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After undergoing brain surgery, celebrity lawyer Johnnie L. Cochran has hired his first Miami lawyer en route to opening a downtown Miami office by August. Cochran, who achieved fame successfully defending O.J. Simpson against murder charges, has hired James Robertson, a civil plaintiff attorney formerly at Allison & Robertson of Miami, to head the Miami office. The two met at a conference held by Cochran last year in Los Angeles. At a news conference last week attended by Cochran, Robertson said he’s looking to hire about 10 lawyers. Several lawyers in Cochran’s Orlando, Fla., office will also work on Miami cases, Robertson said. The Cochran Firm is taking over the space formerly occupied by Robertson’s firm. The Miami office will be one of 14 outposts of the Los Angeles-based Cochran Firm, which practices medical malpractice, product liability and class action law. Cochran vows to put in time in Miami, where he will occupy the showcase office in the 33rd floor suite of the Bank of America Building. Naturally, it’s a corner office with a panoramic view of Biscayne Bay. His things “will be moved in shortly,” Robertson said. Last week, Cochran, 66, showed up with his main partner, Keith Givens of Alabama, Robertson and several Orlando partners to discuss the new office and respond to allegations that the Miami operation will be The Cochran Firm in name only. Looking a bit unsteady and fatigued, he rubbed his newly shorn hair, which was shaved for brain surgery four weeks ago, and cracked, “Look, I have short hair now.” He would only say that he was suffering from “a neurological condition” and would not confirm reports in the Los Angeles Times that he had a brain tumor. His doctors have predicted a complete recovery, he said. Cochran, who has largely given up the criminal defense work that won him fame, has teamed up with prominent plaintiff attorneys throughout the country to open offices under his name. But his Miami venture has gotten off to a rocky start, with the local plaintiff bar raising questions about his business model and his penchant for blanketing an area with advertising, thus raising a perhaps false expectation that he will personally handle local cases. Critics note that he can’t practice law in Florida because he is not licensed there. “He’s involved in administrative matters every day,” Givens said of Cochran. “We have 40 active cases down here. We have good relationships with local bars. We’ll be good citizens.” Cochran said he’s been thinking of opening a South Florida franchise ever since he tried a case with prominent Stuart litigator Willie Gary in 2001. The two lawyers won a $240 million verdict against the Walt Disney Co. and Walt Disney World in an intellectual property theft case. The dapperly dressed attorney insisted that he plans to be in Miami frequently — particularly now that close friend Shaquille O’Neal is joining the Miami Heat. Cochran said he’s even thinking of buying a house there. And he might show up at some Heat games. Cochran pointed to Givens, Robertson and his Orlando-based partners and noted that they are licensed to practice in Florida. But when asked whether he plans to take the state Bar exam — after 41 years as a lawyer — he said with a laugh, “I’d rather not.”

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