is in the right seat, understands their roles and responsibilities, and is held accountable for those roles.
  • Love the pursuit of knowledge and read a lot.
  • Call your loved ones more often and tell them how they are loved. These individuals have been and will continue to be a huge part of your success.
  • Stop worrying so much about what other folks think and make your mark. Though it’s a harder road to be unique, it is more fulfilling and meaningful.