Matthew Hunt

Matthew Hunt: Defining Family in Family Law

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As one of five children, Matthew Hunt was always known to be the argumentative one of the bunch. Whether he was advocating to attend an aft erschool activity or persuading his parents into an ice cream cone, Hunt was always ready to argue and fight for his side.

Motivated at a young age, when his parents faced a difficult lawsuit, Hunt found a way of channeling that natural talent into a career.

“The relationship my parents developed with their attorney, along with the support and guidance he provided to our family during a very difficult time, piqued my attention and left a lasting impression on me.

“I wanted to help,” Hunt continues. “My parents always said I was going to be a preacher or an attorney. I think the positive interaction our family had with their attorney and the respect I put on the profession guided me to the practice of law.

“Looking back today, it’s ironic that I even came to find my way to the practice of family law, which deals with the severing of families,” he says. “My parents will be celebrating 40 years of marriage soon, my grandparents, prior to passing, celebrated 65 years of marriage, and I have also been blessed to find the perfect partner in my own wife, Janine. We just celebrated our 11-year anniversary and have two boys, Isaiah Charles and Matthew Carter, with a third son on the way. Funny thing is, like myself at a young age, I am beginning to see the persuasive and argumentative traits in my young boys.

“I guess it’s all about finding your passion, regardless of the intrinsic irony in my situation,” Hunt says. “I have certainly found my passion in my area of practice.”

Following his graduation from Florida Coastal School of Law, Hunt originally sought to work for the local public defender or state attorney to gain litigation experience. While he waited for his applications to process, he accepted a position with Jacksonville Legal Aid. He worked in consumer protection, defending clients against foreclosures and collection violations. According to Hunt, it was meaningful work, but it was all transactional work and didn’t offer courtroom experience – something Hunt craved.

When job opportunities came in from the state attorney, the public defender and a local private firm, Hunt decided to take a chance with the private sector. He accepted a position with Kenny Leigh & Associates, with the opportunity to litigate large caseloads immediately and be on the ground floor of a growing firm.

“I was intrigued by their unique niche from a business perspective and by their approach to the practice of only family law,” Hunt says. “The firm exclusively represented male clients.”

Ready to explore this new path, Hunt dove into the practice of family law. He was immediately given opportunities to handle a variety of family law matters and was soon promoted to a partner in the firm, managing many associate attorneys and their staff .

In 2012, Hunt was ready for the next challenge and the “men only” business niche and stigma had worn on him. He departed the firm with two colleagues to found their own firm.

Hunt, Green & James P.A. addressed complex divorce and family law issues and was an immediate success. Within a short timeframe, the firm had grown to a staff of over 10. Aft er a few years, however, the partners faced a fork in the road.

“Unfortunately, I was not on the same page as my partners,” Hunt says. “Partnerships are like the marriages I see in my practice and sometimes they don’t work out. The practice no longer aligned with my personal business model.”

So, in 2015, Hunt stepped back from his firm and joined the Law Offices of John M. Phillips where he established the firm’s family law division.

Hunt had met John Phillips at a local charity event. The two were like-minded and discussed their philosophies toward the practice of law and representing their respective clients. It quickly became apparent that Hunt was the right fit for the Law Offices of John M. Phillips and that the firm was the perfect fit for Hunt.

“I want to be more than just an ear for my clients,” Hunt says. “I want to be a voice for them while also providing a positive outlook. John emphasized the importance of putting the client first and seeing them as people instead of just inventory for a business. It’s also about gaining the respect from both clients and opposing counsel.”

Since joining the firm, Hunt has begun building out the firm’s family law division and a growing list of clients throughout Jacksonville. The division focuses on representing clients in divorce, paternity, guardianships, modifications and other related family law issues.

At the age of 33, Hunt finds himself growing in a practice he can believe in.

“Starting out in an all-male, competitive law firm, I wasn’t given the mentorship that many people imagine attorneys receive,” he says. “It’s harder learning the ropes on your own. I learned by watching other attorneys I met at events and in the courtroom, through selective emulation and, of course, trial and error.”

Hunt is pleased to share that the culture at the Law Offices of John M. Phillips is very different than his early experiences. “Here, we want to build relationships and provide a service we can be proud of. It’s good for our clients and for us.”

Although he didn’t receive the same, Hunt believes mentorship is one of the most important keys to success for a young attorney. “Finding a respected attorney to show you the ins and outs of a specific area of practice and this career as an attorney is essential. You want to learn from someone with a good reputation and work hard to earn your own respect. I see many attorneys who feel entitled to respect just because they passed the Bar. That’s just the beginning. In order to earn respect, you need to put forth a work ethic that showcases your abilities and grows your reputation.”

Outside the office, Hunt strives to earn respect as well. He is a member of the Florida Bar, an active member of the family law section of the Jacksonville Bar Association, the Jacksonville Beaches Association, an attendee of the Young Lawyer Society and a barrister of the American Family Law Inns of Court. He also volunteers at local fundraising events supporting children with disabilities.

“My nephew, Aidric is autistic,” he says. “It’s a blessing to be able to participate in awareness work in the community. The firm has even stepped up and volunteered at local fundraisers.”

According to Hunt, Aidric is being raised by Hunt’s parents in his hometown of Tampa. “Aidric’s mother – my younger sister, Larsen – was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in my parents’ home six years ago, leaving behind Aidric at the age of 5. That horrible tragedy strengthened my family and brought us closer. It has also given me a unique perspective on domestic violence – something I bring to my practice every day.”

Following the death of his sister, Hunt has placed a higher priority on family time.

“It’s all about balance to me,” Hunt says. Between his thriving practice and his work in the community, he makes sure that he devotes time to his wife and their sons.

“There are definitely ebbs and flows in this practice,” he says. “When it flows, I work hard to manage my time and be efficient for both my clients and myself. When it ebbs, I know to make the most of it and use my time wisely. I work hard to make sure I am able to come home and just be present with my family and my friends.

“I say life is about balance because I strongly believe so,” Hunt continues. “Imagine you are a pitcher of water and the different aspects of your life are cups to be filled with water out of your pitcher. You begin to add water out of your pitcher to one cup, which could be your career or to another, such as your family, to leisure activities, or to your religious faith. If you pour too much into one cup, then the others are left lacking and out of balance. However, if your pitcher becomes empty, then you can’t add to the respective cups to assure they are equally tended to and balanced. So it is equally important to make sure you invest time and effort into refilling your pitcher and intrinsically looking at yourself, assuring you are not stretching yourself too thin. That’s what I mean by balance.”

According to Hunt, the practice of family law is unique. It is a demanding career that requires you to wear multiple hats, put in excess time, effort and expertise. You spend much of your time giving to your clients and their cases, so you have to remember to also put forth that same amount of time and effort to your family and to yourself. Otherwise, this area of law will drain you emotionally and physically.

“I consider myself a ‘family’ man. I also practice in the area of ‘family’ law. However, the same word, ‘family,’ has two drastically different meanings depending on the context you use it in,” he says. “My goal is to somewhat bridge the gap of those different meanings and to provide perspective to my clients during their family’s most difficult times.”

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