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Coral Gables and Miami Commercial Litigation Boutiques Merge

South Florida boutiques Wallen Kelley and Golden & Grimes have merged, forming a 13-attorney firm, amid sustained demand for first-party property defense work.

By Dan Roe | April 27, 2021

Wallen Kelley Article

(l-r) Todd Wallen, John Golden, Rafael Cruz-Alvarez, Mark Grimes, and Brian Kelley, with Wallen Kelley. Courtesy photo

South Florida law firms Golden & Grimes and Wallen Kelley have merged under the name Wallen Kelley, with Golden & Grimes moving into Wallen Kelley’s office to form a 13-attorney commercial litigation boutique.

In an interview, John Golden of five-attorney Golden & Grimes, and Todd Wallen of eight-attorney Wallen Kelley said the pairing had clear benefits for both firms.
“My firm does lots of commercial litigation. We represent insurers in insurance coverage litigation and first-party property litigation,” Wallen said. “The first-party property stuff has really exploded in the last year. We’ve been up to our necks in work. We needed help; we needed to bring some really good trial lawyers in.”

Wallen first met Golden “20-some years ago” while at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, where Golden’s fellow partners Mark Grimes and Rafael Cruz-Alvarez also practiced.

“We’ve known each other for years and of the strength of Todd and Brian’s firm,” said Golden, referring to Wallen and Brian Kelley, the fifth shareholder involved in the five-partner merger. “We have a strong trial practice at Golden & Grimes. It came up in discussions and made a lot of sense to both of us.”

Hurricane Irma is driving much of the demand for first-party property insurance defense, Wallen said.

“My partner Brian Kelley has done a really good job of cultivating relationships — we have three property insurers as clients,” he said. “We have associates that are very skilled and know what they’re doing in those cases, and we’re now handling trial and appellate work for them.”
That work is where Golden’s team comes in, Wallen said. “John has tried over 100 cases,” he noted. “I think we’re a stronger firm with better resources to handle the load that seems to be continuing since last year.”

In addition to the insurance work, Golden said he’s seen product liability litigation returning after a dip in 2019.

No attorneys or staff will lose their jobs in the merger, Wallen said. The Golden & Grimes team is joining Wallen Kelley in its office at 1600 Ponce de Leon Blvd. in Coral Gables.

Why not merge names as well? “Actually, it’s logistics,” Golden said. “We’re moving into his office. All of the stationary and everything is already done — leases and paperwork — so it’s a lot less headaches. I guess the bottom line would be laziness.”

Wallen Kelley, located in the building’s penthouse, leased space on the next floor down to accommodate the incoming attorneys. The new firm will be fully operational by May 1, Golden said.

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