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August 25, 2011 3:08 PM

Florida's Fowler White Boggs Merges with Fort Lauderdale Firm

Posted by Brian Baxter

Tampa-based Fowler White Boggs will acquire 12-lawyer Fort Lauderdale firm Atkinson Diner Stone Mankuta & Ploucha, reports sibling publication the Daily Business Review.

Thirty of the merged firm's 143 lawyers will be based in Fort Lauderdale, giving the newly combined entity a significant presence in the South Florida city, the DBR reports. Atkinson Diner's attorneys include former Florida Bar president Jesse Diner and former state attorney general Robert Butterworth.

"This move opens the way for us to take our already established success to the next level, and we are looking forward to the larger statewide and national platform that Fowler [White] offers," name partner and former Florida Bar president Adele Stone said in a statement.

Founded in 1943, Fowler White is one of Florida's oldest firms. It currently has 131 lawyers spread between offices in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and its Tampa headquarters. The firm expanded its Fort Lauderdale office last year by hiring former Florida Bar president Terry Russell from struggling Sunshine State firm Ruden McClosky, which itself is now in merger talks with Ohio firm Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff.

Three years ago, Fowler White's 70-lawyer insurance defense team, led by former name partner Robert Banker, left the firm to form Tampa-based Banker Lopez Gassler, sibling publication The National Law Journal reported at the time. (Before the split, the firm was known as Fowler White Boggs Banker.) 

Fowler White is not affiliated with 85-lawyer Miami firm Fowler White Burnett, although the two share a common lineage through late name partners Cody Fowler and Morris White.

Fowler White has been eager to expand in South Florida for several years, the DBR reports, and had engaged in previous merger talks with Atkinson Diner. The talks were rekindled in June at the Florida Bar conference in Orlando, where Fowler White's Russell met with Diner and Stone (who are husband and wife). The DBR reports that the merger is scheduled to be completed on July 1, 2012, after the expiration of Atkinson Diner's office lease in Fort Lauderdale.

Atkinson Diner's clients include Goya Foods, the Bank of Mongolia, and Jimmy Buffett's planned Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, according to the DBR. Fowler White handles matters for such clients as Bank of America, BankAtlantic, NBC Universal, and U.S. Sugar.

Fowler White's maritime practice represents Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration, which made headlines by battling with the Spanish government over its excavation of centuries-old shipwrecks in search of gold bullion.

The ongoing dispute between Odyssey and Spain took an interesting twist late last year when secret WikiLeaks cables tied the case to unrelated litigation involving a Holocaust survivor's painting reportedly worth $20 million.

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