Raising the Bar Through Relationships
Relationships mean everything to Ed Walborsky. At his firm, coworkers are friends, family comes first, and loyalty is the rule rather than the exception. At home, friends have become family.
The relationships Walborsky formed during law school have significantly impacted his life and career. For starters, his decision on where to hang a shingle after graduating from FSU Law in 1979 was the direct result of a friendship with a law school classmate.
"A good friend of mine, Terry Gross (’79), was going to Pensacola to work, and he invited me over to take a look at the area. I fell in love with the water and the beaches,” said Walborsky.
The Tallahassee native says he was hungry to learn when he opened his own firm, and he relied on relationships to strengthen his legal skills. He spent countless hours watching attorneys at the local courthouse, including three of Pensacola’s top litigators—Roy Kinsey (’72), Bob Kerrigan (’71), and Fred Levin.
“There were many extraordinary trial lawyers in Pensacola. I got to see what great lawyers do, and from not-so-great lawyers, I also learned what not to do,” said Walborsky. “A lot of inspiring people were willing to spend time to talk to me and teach me.”
Walborsky learned to be himself instead of emulating the style of others, the importance of preparation, to own the “bad” things in your case, to “think outside the box” and take big chances, and the importance of how you communicate with a jury.
One of the primary reasons Walborsky has enjoyed practicing in Pensacola and Panama City, where he has practiced for more than two decades, is the bonds he has formed with colleagues and others in the larger legal community. “It’s the people who make work enjoyable. Whether it be the clerks or bailiffs at the courthouse, the judges, or the other lawyers, interactions with the people are priceless. It’s like a huge family.”
The firm Walborsky joined with Roy Kinsey and Ted Troxel about a year into his legal career was rooted in relationships. “There has always been a family feeling in the firm, everyone was treated as an equal. No matter what your position was, everyone was treated with respect because it was a team effort. We always made sure our staff had health insurance and a retirement plan. We celebrated birthdays and important events. Everyone was treated as a professional. Everyone understood family comes first.”
Several employees have stayed with the firm now known as Walborsky Bradley & Fleming, PLLC, for multiple decades due to the firm’s close-knit, positive environment. While Walborsky continues to carry a full caseload, he has turned managing the firm over to Brent Bradley, his law partner of 20 years. Walborsky is grateful to know the firm will continue as a family affair under Bradley’s leadership.
Walborsky relishes practicing law but admits trial work has always been difficult for him. Nevertheless, he has earned a reputation as one of the best. He likes to take “odd cases that speak to me,” cases that other lawyers may not want because they might be difficult. He exclusively represents accident victims, settling on the practice area after clerking for an insurance defense firm as a law student.
While in law school and working for insurance companies, Walborsky gained an in-depth understanding of how they operated and decided he wanted to help those on the other side. “I always loved the story of David and Goliath,” he said. “Helping people who have to battle the odds and a big industry seemed like a good thing to do.”
Although his resume includes an extensive list of impressive trial wins, Walborsky’s proudest achievements are personal.
“Not having children has always been a big regret of mine,” said Walborsky. “But my friends allowed me to be a part of their respective families. They allowed me to have relationships with their children. I have known many of them since birth and through all their activities—school, plays, dances, sporting events—and all these beautiful children call me Uncle Ed. Now, they’ve grown up, and some of them even became lawyers. I have presided over a number of their weddings, which was quite an honor. They are now having their own children and they let me feel a part of their families. Hearing ‘Uncle Ed’ or ‘Uncle Eddie’ gives me great joy.”
Walborsky has seven godchildren, several whose parents are also FSU Law alumni, including Terry Gross’ son Rhett Gross, who graduated from FSU Law in 2012; Dixon Bridgers’ (’76) daughter Leslie Manning; and David Dee’s (’79) daughters Lindsey and Madison Dee.
Because the College of Law played such an important role in Walborsky’s life, he has given back to the school generously.
“I felt lucky to be accepted to law school,” said Walborsky. “The law school gave me an opportunity to have a great life. I always felt grateful for that and felt a duty to give back.”
He created a professorship in honor of his father, FSU Professor of Chemistry Dr. Harry M. Walborsky, and was instrumental in raising funds for the chair that honors Dean Emeritus Don Weidner, who Walborsky says is like a brother. Walborsky also served as president of the FSU College of Law Alumni Association in 2004-05. During his presidency, Walborsky was honored to be part of a team that instituted two innovative fundraising initiatives—the Student Annual Fund Drive and the Annual Fund Drive Phonathon. The projects created a culture of philanthropy, and Walborsky says Florida State’s giving rate went from “abysmal” to third best in the nation among all state law schools in just a few years. He gives the credit for that final feat to FSU Law students, Becky Shepherd, and Weidner.
Walborsky proudly talks about the many FSU Law alumni he has worked with during his career, including his current law partners Robert Fleming (’05) and John Booth (’91), and firm attorney Nathan Kaplan (’13). But a law degree from FSU is not what Walborsky looks for in a colleague.
“Everyone that I work with must have two qualities. They need to be smarter than me, which isn’t difficult, and they must be individuals of high character. After that it doesn’t matter, because you should surround yourself with people who make you better. And the people I have been around have made me better.”
Away from the office, Walborsky also surrounds himself with people who make him better. One of the most important among them is Claire Nuckles, Walborsky’s life partner of more than 11 years. “She is supportive, kind, patient, and strong,” said Walborsky. "She tethers me to the world and keeps me grounded. I am grateful to have her in my life.”
As printed in the 2022 issue of Florida State Law magazine.