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Tim Misny on... getting pissed off... creating a persona... his new reality show... and being bald

Tim Misny is probably the most visible, well-known lawyer in Cleveland. Annoyingly so, to some, as the bald lawyer utters his trademarked slogan – "I'll make them pay" – from the TV. He also has a new online reality show debuting in February, a steady stream of clients asking his help in going after insurance companies and enough people having "paid" that he's living comfortably and will continue to do so. Misny stopped by Scene's offices for a chat about his life, his work, his gimmick and more.

That is one shiny dome.

Yeah, man. No Hair Club for Men for me. It's been so long I don't remember. I'm guessing 15 years ago. But I was pretty close to it even before that, so the shave was not a big step. I lost it. I think it started when I was in law school. Too much testosterone. Big ones. It works for me; it's part of the persona. It empowers me. It's who I am. Everything that we do in promotion or social media, it's really who I am. I am bald. I protect it. I'm a Kangol man from way back. I love Kangols. I started buying them, and now I buy them for my wife and son. It's not mandatory protocol for us all to wear them, but it happens.

You've built a character. Is that to get more business? Right? It's the best form of advertising?

For what I do, the person who has been made a victim, they're laying there in a hospital bed or recovering at home, and the insurance company has in effect offered them a middle finger, won't pay lost wages or pay for what happened, they want a guy who will walk into a room and knock tables over and get them paid, make them pay. And so the whole persona, it works. The tagline works, for what I do. And it's true. The number of cases over the last 32 years is mind boggling where an insurance company says they won't pay a dime, and then I get involved and we end up settling the case for seven figures. How is that? That's because the insurance company plays a game. Twenty to 25 perfect of the case they knee-jerk reject a claim and the client will just accept it. It's unethical, it's despicable, but for them on a business sense, it makes sense. I've said if the insurance companies treated people the way they want to be treated, with dignity and respect, I'd have to do something else for a living. Every day I get a phone call that blows my mind where an insurance company is sticking it someone just to make a profit.

So you're selling a character that you think clients think they need? A bald asshole, for lack of a better word.

They want a Jesse Ventura type. If I'm going down an alley, I want a guy who's 6' 5" to do what he has to do. It fits into that whole mystique.

You get pissed off?

I settled a case recently in mediation for $5.25 million, and it had to do with an industrial accident where a guy was seriously hurt. When I was driving home I had a divine revelation of one thing after 32 years of practice: I will work on a case, commit my funds and energy, based upon how much the insurance company pisses me and my client off. If they're reasonable, if they say hey, we're sorry, this happened, here's $100,000, let's fix this, I can be your best friend, you would think I'm related to the guy. But when he insults me and my client, something kicks in, and I think that's what's made me an effective advocate. If they think they can walk on you, they're going to walk all over your client, too.

What's your reputation among other lawyers? Do you care?

Depends who you talk to. One of my favorite lines in cinema is Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman where he says, "I've been around, ya know." I was in the prosecutor's office, I was an attorney for the Cleveland police patrolmen's association, I've been representing the injured for 32 years, so to borrow the line from Al Pacino, "I've been around, ya know." Let me tell you this about lawyers. There are a handful of lawyers that I think are exceptional advocates. And there are lawyers that probably shouldn't be doing what they're doing. I know who the good lawyers are, and I have fantastic relationships with them. Unfortunately, I think jealousy comes into play. It's odd for a lawyer to acknowledge another lawyer's success; it's based on jealousy. The lawyers that do what I do how I do what I do, I think they know my success and what it takes to be a success. There is no more noble profession than to represent someone who without your help would have no chance at justice. It humors me when people chide me about being an ambulance chaser or whatever. I tell them, you may say that now but not when you need me. The biggest compliment I've had over the years is when insurance claims adjustors refer me a case. This one guy said, "Tim, why don't you take the $90,000, even you can figure out that's easily divisible by three," because you're obviously only concerned about your fee. I told him never in the history of the world did a little boy or girl sit on daddy's lap and say, "I want to grow up to be an insurance adjustor. Go fuck yourself." Years later he referred me a case. This is the guy I want my nephew to be represented by.

Why are you doing a reality show? Is your life really that interesting?

There are two schools of thought. First, I'm trying to inflate my already bloated ego. The second school is that I want to inspire a whole new generation of advocates for the downtrodden and disadvantaged. I regularly talk at law schools. Never, underscore that never five times, did I hear a kid answer when I asked them what they wanted to do that they wanted to be a personal injury lawyer. Every kid says they want to be a corporate lawyer. I ask them, I say good, cool, but tell me one thing you would do as a corporate lawyer. They say, "Um, um, um." I stop them. I say you went to undergraduate for four years, law school for three, pass the bar, and then you're going to dedicate every ounce of your working life to this and you can't tell me one goddamn thing you're going to do. So what I'm hoping to do is inspire a whole new generation of advocates. I want people to see that what I do is noble. What I do is exciting. The fight we fight is a good fight.

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