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Shutts & Bowen LLP

Serving Florida for More Than a Century

 The firm in the early 1900's

Back in 1909, Frank Shutts, a 40-year-old Indiana litigator arrived in Miami to serve as federal receiver for the failed Fort Dallas National Bank of Miami. After successfully recovering 67 cents on the dollar for depositors — far more than the 10 cents they expected — Shutts decided to stay in South Florida. He founded a new law firm in 1910, and began a remarkable civic career.

An entrepreneur and visionary in addition to being an astute attorney, Shutts purchased a defunct newspaper and launched The Miami Herald with funds borrowed from his client, railroad magnate Henry Flagler. He ran the newspaper for 27 years, usually spending mornings at the Herald and afternoons at the law firm.

With his real estate acumen, Shutts also shaped Miami’s future in the 1910s and ’20s.  He negotiated the City of Miami’s acquisition of the property now known as Bayfront Park from the Florida East Coast Railway. He was instrumental in bringing the Seaboard Air Line Railway to Miami, and in the construction of the Tamiami Trail and Dixie Highway, which opened the way for automobile travel. Shutts also  contributed to the founding of Miami Beach, convincing early developers Carl G. Fisher and John F. Collins to invest in the new city and build the first wooden bridge across Biscayne Bay.

In 1912, Shutts’ friend Crate D. Bowen, an experienced trial attorney, arrived from Indianapolis to join the firm, which became Shutts & Bowen in 1919. The two had complementary personalities — Shutts was an extrovert who enjoyed Miami’s social scene, while Bowen stayed in the office and got the work done. When President Calvin Coolidge appointed Bowen a U.S. district judge in 1929, he declined, saying, “I just want to practice law.”

But through the years, many members of the firm have been appointed to judicial positions in Florida, and two mayors of the City of Miami, and the first mayor of Miami-Dade County were members of the firm.  In the 1930s, one partner, Sherman Minton, returned to Indiana and was elected to the U.S. Senate. During his years in Washington, Senator Minton became a close confidant of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago. President Truman later named Minton to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he served with distinction.

By the time Frank Shutts and Crate Bowen retired in the late 1940s, their firm was solidly positioned for the coming decades of growth.  Bowman Brown, who joined as an associate in 1968, led the firm — and the State of Florida — into the international banking arena by successfully advocating changes in state law in the 1970s.

“From the time of our inception, we have dedicated ourselves to providing first-rate legal services, new and innovative approaches to problem solving, and the highest degree of professionalism and community service,” says Brown, who is now chairman of the executive committee and leader of the financial services practice group.  “Ultimately, our success is based on high-quality, responsive client service.”

 Managing Partner Joseph Bolton and Executive Committee Chairman
Bowman Brown in front of a portrait of founder Frank Shutts.

Today, Miami’s oldest law firm has grown to approximately 230 attorneys in six Florida offices — Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Orlando, Tampa and Tallahassee — and one in Europe. Shutts & Bowen is now expanding in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, hiring more attorneys for those offices. In addition, the firm recently moved its full-service Tampa team to a new 30,000-square-foot office in the Westshore business district.

“We are building our presence in each of our Florida markets with the best possible attorneys in their legal disciplines,” says Joseph Bolton, who joined the firm in 1975 as a real estate and business attorney and is now managing partner. “We treasure legal expertise in every specialty.”

The firm’s 30 practice areas now range from administrative and admiralty law to securities, trusts and estates, and white collar investigations. Shutts & Bowen even has an equine law group that focuses on the business and legal needs of the horse industry.

Since its founding more than a century ago, Shutts & Bowen has served real estate, business, investment and institutional clients, providing both transactional and litigation services.   The firm’s clients include major corporations, life insurance companies, real estate developers and financial interests, utilities, securities brokers, transportation concerns, financial institutions, health care organizations, local municipalities and smaller enterprises of every nature.

Through the years, Shutts & Bowen has grown by focusing on sophisticated practice areas and diversifying its client roster, according to Brown.  “We have weathered the national financial storm extremely well by focusing on our clients’ legal and business needs in our specialized practice areas,” Brown says.  “For instance, our financial group has been busy with workouts for the past few years, although now we see that transaction activity is starting to come back.”

Healthcare is another growth area for the firm, which has hired several senior practitioners with extensive experience.  “That’s partly a response to our clients’ requests and to our own desire to diversify our business base,” says Brown. “That diversity gives us strength during economic downturns.
In the legal field, Shutts & Bowen is known for its collegial environment where attorneys have the autonomy to develop a practice that allows them to best serve their clients. As a result, many partners have stayed with the firm for three decades or longer. “This is a comfortable place for skilled attorneys to practice law,” says Bolton. “It’s very rare for our partners to leave for another firm.”

Along with a cooperative, supportive atmosphere, the firm’s core values include a belief in professionalism.  “We look for attorneys who have the highest professional standards and want to provide the highest level of service to the client,” Bolton says. “ We have a strong culture of collegiality and enjoy working with each other. It’s the spirit of an old-fashioned legal partnership.”

Shutts & Bowen also strives to be a leader in diversity, including the hiring and promoting of women and minority partners. Arthur J. Menor, managing partner of the firm’s West Palm Beach office, was a recent panelist at the Diversity Summit organized by the Palm Beach County Bar Association. In addition, South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce named Shutts & Bowen the 2011 “law firm of the year.” Rene Gonzalez-LLorens, a partner in the firm’s labor and employment group, accepted the award on behalf of the firm.
Looking to the future, Brown sees gradual, steady growth with a continuing focus on Florida, U.S. and international business activity. “International commerce is part of our state’s future, and our firm is ready to assist in that field. We have a long tradition of providing services for Latin American clients, including financial institutions and securities broker-dealers.  We also have one of Miami’s largest international tax practice groups right in this office.”

Brown expects Shutts & Bowen to also expand its immigration and insurance regulatory practices, including the recent addition of an experienced immigration attorney in the Tampa office.   “We will continue to have one of the strongest financial-institution practices in the state,” Brown says. “That’s a natural considering our firm’s long tradition. After all, Frank Shutts came down to Miami to liquidate a bank, and we’ve been a leader in this field ever since.”

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