Michael Dunn is an attorney who knows how to start and run his own business. He has done it — at least twice.
Before heading to law school, he and a business partner started a company run by college students providing summer storage, shipping, appliance rentals as well as laundry pickup and delivery for fellow college students. Dormestics grew from its birthplace at Vanderbilt University to colleges across the southeastern U.S. Dunn declined to disclose its peak net worth, but he had some fun along the way.
“I enjoy the startup part. It’s a big puzzle — a lot of different moving parts that you have to figure out,” said the 31-year-old managing partner at Dunn Law in Miami. “There were challenges with dealing with school administration, so that was kind of an obstacle in growing the business. Negotiating with vendors, that’s a new thing for a kid right out of undergrad. … You become a jack-of-all-trades at an early stage. … It’s kind of fun. I enjoy the challenge of learning new things. There’s always something different.”
It’s no surprise then that after two years of working for a law firm, he left to start Dunn Law Group in 2014. He merged the same year with the trustee practice his mother, Marcia Dunn, had to create the six-attorney Dunn Law. Marcia Dunn also is a partner providing legal insight but focuses mainly on trustee work.
This combination of trustee and other law practices has proved beneficial.
Marcia Dunn is the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee for thermometer company Sanomedics Inc., and she hired Dunn Law as bankruptcy counsel.
Company principals were convicted last year of fraud. From 2009 to 2015, some Sanomedics principals made fraudulent statements, including that a former Apple Inc. executive invested in the company, to solicit new investors and took in $23 million from about 700 people, federal prosecutors said.
Michael Dunn is investigating the case on behalf of the estate with the potential for filing recovery lawsuits, although none has been filed so far.
“In this particular case the creditors are predominantly defrauded investors, so we are trying to recover funds for the benefit of all these people, innocent folks who put [in] retirement funds, and some of them are not mom-and-pop. Some of them are commercial investment firms,” he said.
In addition to starting his own businesses, Dunn has helped others get off the ground.
He worked on the operating agreements drafted when Simple Vodka, co-founded by Danny Lafuente and Dan Maslow, embarked on their business. It provides 20 meals to the needy in the U.S. for every bottle sold, which breaks down to a meal per drink, according to its website.
Dunn did similar work for Kyu, a restaurant started by chef Michael Lewis and general manager Steven Haigh at 251 NW 25th St. in Miami’s trendy Wynwood neighborhood.
The documents in some ways resemble a prenup, Dunn said.
“It kind of is in the sense that you are really laying everything out and clarifying upfront to minimize issues upfront,” he said.
If anyone knows the importance of hashing out the operating agreements from the start, it’s Dunn. He also does shareholder litigation arising out of business disputes.
“Having seen the flip side of the coin when it gets really messy between co-owners of a business, it helps when things are really clear upfront so you avoid those kind of things,” Dunn said. “It’s important to have all your ducks in a row when you are starting off.”
In one case, he represented the foreign and domestic investors in a children’s entertainment center, although he declined to give the project’s name.
“They invested in the business. They didn’t really like what the operating owner … was doing. He wasn’t doing what he was supposed to. While we try to fix a relationship and do everything we can to salvage it, it didn’t really work out, so we litigated and eventually settled,” he said.
Dunn Law also does transactional work. It represented California-based Lazer Broadcasting Corp. in its purchase of nine Western radio stations after the former owner filed for bankruptcy.
While most children move away from their parents in pursuit of career and other opportunities, Dunn works with his parents.
His father, Robert Dunn, is of counsel at Dunn Law and focuses on creditors’ rights. He is winding down his practice, and the rest of Dunn Law is taking over the practice and clients, the younger Dunn said.
“It’s great actually,” Dunn said of working with his parents. “It’s been nice to have them around. I love my parents. They are great people, and they have a lot of good life and legal experience, and we get along very well.”
Dunn followed in his parents’ footsteps and has been interested in law — aside from a short time when he dreamed of being a professional basketball player. He is a Heat fan but also was a Michael Jordan fan growing up.
He likes both litigation and helping build businesses.
“For some reason I can’t pick one or the other. I think it’s actually an asset to have the experience on both sides because you kind of see it from the other side and it helps you advise your clients,” he said.
Born: Miami, 1986
Education: Emory University, J.D., 2012; Washington University, St. Louis, B.A., 2007
Experience: Dunn Law, 2014-present; Associate, Tabas Freedman, 2012-2014