Clyde & Co opens ninth US office with Los Angeles launch

UK insurance giant Clyde & Co is opening its ninth office in the US, with a launch in Los Angeles.

The office, which formally opens today, will initially consist of two partners – insurance partner Julie Hawkinson (pictured), who was one of the founding partners of the firm’s San Francisco office in 2008, and new hire Jim Koelzer, who joins from US litigation firm Robins Kaplan.

Hawkinson advises clients on insurance coverage and defence work, and initially joined Clydes from Duane Morris, where she was an associate. Koelzer’s practice focuses on acting for insurers on coverage issues and disputes. Prior to entering private practice he spent a year as a claims assistant at Lloyd’s of London.

Of counsel Marie Roehm and associate Aaron Sussman have also joined Clydes from Robins Kaplan, while Clydes senior associate Natasha Mikha will relocate to the new office.

Bill Casey, who chairs Clydes’ US board, said: “We’ve long operated in Los Angeles, but now is the right time to formalise our presence there. As a large and vibrant commercial centre and hub for insurance litigation and aviation, our clients are increasingly looking for legal advice in the city. A permanent on-the-ground presence will help us deliver the best service to our clients and act as a platform to help recruit the finest legal and insurance talent in southern California and beyond.”

Hawkinson said: “As well as its well-known prowess in the creative industries, LA also has a burgeoning technology sector based around Silicon Beach, which is leading to a growing volume of technology-related activity for our insurance clients. We look forward to growing our client base in the city by having a permanent base there.”

Clydes already has two offices in California: San Francisco, where it has 13 partners and 50 lawyers, and Long Beach, where it has three partners focused on marine and energy work.

In January, the firm opened in Washington DC and Chicago with the hire of 10 partners from US firm Troutman Sanders.

Clydes first opened in the US just over a decade ago and has now built up its presence to some 50 partners and 200 lawyers in nine offices across Atlanta, New Jersey, New York City and Miami, in addition to those listed above.

The latest round of expansion comes after Clydes’ former senior partner James Burns stood down in November to take on a new role as Americas head. Speaking to Legal Week sister title The American Lawyer in January, Burns said the firm’s US revenue was forecast to hit $110-$120m this year.

He also said at that time: “The goal is to be the number one insurance law firm in the US – plain and simple. 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 indicated that in addition to California, Texas was high on the agenda for future expansion, identifying Houston and Dallas as potential targets for office launches.

The firm has also grown in Latin America, announcing a merger with Mexican law firm Garza Tello & Asociados in May. That deal gave the firm four partners and 23 lawyers in Mexico City, focusing on insurance, marine and energy law.

Earlier this month, Clydes announced a 14% revenue hike for the 2016-17 financial year, taking revenue to £508.1m. The results mark the firm’s 19th successive year of turnover growth. Net profit increased by 9% to £127.6m, however profit per equity partner fell by 2% to £650,000.