Michael Molfetta is a renowned litigation attorney and the founder of Molfetta Law. With 30 years of litigation experience, Molfetta has argued cases in both State and Federal courts and represented high-profile clients in nearly 300 jury trials. Molfetta Law specializes in consumer protection, timeshare exits, white-collar crimes, narcotics and drug-related offenses, murder and manslaughter, and sex offenses.
Molfetta earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Philosophy from Occidental College in 1986 and a JD from Southwestern Law School in 1990. From 1991 to 1996, he worked as a Prosecutor at the Orange County DA office, followed by a brief period in civil litigation. In 1997, Molfetta launched his own criminal defense practice focusing on both felony and misdemeanor cases.
Though civil litigation and criminal law remain the cornerstone of his legal practice, Molfetta’s entrepreneurial mindset inspired him to blend his sports background as a college football player and international rugby player with his legal prowess. He is a founding partner of CRM Sports Advisors and CEO of Invictus Sports Management, an elite full-service professional athlete representation and management firm. Focus areas include MLB draft preparation, contracts negotiation, and post-career planning.
In addition to being named “Litigator of the Year” by The American Institute of Trial Lawyers, Michael Molfetta has been a legal correspondent on major networks such as ABC World News, NBC, CBS, Fox News, with appearances on Larry King Live, Dateline, 20/20 and others.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
It was always my plan ultimately, to start a law firm. When I worked for the government, I planned to stay there a lot longer than I initially did. Still, I always knew that I wanted to end up with my own law firm to diversify and handle the types of cases I wanted to take and do the things I wanted to do. So I would say it started when I was in law school.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day never looks the same, which is interesting but challenging. I’m usually up at four o’clock every morning—not by alarm, just by nature. I then start my day off by reading no less than probably 100 emails varying in importance and relevance, and then I go to work. So anything from those emails that I need to communicate to my team, I do so in a staff meeting every morning to help map out their day. This helps me diversify since my firm, Molfetta Law, has several focus areas, including consumer protection, timeshare exits, litigation, criminal defense, and representing the elderly with assisted living contracts. As an entrepreneur, I’m also always involved in a couple of different ideas in sports, including team ownership and representing athletes. So I bring structure to my day with our staff meetings, and then I may have to attend court on the criminal side, I may have to make phone calls, or I may have to draft a complaint against a timeshare resort. And then there’s the usual array of meetings, and somewhere in there, I’ll find an hour to go to the gym and workout—come back and usually finish up my day around seven at night. Head home, rinse, wash and, repeat.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Well, first of all, I have to act on my imagination. My employees are former Division I athletes that I recruited for their intelligence and understanding of commitment. I raised Division I athletes, and I was an athlete, so I know what it takes to go to school and be an athlete in terms of time allocation and management. So when I have an idea, I will usually assign it to a couple of my employees and say, okay, develop the marketing strategy. How do we sell it? What would our price point be for a law firm? Take it and run with it, and then I will figure out a way to compensate them for that above and beyond their salaries. I’ll reward them for that because I want them to be attached to it and married to it like it was their sport. I want them to take personal pride in it and be invested, and so that’s what I do. I constantly tell them, “hey, come up with something, come into my office, pitch it to me.” It’s got to be something that fits within my moral compass and has to be something that I think we can do that is in line with the growth pattern for my law firm. In other words, growth is good, but growth that’s too fast can be very, very disruptive. So I’m patient, and I pace it out.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I don’t know that there’s anything going on right now that excites me. A lot is happening that may be considered negative that motivates me. Timeshares, for example. I have never found a more profound and corrupt industry than the timeshare industry. I’ve been a criminal defense attorney for a long time, so I know what it looks like when somebody takes advantage of another person. I know what victimization looks like when I see it and this chasm that is created right now between the consumer and corporate entities, if you will. That’s my wheelhouse. Some states allow the consumer to be bullied and be taken advantage of. I protect those that, for reasons that vary, can’t defend themselves, and that’s what excites me.
