CWL is committed to helping our clients through the COVID-19 pandemic. Our attorneys and staff are working remotely to ensure that all of your litigation and transactional needs are met. As essential service providers, we remain able to respond to legal emergencies as the need arises. If you have questions about CWL’s response to government mandated distancing protocols for our offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Honolulu, please contact our managing partner, Marc Cefalu, at (415) 247-5270 or Note that most courts in California, Hawaii, and nationwide are experiencing significant delays in their calendaring of proceedings. Trials and hearings are routinely being continued by 30-90 days, if not more. Routine filing deadlines, however, may not be affected. For specific questions about your legal matter and how distancing protocols may affect it, please contact the attorney(s) with whom you work regularly.

Max L. Kelley

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Max L. Kelley

900 Front Street,
Suite 350
San Francisco, CA 94111
Main: (415) 438-4600
Direct: (415) 247-5274



Max Lee Kelley joined CWL as an associate in 2002 and became a Partner in 2019. Mr. Kelley has a wide range of experience in diverse practice areas, including maritime law (e.g., Jones Act personal injury and death, collision, LHWCA claims, vessel sales and finance, maritime liens, vessel arrests and ship mortgage foreclosures, and maritime bankruptcy), insurance defense, asbestos defense, contract claims, creditors rights and debt collection, product liability, construction defect and premises liability.

Prior to joining the firm Mr. Kelley served as a licensed United States Merchant Marine officer aboard a variety of brown and blue water vessels, including tug boats, crew boats, dredges, oil rigs and fishing vessels, in both foreign and domestic trade for more than 10 years. Just prior to embarking on a career in law, he was the Master of an 80,000 DWT American-flagged crude carrier.

Areas of Practice

  • Commercial, Maritime, Creditors’ Rights, Employment, Ship Finance Law and Litigation


  • J.D., Tulane University School of Law, New Orleans, Louisiana (1998)
  • Managing Editor, Tulane Maritime Law Journal (1997-98)
  • B.A., California Maritime Academy, Vallejo, California (1984)

Memberships & Admissions

  • State Bar of California
  • All state and federal courts of California
  • State Bar of California
  • Council of American Master Mariners
  • Maritime Law Association of the United States


  • USCG Unlimited Master’s License (Inactive)
  • Reported Decisions
  • Chiariello v. I.N.G. Groupe NV, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48831 (N.D. Cal. 2006)

Reported Decisions

  • Chiariello v. I.N.G. Groupe NV, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48831 (N.D. Cal. 2006)