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The national Cochran Firm, a plaintiffs firm founded by the late Johnnie Cochran Jr. that started a Miami outpost in 2004, is merging with a Miami plaintiffs firm and increasing its South Florida presence. The firm’s downtown Miami office announced Tuesday that it will combine with Miami firm Leeds Colby Paris Spence Hoffman & Valori, effective May 1. Attorneys Scott Leeds, Jonathan Colby, Jack Paris and J.B. Spence will join James S. Robertson III, the managing partner of the Miami office. They will bring with them their investigators, paralegals and registered nurses. On May 1, Leeds, the managing partner at Leeds Colby, will become a member of The Cochran Firm’s national executive committee, which consists of the managing partners of all the firm’s offices. Leeds will become co-managing partner of the Miami office with Robertson next January. He said his firm was not considering expanding or merging before it was approached by The Cochran Firm. Robertson said the firm plans to double the number of lawyers in the Miami office in the next year and create satellite offices in Orlando, Naples and Fort Pierce during the next 18 months. The other two attorneys at Leeds Colby, Richard Hoffman and Raymond Valori, are not joining The Cochran Firm. The news comes on the anniversary of famed trial lawyer Cochran’s death last March. Cochran, best known for his rhyming defense of O.J. Simpson in his 1994 murder trial, died of an inoperable brain tumor at 67. The firm still uses images of the charismatic Cochran, perhaps the most famous black attorney in the country, on its Web site and other promotional materials. Post-merger, the firm, which has 125 lawyers in 19 offices across the country, will continue to operate under the name The Cochran Firm. It will focus on representing plaintiffs in personal injury, medical malpractice, vehicle and truck accident, police brutality and product and premises liability cases. The firm also will focus on mass torts, nursing home negligence and environmental and maritime litigation. Despite Cochran’s renown for his criminal defense work, the firm does not have a criminal defense specialty. Robertson said The Cochran Firm started talking about expanding its Miami outpost last August. A few months ago, the firm approached Leeds Colby. Robertson said the addition of these four lawyers will help the firm serve its clients better. Previously, he said, the firm was getting more business than it could handle and was turning away potential clients because it didn’t have the staffing. Prior to the merger, Robertson was the firm’s main attorney in south Florida. Two Orlando-based associates with concentrations in nursing home litigation rotated into the Miami office. In addition, one of the national partners, Atlanta-based Keith Givens, occasionally would work in the Miami office. Colby, a senior partner at his current firm, is a former Miami-Dade circuit judge who now concentrates on medical malpractice and personal injury. Paris practices nursing home litigation and motor vehicle and maritime claims. Spence litigates medical malpractice and premises liability cases. Richard Hoffman, who is not joining the newly merged firm, said he will continue to represent plaintiffs, but he has not determined whether he will work as a solo practitioner or join another firm. Raymond Valori could not be reached for comment.

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