As a criminal defense attorney, people with a more narrow vision and a complete lack of understanding want to judge me for defending criminals, and it’s easy; it’s knee-jerk, I suppose. My response to that criticism is two-fold. First of all, it’s the only job in this country that is constitutionally mandated. And secondly, as a criminal defense attorney, I defend the client from the government, and I defend them from the courts. But more often than not, my number one job is to protect them from themselves and from repeatedly putting themselves in bad positions and things of that nature, whether it’s individual or corporate representation. So the concept still applies. It’s a long answer, and it may seem non-responsive to the question, but that’s what’s going on in the world. I’m not scared to take on bigger, better, and wealthier things; it doesn’t change me; it excites me.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
In terms of my work ethic—Saturday’s just another day. I miss spring break and summer break as a young man, but it’s my work ethic that makes me productive and successful as a lawyer and as an entrepreneur.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would advise younger me that just because I think I’m the smartest guy in the room doesn’t mean everybody else is stupid and maybe listen more. Perhaps because of rugby sometimes, my reactions as a younger man, I would be quick to dismiss, whether in court or interpersonal relationships. As you get older, one thing you get with age that everybody gets and only time can provide is perspective. I tell my children who are between the ages of 20 and 25, the only thing you know for sure is you don’t know a thing. I wish somebody had told me that when I was younger because I was pretty certain, I knew everything, which is scary considering the job I had as a prosecutor. I was in charge of people’s liberty, and I look back on it, and I think younger me could use a little perspective back then. So my advice to my younger self would be to slow my roll a little bit.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
When you die, if you have three people you know and trust completely, you have two people more than most. The truth is if you hit the lottery and your friends say, “I’m so happy for you,” no, they’re not; they wish it were them. So the fact of the matter is that people can be very self-centered, not in terms of their own individual selves, but in terms of their personal ecosystems, if you will. It’s just their cocoon, and you have to be aware of that. We’d all like to think we live in this community where everybody’s got everyone’s best interests in mind, but we don’t. We may have a common goal, but invariably, that common goal is everybody’s individual happiness, which isn’t the same. It sounds dark, but it’s really not.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I remind myself to slow down, particularly in business. As I said, growth is good, but it can be harmful if it’s not done in a tempered manner.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Just total transparency and honesty.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
First of all, a number one rule of life is you learn way more from failure than success, and that’s a fact. People don’t like to think that way, but it’s true. When I try something that doesn’t work, I have a choice at that moment, and I try to turn a failure into a teaching moment for myself. I am extraordinarily non-risk-averse, so I can’t be surprised when things sometimes go wrong. For example, when arguing a case or cross-examining a witness, you better be ready for whatever answers you get. The worst trial advice I’ve ever heard is never to ask a question you don’t know the answer to; that is the single worst trial advice anybody’s ever given. The proper advice is never to ask a question if you’re not prepared to deal with the answer, whatever it may be. That’s why I’ve been successful and more. That’s why there are failures. I figured out that when you go into something, you better contemplate an exit strategy and how you’re going to handle it if it fails.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Everything’s in an app these days. I would like to see something out there that is more interactive and family-oriented that just helps people navigate life, whether it’s getting your kid into a college or getting them financial aid. Some general financial advice and general bytes of advice. Where can I find student loans or grants or things of that nature? There’s so much opportunity in this country that is not accessed because people are intimidated or don’t know how to find it. I would call it guardian angel, something you can go to and get various questions answered for advice.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
When I recently went out to spend time with friends and have an opportunity to relax.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I spent a significant amount of money creating a customer service portal that attaches to my CRM, where everybody’s got a unique username and password to access their case. A large part of my day is spent updating files and posting informative videos and general concepts that may affect a client’s case. So I would say upgrading and making sure my customer service is as good as it can be. And at the same time, I know some people don’t like the internet or don’t have access to computers, so I also have a live customer service department. My firm is designed to keep my clients informed and let them know that if they call, somebody will answer. They never talk to a person who isn’t going to have direct access to me, and they’re going to get the answers to the questions they’re asking. They may not like what they’re hearing all the time, but they’ll get the answers.
What is your favorite quote?
If it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, why bother keeping score?
- You learn way more from failure than success.
- Growth is good, but growth that’s too fast can be very, very disruptive.
- If it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, why bother keeping score?
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.