Clyde & Co recruits 10 partners for new US offices in Washington DC and Chicago

James Burns

Clyde & Co has opened offices in Chicago and Washington DC with the hire of 10 partners from US law firm Troutman Sanders.

The team, which handles a range of insurance coverage, trial and litigation work, includes Troutman’s Chicago managing partner, Eileen Bower, who will lead Clydes’ new office in the city alongside Troutman insurance litigation partner Clint Cameron.

A Clydes spokesman said that a group of associates and other staff will follow the partners from US top 100 firm Troutman, but that negotiations over those moves are still ongoing.

In addition to Bower and Cameron, the new Chicago partners are David Cutter and James Sanders. In Washington, partners Jack Gerstein, David Gische, Leslie Ahari, Meredith Werner, Patrick Hofer and Gaby Richeimer are joining the firm.

Clydes senior partner Simon Konsta said the hires, which come roughly six months after the firm launched in Miami by merging with local litigation boutique Thornton Davis Fein, represent “another significant milestone” in its transatlantic expansion.

Having launched in the US just over a decade ago, Clydes now has nearly 50 partners and 200 lawyers across eight US offices including Atlanta, San Francisco, Newport Beach, New Jersey and New York City.

Former senior partner, James Burns, who stood down in November to take on a newly created role of Americas head in order to focus on developing the firm’s US business, told The American Lawyer that the firm’s US revenue grew 20% in the last financial year and is forecast to hit $110m-$120m within the next 12 months, partly as a result of the Troutman hires. That would put the firm comfortably within the Am Law 200, according to the latest survey data.

“The goal is to be the number one insurance law firm in the US – plain and simple,” Burns said. “The US is the world’s largest insurance market by some distance, so as an insurance-focused firm, it is strategically essential for us to have a significant presence.”

Burns, who relocated to San Francisco from Clydes’ London office following his change of role, said that the firm has been looking at establishing a base in Chicago – a market that is important to several of the its largest insurance clients, including Allianz and Zurich, “almost from the word ‘go’.” (Burns said the very first business trip he took at Clyde was to the Windy City, back in 1990.)

Clydes’ San Francisco managing partner Bill Casey said that the firm has grown in the US by targeting insurance lawyers at broader practice firms, where insurance generally is not a priority and often creates conflict issues.

The Troutman partners joining Clyde in Chicago previously worked at insurance boutique Ross Dixon & Bell and joined Troutman as a result of the merger between the two firms in 2009.

“What they found in Clydes was a firm that was a really good natural fit for them,” said Casey, who found himself in a similar situation when his firm, San Francisco insurance boutique Hancock Rothert & Bunshoft, combined with Duane Morris in 2006. “We merged for stability, but found a mix of practices that didn’t identify insurance as a priority,” he added.

The Troutman group was also attracted to Clydes’ extensive international network, Bower said. Having merged with its major London rival, Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, in 2011, Clyde is now the world’s largest specialist insurance firm, with more than 40 offices across six continents.

“[Insurance] clients increasingly want support not just locally, but across the US and the world,” Bower said.

Burns said that Clyde has now “reached a tipping point” in the US, adding: “With the footprint we now have, we genuinely can offer our clients the national coverage that we’ve been aiming to achieve ever since we started [in the US] around 10 years ago.”

He still sees “significant potential” for further growth, however, and said the firm will be seeking to establish additional offices in North America, with Los Angeles atop the agenda and both Dallas and Houston under consideration in order to tap into the “incredibly important” Texas market. “We will actively look at LA and Texas, but we will wait until we find the right people for us. That can take time,” he said.

Clyde will also start to broaden its US practice to more closely resemble the firm’s offerings in London and other international locations.

While Clydes is best known for its leading insurance practice, which Burns says accounts for around 70% of the firm’s total revenue, it is actually one of four key sector focuses, alongside energy and transportation, trade and commodities, and infrastructure.

But despite launching in the US with a team of four marine and aviation partners from transport boutique Condon & Forsyth in 2006, Clydes’ US practice almost exclusively handles insurance-related work.

“We’ve been able to build our US business around the insurance sector, as that’s our core practice and we have a good story to tell,” Burns said. “But it’s always been the plan to diversify our offering in the US so that it’s more reflective of the sectors that the firm focuses on internationally, and we think we now have a strong enough base to do that.”

The firm is already “actively looking” at potential hires in international arbitration – one of Clydes’ fastest-growing practices globally – and will look to recruit a team in that area in Washington DC in “the coming months,” Burns said.